College Notebook: O’Connell’s Murray, Wooster Ranked No. 1 in Preseason D3 Poll


December 20 - As a senior at Bishop O’Connell in 2015, Brian Murray helped the Knights reach the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I state semifinals.

If the preseason Collegiate Baseball Division III poll holds any credence, the College of Wooster (OH) senior right-hander could also be part of a deep postseason run in his final collegiate season. The Fighting Scots, coming off their sixth College World Series berth and third consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference championship under longtime coach Tim Pettorini, were named the preseason No. 1 team in the country in the publication’s preseason rankings.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Murray played a key role in Wooster’s success last spring, going 6-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 15 appearances as the Fighting Scots (40-10) ascended to the No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2008 and won their 18th NCAC title before dropping their only two games at the CWS.

Murray limited Kenyon to one run over six innings as Wooster claimed the league’s top seed on the final day of the regular season, then struck out seven and allowed two runs (one earned) over six innings in a 17-4 win over then-No. 25 Adrian to clinch a berth in the Mideast Regional final. He went at least six innings in six of his 12 starts.

Four Virginia teams appeared in the preseason poll, including No. 7 Randolph-Macon (38-9-1) - which is also coming off a CWS appearance - as well as No. 16 Christopher Newport (35-12), No. 27 Shenandoah (35-12) and No. 30 Roanoke (31-11). Collegiate Baseball’s poll is one of two recognized by the NCAA. The NCBWA/D3Baseball.com coaches poll will be released later this offseason.

Rematch of Virginia-Vanderbilt CWS Battles to Highlight Inaugural MLB4 Tournament in February

Nate Eikhoff (Patriot), Kyle Whitten (Osbourn Park), Cristian Sanchez (Centreville) and their Virginia teammates will get three big early-season tests when the Cavaliers take the field in the first MLB4 tournament from Feb. 15-17 in Scottsdale, AZ.

In a round-robin event sponsored by Major League Baseball and played at the spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, Virginia will face three teams ranked in the Collegiate Baseball preseason Division I national rankings - No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 18 California State-Fullerton and No. 19 Texas Christian.

The four participating teams have been among the nation’s most-consistent programs over the past decade, combining for 15 appearances in the College World Series since 2009.

"MLB is very pleased to launch the new 'MLB4' tournament to highlight just a touch of the great baseball being played all around our country at this time of the year," said Tony Reagins, MLB’s Executive Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development, said in a release. "College baseball is a cornerstone of our sport's pipeline … The four programs selected to participate in this inaugural event are among the best and we are excited to bring a great product to fans in Arizona this February."

The Cavaliers, who are unranked in Collegiate Baseball’s poll after going 29-25 and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years last spring, will open their season on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. EST against Vanderbilt in a game that will be broadcast live on the MLB Network. The game will serve as a rematch of the 2014 and 2015 CWS championship series, won by the Commodores in the first meeting and the Cavaliers the following year.

Virginia will face TCU on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. EST and Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. EST.

Eikhoff hit .290 with a .386 on-base percentage, three home runs and 36 RBI and started each of the Cavaliers’ 54 games as a junior last spring, while Whitten compiled a 5.81 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 26.1 innings, mostly in relief, during his freshman campaign. Both are former members of the NOVA Nine Team, in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Sanchez is entering his freshman season.

George Mason Releases 2019 Schedule, Will Open Feb. 15 vs. Iowa

George Mason will open its season with six games in Florida and South Carolina and a midweek game at Longwood before opening its home schedule with a non-conference series against Princeton from Mar. 1-3.

The Patriots, who finished 29-27 overall and 16-8 in the Atlantic-10 Conference and advanced to the league final last spring, will open their season on Feb. 15 against Iowa before facing Marshall and Villanova the following two days. The three contests will be held at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL., the former spring training home of the Houston Astros and current home of the Advanced-A Florida Fire Frogs.

George Mason has 56 games on its regular season schedule, including 24 games against Atlantic-10 Conference opponents and four home-and home series against non-conference foes Georgetown, Longwood, James Madison and Towson.

The Atlantic-10 Tournament will be held from May 22-25 at Houlihan Park in Bronx, N.Y.

Sponsor: The magazine’s College Notebook is sponsored by the R&D Baseball Academy. For more information on the academy, visit its website at www.rdbaseballacademy.com.

Photo of Brian Murray courtesy of Wooster Athletics