TUCSON, Ariz. - The defending national champion University of Tampa baseball team is ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II preseason poll.
Coming off a 43-13 record in 2015, the Spartans won the seventh national championship in program history to cap off another exciting season. After finishing the regular season with a 35-13 record, UT hit its stride in the NCAA tournament while winning four games in both the NCAA South Regional and Championship Series.
UT headlines a list of four Sunshine State Conference schools in the preseason poll, which also includes Florida Tech (7), Nova Southeastern (17) and Lynn (20). Additionally, Florida Southern and Saint Leo are receiving votes.
The 2016 Spartan schedule includes games against several nationally-ranked out-of-conference teams, including Catawba (2). Seton Hill (19), West Florida (29). The game against Catawba will mark a rematch of the 2015 national championship game, which UT took by a 3-1 score.
In total, Tampa plays 16 games against teams in the 2016 preseason poll. Along with West Florida, the NCAA South Region also includes three other ranked teams from the Gulf South Conference, including West Alabama (8), West Georgia (27) and Alabama-Huntsville (30).
The Spartans return just two offensive starters from last season, including senior center fielder Casey Scoggins and senior third baseman Cody deNoyelles. Scoggins won the national Gold Glove for his play in the field last season, and also hit .352 with a .425 on-base percentage. deNoyelles hit .367 with nine home runs and 43 RBI. Tampa welcomes a large number of junior college and NCAA Division I transfers to replace the departed offensive players.
UT's pitching staff looks to remain a bright spot for the team, as it returns NCAA Championship Series Most Outstanding Player Michael Calkins. The senior left-hander finished the 2015 season with a 6-4 record and 3.18 ERA. He capped the tremendous season with a complete game in the national title contest against Catawba.
Also returning for Tampa's pitching staff is a pair of experienced seniors in David Heintz and Brad Hencke. The Spartans added a number of arms who are expected to compete, via transfer.
This marks the 18th consecutive season that Tampa has been ranked in the preseaon poll, as the Spartans were No. 2 in 2015. This is the sixth time in program history where UT has received the top billing in the opening poll.
UT has now been nationally ranked for 181 consecutive weeks, which dates back to the 2005 season. Tampa has now been ranked every season dating back to 1998. This also marks the 75th week that Tampa has been No. 1 in the nation.
The Spartans open the 2016 season at home on Friday, January 29 against Bentley. The three-game series will also include contests on January 30 and 31.
For complete information on UT Baseball, please visit TampaSpartans.com, or follow @TampaSpartans on Twitter and Instagram. Fans are also encouraged to follow UT_Baseball on Twitter and @UTBaseball on Instagram.