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January 18, 2006
HOW THEY'LL FINISH
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Illinois-Chicago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
C—Justin Johnson, Sr., Illinois-Chicago (.361-8-61 in 2004). 1B—Paul Majestic, Sr., Wright State (.282-7-35). 2B—Mark Hallberg, So., Illinois-Chicago (.354-3-42). 3B—Justin Banks, Sr., Youngstown State (.356-3-33). SS—Grant Berkovitz, So., Wisconsin-Milwaukee (.286-1-11). OF—Larry Gempp, Jr., Illinois-Chicago (.362-8-40); Joe Nowicki, Sr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee (*.376-*9-40); Ted Rosinski, Sr., Illinois-Chicago (.325-6-*46). DH—Zak Rivera, Sr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee (.364-7-33). P—Zach Peterson, Jr., Illinois-Chicago (*10-1, *3.31); Aaron Sorenson, Jr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee (9-3, 4.96); Ryan Zink, Jr., Illinois-Chicago (8-6, 3.78).
Player of the Year: Ryan Zink, rhp, Illinois-Chicago.
Top Newcomer: Chad Schroeder, ss, Illinois-Chicago (.280-1-23 at Mt. Hood, Ore., CC).
PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS
1. Ryan Zink, rhp, Illinois-Chicago.
• Illinois-Chicago has won the Horizon League regular-season title all four years since the league changed its name from the Midwestern Collegiate and, at 38, came within a victory last year of tying the school record for wins in a season, set in 2002 and 2003. Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson led those clubs. This year’s club is heavily favored to win a fifth straight title and possibly top the 40-win barrier. “It’s the best collection of ability and skill we’ve ever had,” UIC coach Mike Dee said. “We’re much deeper on the mound.” The Flames return their two best pitchers, junior RHPs Zach Peterson, who led the Horizon League in wins and ERA in 2005, and Ryan Zink, who led the conference in the same categories in 2004 and has won 17 games in two seasons.
• Illinois-Chicago all-conference C Bryan Nolte (.297-0-36) will move to third base this season to accommodate senior C Justin Johnson, who sat out last season with Tommy John surgery. In 2004, Johnson led the conference in RBIs. Flames all-conference 1B Mark Hallberg (.354-3-42), who led the League in runs (54) and hits (84) last year, also will switch positions, moving to second base.
• Youngstown State LHP Justin Thomas (7-5, 3.42), who led the conference in strikeouts in 2004 and was named pitcher of the year, is the most notable absentee this year. He decided to forego his senior year in favoring of signing with the Mariners in the fourth round. Wisconsin-Milwaukee returns senior OF Joe Nowicki (.376-9-40), who narrowly missed winning a triple crown. Nowicki led the conference in hitting, tied for the lead in home runs and fell four short in the RBI race.