2012 Southland Conference Preview

*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)

Conference Overall
*Texas State 23 9 40 23
Southeastern Louisiana 18 14 35 22
Stephen F. Austin State 20 13 37 23
Lamar 15 18 29 27
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 19 14 37 24
Nicholls State 15 18 28 29
Northwestern State 11 21 22 32
Sam Houston State 17 16 35 24
Texas-San Antonio 16 17 27 32
Texas-Arlington 15 17 27 28
McNeese State 14 19 26 29
Central Arkansas 13 20 24 29
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Texas State.
Conference Schedule: 33 games; begins March 9.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 23-26 at Texas State.
Player of the Year: Casey Kalenkosky, 1b, Texas State.
Pitcher of the Year: Mason Melotakis, lhp, Northwestern State.

1. Mason Melotakis, lhp, Northwestern State
2. Jonathan Dziedzic, lhp, Lamar
3. Casey Kalenkosky, 1b, Texas State
4. Preston Beck, of, Texas-Arlington
5. Stefan Lopez, rhp, Southeastern Louisiana
6. Tyler Sibley, 2b, Texas State
7. Brock Hebert, ss/3b, Southeastern Louisiana
8. Cass Ingvardsen, rhp, Stephen F. Austin
9. Eric Harrington, rhp, Lamar
10. Brad Delatte, lhp, Nicholls State
1. Garrett Mattage, ss, Texas State (HS—West, Texas)
2. Garrett Autrey, of, Lamar (Tr.—Navarro, Texas, JC)
3. Cass Ingvardsen, rhp, Stephen F. Austin (Tr.—Weatherford, Texas, JC)
4. Corey Toups, ss, Sam Houston State (HS—The Woodlands, Texas)
5. Louis Head, rhp, Texas State (Tr.—Texas Tech)


• Conference realignment is sweeping the Southland, taking large state schools in Texas and replacing them with private, religious-affiliated schools. Texas State, UT Arlington and UT San Antonio have football programs making the leap to the Bowl Subdivision; all three are headed for the Western Athletic Conference after 2012. UT Arlington was the lone charter member of the Southland to be in the league throughout its history. Oral Roberts, which has won the Summit League and made 14 consecutive regional appearances, and Houston Baptist will join the league for the 2013 baseball season. The only coaching change in the league was planned, as David Pierce, the former Rice assistant, takes over for the retired Mark Johnson at Sam Houston State.

• Texas State tied the school record with 41 victories last season and got three seniors back to power the offense. Sr. 1B Casey Kalenkosky (.327/.404/.653, 21 HR), the Nationals’ unsigned 13th-rounder, and 2B Tyler Sibley (50th round, Cardinals) were drafted while RF Jeff McVaney (.319/.428/.500, 10 HR; 1-3, 2.08, 9 SV) wasn’t, but all three return. Kalenkosky, who has dabbled with catching but is penciled in back at first base, set a school single-season home runs record, while McVaney has settled in as the closer. Fr. SS Garrett Mattlage, a quick-footed switch-hitter who was the Royals’ 35th-round pick, will step right in as the starter to solidify the infield. While ace RHP Carson Smith signed, LHP Colton Turner (9-2, 4.33, 87 IP/72 SO) and RHP Mitchell Pitts (6-3, 3.66, 106 IP/72 SO) return to anchor the rotation, joined by RHP Louis Head, a transfer from Texas Tech who made 10 starts for the Red Raiders from 2009-2010. Head shook off some rust last summer in the Texas Collegiate League, striking out 39 but walking 20 in 30 innings.

• Coach Jim Gilligan enters his 36th season at Lamar hoping it’s healthier than his 35th, at least for LHP Jeremy Dziedzic and RHP Eric Harrington. The two combined for just three victories and 56 innings a year ago due to elbow injuries but return to the rotation healthy for 2012. Dziedzic struck out 114 in 94 innings as a freshman, while Harrington went 8-3, 5.11 in 100 innings in 2010. The rest of the team is heavy with newcomers, including physical 6-foot-4 OF Garret Autrey of NJCAA champion Navarro (Texas) JC, and an infield that could start four JC transfers.

• Nicholls State has posted only one winning season since 1994, coming close the last two seasons but falling short by two games (2010) and one (last year). The Colonels will have to hit their spots to improve on last year’s 4.27 team ERA, though, because the staff didn’t miss many bats last season. Sr. RHP Seth Webster (7-3, 2.30) missed most of 2009 and 2010 due to right labrum surgery, but tossed seven complete games last season, including a shutout of league champion Texas State in the conference tournament. Webster’s fastball sits in the mid-80s but he thrives with excellent command (20 walks in 109 innings). LHPs Mike Wisecarver (4-6, 4.83) and Patrick Shreve (4-2, 2.56) combined for just 39 walks and 68 strikeouts in 142 innings last season. Juco transfer RHP Kory Delange and closer LHP Brad Delatte throw harder, and Delatte showed strikeout ability in the summer in the Northwoods League, with 28 strikeouts in as many innings.

• Southeastern Louisiana ranked second in the league (No. 59 nationally) in the Ratings Percentage Index, and the Lions get steady Jr. SS Brock Hebert (.340/.451/.445, 26 SB) back at the top of a speed-oriented lineup. Jr. OF Harry Slade, a 5-foot-10 dynamo, hit .301 as a freshman at UNC Greensboro before transferring to Northwest Shoals CC as a sophomore, and hit .309 last summer in the Cal Ripken League. The Lions’ overall team speed may be tested defensively unless Sr. RHPs Josh Janway (5-2, 3.81) and Joseph Koon (2-4, 6.63) can help the pitching staff make significant strides. Closer Stefan Lopez (36 IP/44 SO) is the club’s best prospect but is working his way back from an offseason torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.