2014 College Preview: Summit League

BA breaks down the Summit League, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

1. Tyler Willman, rhp, Western Illinois
2. Tyler Farrell, rhp, Western Illinois
3. David Ernst, rhp, North Dakota State
4. John White, rhp, Western Illinois
5. J.D. Moore, rhp, South Dakota State

Summit League

Baseball Members (First Year): IPFW (2008), Nebraska-Omaha (2013), North Dakota State (2008), South Dakota State (2008), Western Illinois (1984).

Checking out: Oakland (to Horizon).

Conference Tournament: Four teams, double-elimination. May 22-24 at South Dakota State.

Team to Beat: North Dakota State

The Bison set a school record with 40 wins in 2012, and they retain a stable of juniors and seniors who were members of that team. The lineup is righthanded-heavy, but Sr. 1B Kyle Kleinendorst and Sr. OF Tim Colwell give it two key lefthanded threats. Sr. 2B Wes Satzinger provides pop from the right side after hitting five home runs in 2013. The pitching staff is fronted by two-way threat Jr. RHP/DH David Ernst, an unsigned 47th-round pick out of high school in 2011, and there are hopes for a breakout spring for Jr. LHP Parker Trewin, who owns a loose arm and showed promise in the fall.

Player of the Year: Clayton Taylor, 2b, Nebraska-Omaha.

Taylor walked (23) more times than he struck out (17) in his freshman year last season, and he managed to hit a none-too-shabby .352 in the process.

Pitcher of the Year: Aaron Michel, lhp, Western Illinois.

Michel's 1.23 ERA in 2013 was the best in school history and second-best in conference history.

Freshman of the Year: Chris Tschida, 1b, Western Illinois.

Tschida offers intriguing potential, as he comes with impressive physicality and is more athletic than your typical first baseman.

Wes Satzinger

Wes Satzinger

Notable Storylines: Making its Summit League debut, Nebraska-Omaha went 20-6 in conference play last year and won the regular-season title by four games, but the Mavericks aren't yet eligible for postseason play after moving up from Division II in 2011. They'll have to wait for that until 2016. In the meantime, UNO remains the favorite to win the regular season, led by sophomores Taylor and C Alex Mortensen, who's coming off a .318 season . . . With UNO out of the picture, South Dakota State seized the opportunity to capture the Summit's auto bid last season by winning the league tournament after finishing second in the regular season, earning its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Jackrabbits posted a league-best 3.37 ERA last year but lost their top two starters. This year's pitching staff will center around Jr. LHP Chris Anderson, a junior-college transfer with command of three pitches, and star closer Jr. RHP J.D. Moore, who set a school record with 13 saves last season . . . The Summit will operate with just five baseball members in 2014 but will keep its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The NCAA normally requires conferences to have a minimum of six competing schools to grant an auto bid, but the Summit will be given an exemption for this season before long-time league powerhouse Oral Roberts returns in 2015.