In exclusive voting by the head coaches of the conference, Texas Lutheran and Trinity each received three first-place votes and tied as the top choice to walk away with the 2019 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball title.

Both TLU and Trinity, who received 44 points each in the coaches' preseason balloting, are expected to be national contenders. The two were ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the D3baseball.com/National College Baseball Writers Association Preseason Top 25 poll, which came out earlier this month.

TLU, the defending SCAC tournament champion, went 42-12 a year ago and made a run to the NCAA Division III national championship series before falling to the University of Texas at Tyler.

Centenary, last season's regular-season champion, was the coaches' third pick with 33 points. Southwestern, who picked up one first-place vote, finished fourth with 30 points.

Dallas and Schreiner tied for fifth with 16 points, and Austin College rounded out the rankings with 13 points.

"Early in the season, there will be a lot of players moving in and out of the lineup," TLU's head baseball coach Greg Burnett said. "We will rely on the experience and leadership of the returners to keep the ship steady as we figure out the best combinations for our success.

"If they can do that, I think we can be in good shape by the time we get to SCAC play. We have some good, young players that just need some time to get comfortable placing the success of the program above their own. It's really hard to do when you are trying to find your role on the team."

Entering his 12th season as head coach and his 21st year with TLU Baseball, Burnett sports a career mark of 306-172 and has the third-most wins in program history.

TLU finished the 2018 season as the No. 2-ranked team in both the ABCA/Rawlings and D3baseball.com national polls. The Bulldogs won the 2018 NCAA Division III Spokane, Wash. Regional and the 2018 SCAC Tournament.

The 2018 Bulldogs' season win total of 42 is the third-most in school history - trailing only the 45 wins from the 1996 team and the 43 wins in 1999.

TLU's second-place national finish is the best NCAA Division III final standing in a team sport in school history.

The Bulldogs produced an 11-3 post-season record in 2018 (counting tournament runs in the SCAC, the Spokane Regional, and the DIII World Series).

Leading the returnees from last year's national runner-up squad are senior right-handed pitcher Nathan Malinovsky and junior outfielder Tyler Cauley, who were each named D3baseball.com Preseason All-Americans.

"I am confident that when everything begins to settle in, we will be a good team," Burnett said. "The returners are extremely crucial to our success early in the season."

Malinovsky led the SCAC with 12 wins and a 1.38 ERA a season ago and was a First Team All-American selection by both D3baseball.com and the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings.

Malinovsky pitched 110-2/3 innings last season, striking out 108 batters. He held opponents to a .188 average and tossed six complete games and three shutouts.

Cauley had a league-leading 12 home runs and 66 RBI while sporting a .371 batting average (fifth in the SCAC) as he earned Third Team All-America honors from both D3baseball.com and ABCA/Rawlings. Cauley led the nation in total bases (142). He also had team-highs in home runs, doubles (20), and slugging percentage (.693).

Returning Bulldogs that earned 2018 SCAC All-Tournament Team honors include: third baseman Thomas Varner, first baseman Chad Curtis, and relief pitcher Dylan Murrell. Cauley also earned All-SCAC Tournament recognition.

Murrell, along with returning Bulldogs Drew Waller and Landon Weatherly, will be an integral part of the Bulldogs' pitching staff this season. The Bulldogs lost All-American Dylan Drgac to graduation after four seasons. Drgac is in dental school.

Drgac went 11-2 on the mound for the Bulldogs. The right-hander posted a 3.19 ERA in 20 overall appearances. He started 17 games, tossed four complete games, and had the save in TLU's conference-championship clincher against Centenary.

The Bulldogs also return Golden Glove catcher Spencer Brandt, a redshirt junior. Brandt picked up the university's second Gold Glove award when he was named to the 2018 American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings NCAA Division III Gold Glove Team.

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