West Liberty Baseball Ranks No.2 in preseason coaches poll

As Spring fast approaches, so too does the 2022 season for Eric Burkle’s West Liberty Hilltoppers baseball team. The Toppers, who finished last season 21-20, are looking for greater success this season after an early exit in last year’s Mountain East Conference (MEC) tournament.

One player to watch for the Hilltoppers this season is junior outfielder Ty Helmke, who was named a preseason all-region pick by the MEC. Helmke is looking to build on a strong 2021 season in which he batted .339 with seven home runs and 29 runs batted in 38 games. Helmke, a native of Johnstown, Ohio, is sure to be a force in the Toppers’ lineup this season after finishing top 10 in the Mountain East last season in stolen bases (25), home runs (7), slugging percentage (.657) and OPS (1.127).

The 2022 season sees the departures of the graduating Ryan Bernard, Tyler Cooley, Colton Coss, Justin Fike, Chad Matthu and Brian Campbell, a two-year captain for the team. Coss and Matthus join the team this season as assistant coaches, Matthus as a graduate assistant and Coss as a volunteer. They join Burkle as well as assistant coaches Greg Stagani, Ed Gei and Robb Bauer on the staff for this year’s team.

New additions for the Hilltoppers this season include freshmen infielders Ryan Talbert, Chris Parker, Adam Beard, Ethan Conley and Noah Mildren, catchers Hunter Cottrell and Kameron Jackson, outfielders James Salvatori and Jacob Sherman and pitchers Carson Moore, Joseph Medkeff, Joel Wise, Will Morrow, Thomas Robbins, Jackson Phillips and George Ash. The Hilltoppers coaching staff hopes these new additions will fill the holes left by their departing seniors after last year’s campaign.

West Liberty was named the No. 2 pick in the Mountain East Conference North Division in the MEC’s preseason coaches’ preseason poll. A strong recruiting class in addition to impact players like infielder Kaden Blomquist and starting pitcher Ian Brady is cause for excitement as West Liberty looks for the North Division title against Alderson Broaddus, Fairmont State, Frostburg State, Notre Dame College and Wheeling. The MEC is bolstered as well by Charleston in the South Division, who was the only Mountain East team to receive a vote for the preseason top-25 in the country. Despite this, Charleston was beat out by Concord and West Virginia State in the MEC coaches’ poll for the South Division.

The Hilltoppers open their season on Friday, Feb. 11 at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. with back-to-back non-conference doubleheaders. Union finished their 2021 season with a 15-21 record, 6-9 at home. However, West Liberty will have to wait another month before their home opener on March 16 versus the California University of Pennsylvania. The Toppers schedule includes matchups with preseason-ranked opponent Seton Hill, the ninth ranked team in the country. The first taste of conference play for the Toppers comes on March 19 against Glenville State at home.

For more information about the Hilltoppers 2022 baseball season, visit Hilltopper Sports.