2012 Great West Conference Preview

Conference Overall
Utah Valley 22 2 34 21
Northern Colorado 19 7 24 32
New Jersey Tech 12 16 20 35
Houston Baptist 16 12 22 40
Texas-Pan American 10 19 21 31
North Dakota 7 17 12 35
New York Tech 13 12 19 31
Chicago State 4 19 9 41
Projected NCAA Teams: None.
Conference Schedule: 28 games; begins April 5.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 22-26 at Utah Valley.
Player of the Year: Robbie Buller, 1b/rhp, Houston Baptist.
Pitcher of the Year: Jeremy Gendlek, rhp, Utah Valley.

1. Robbie Buller, rhp/1b, Houston Baptist
2. D.J. Roche, c/rhp, New Jersey Tech
3. Jeremy Gendlek, rhp, Utah Valley
4. Taylor Mangum, rhp, Utah Valley
5. Zack Trygstad, c, North Dakota (2013)
6. Goose Kallunki, 1b, Utah Valley
7. Josh Swenson, rhp, Utah Valley
8. Dusten Knight, rhp, Texas-Pan American
9. Tripp Davis, lhp, New Jersey Tech
10. Jake Porcello, rhp, New Jersey Tech
1. Jordy Hart, of, Utah Valley (HS—Cedar Valley, Utah)
2. Andrew Thome, rhp, North Dakota (HS—St. Cloud, Minn.)
3. Ed Charlton, of, New Jersey Tech (HS—Richland, N.J.)
4. Tyler Hoelscher, rhp, Houston Baptist (HS—Troy, Texas)
5. Dusten Knight, rhp, Texas-Pan American (Tr.—Connors State, Okla., JC)
• Utah Valley has firmly established itself as the class of the Great West Conference, going 48-4 in conference play over the last two seasons to win the Great West title in each of the league’s first two years. Even after the graduation of leading hitter Chris Benson, the Wolverines look like a strong favorite to win the Great West again, thanks to an everyday lineup that could feature eight upperclassmen, a weekend rotation that features three more upperclassmen and a quality senior closer. Pitching should be Utah Valley’s calling card. Sr. RHP Jeremy Gendlek (7-3, 1.71), the reigning Great West pitcher of the year, dominates atop the rotation with a tailing 87-91 mph fastball and decent sweeping slider. So. RHP Taylor Mangum has recovered from labrum surgery and could make an impact on the staff thanks to his arm strength and feel for spinning a curveball. Sr. RHP Josh Swenson (1-2, 2.38, 6 SV) gives the bullpen a reliable anchor with a solid 89-91 sinker and a decent slider. The lineup’s balance and experience should be assets, but its most dynamic player could be the lone freshman expected to carry a significant load: High-energy CF Jordy Hart has strength, athleticism, speed, arm strength and a feel for hitting.
•  Northern Colorado has finished in second place in each of the Great West’s first two seasons. The Bears will have less offensive firepower thanks to the departure of mainstays Jarod Berggren, T.J. Berge and Bret Fanning, but the lineup features good team speed and a good centerpiece in Jr. 1B Ben Packard (.374/.432/.581, 4 HR, 43 RBI). Packard put up big numbers as a sophomore even after having spinal surgery in December prior to the season, when doctors told him he might not play again. Two newcomers figure to make a big impact for Northern Colorado: Fr. CF Jensen Park is undersized at 5-foot-8, but his plus speed and surprising strength cause the coaches to compare him to Shane Victorino. And Fr. RHP Jess Amedee shows command of four quality pitches and a poised mound presence.
• The Great West’s best prospect is our pick for its 2012 player of the year: Houston Baptist two-way threat Robbie Buller (.298/.413/.579, 16 HR, 55 RBI). The league’s reigning home run champion has pitched just three innings in his first two collegiate seasons, but his future in pro ball is on the mound thanks to his lean 6-foot-6 frame, fresh arm and ability to run his fastball into the mid-90s. Houston Baptist is leaving the Great West for the Southland Conference after the 2013 spring season.
• Buller isn’t the only two-way talent in the Great West. The league’s No. 2 prospect is New Jersey Tech C/RHP D.J. Roche (.276/.310/.443, 4 HR; 2-5, 5.94, 53 IP/49 SO), who earns plaudits for his arm strength and athleticism behind the plate, his gap-to-gap bat, his 88-92 mph fastball and improving slider. Roche is expected to fill the Sunday starter role for NJIT, which features two other quality juniors ahead of him in the rotation: LHP Tripp Davis 6-6, 3.69, 107 IP/87 SO) and RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (5-3, 4.76, 91 IP/103 SO). Leiter, the son of the former big league pitcher of the same name, doesn’t have the only famous surname on this pitching staff. So. RHP Jake Porcello, who sat out last season after transferring from Seton Hall, is the younger brother of Tigers righty Rick Porcello. Jake has less overpowering stuff than Rick, with an 87-88 mph fastball and a pair of decent secondary pitches, but he figures to make a significant impact on the staff.
• Bob Hirschfield retired in September after 30 years as the head coach at New York Tech. Assistant Michael “Butch” Caulfield was originally tapped to lead the program in 2012 (while continuing in his role as an assistant), but he resigned in January, and NYIT has yet to name a new head coach heading into the season. Chris Rojas, Mike Mac Millan and Lou Bernardi are all listed as assistant coaches on the team’s website.