College Preview

Midwest Region Preview

Follow me on Twitter

  Conference Overall
  W L W L
Oklahoma (5) 15 10 50 16
Texas (6) 24 3 50 13
Baylor (16) 12 13 36 24
*Texas A&M (21) 14 12 43 21
Nebraska 10 17 27 27
Oklahoma State 8 19 29 26
Kansas State 14 12 37 22
Texas Tech 13 14 28 29
Kansas 11 15 31 27
Missouri 10 16 29 26
Projected NCAA Teams (5): Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Nebraska.
Conference Schedule: 27 games, begins March 18.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 25-29 at Oklahoma City.
C—Tyler Ogle, Sr., Oklahoma (.331/.439/.601, 11 HR). 1B—Barrett Barnes, Jr., Texas Tech (.341/.465/.641, 14 HR, 12 SB). 2B—Davis Duren, Sr., Oklahoma State (.383/.429/.543, 29 SB). 3B—Garrett Buechele, Jr., Oklahoma (.359/.438/.630, 17 HR). SS—Brandon Loy, Jr., Texas (.252/.359/.332, 12 SB). OF—Nick Martini, Jr., Kansas State (.416/.509/.576, 19 SB); Logan Vick, Jr., Baylor (.329/.473/.553, 10 HR, 11 SB). DH—Cody Asche, Jr., Nebraska (.311/.369/.522, 10 HR). UT—Brooks Pinckard, Jr., Baylor (.305/.391/.465, 18 SB; 2-4, 2.45, 12 SV, 33 IP/17 SO).
SP—Cole Green, Sr., Texas (11-2, 2.74, 112 IP/75 SO); Taylor Jungmann, Jr., Texas (8-3, 2.03, 120 IP/129 SO); John Stilson, Jr., Texas A&M (9-1, 0.80, 10 SV; 79 IP/114 SO). RP—James Allen, Jr., Kansas State (5-1, 2.28, 9 SV, 47 IP/42 SO).
Player of the Year: Garrett Buechele, 3b, Oklahoma.
Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Jungmann, rhp, Texas.
1. Burch Smith, rhp, Oklahoma (Tr.—Howard, Texas, JC)
2. Jason Hursh, rhp, Oklahoma State (HS—Carrloton, Texas)
3. Matt Stites, rhp, Missouri (Tr.—Jefferson, Mo., JC)
4. Krey Bratsen, of, Texas A&M (HS—Bryan, Texas)
5. Logan Ehlers, lhp, Nebraska (HS—Nebraska City, Neb.)
6. Jon Keller, rhp, Nebraska (HS—Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
7. Mark Payton, of, Texas (HS—Orland Park, Ill.)
8. Trae Davis, rhp, Baylor (HS—Mexia, Texas)
9. Brandon Pierce, rhp, Nebraska (HS—Gunter, Texas)
10. Kelby Tomlinson, ss, Texas Tech (Seward County, Kan., JC)
1. Taylor Jungmann, rhp, Texas
2. John Stilson, rhp, Texas A&M
3. Logan Verrett, rhp, Baylor
4. Cole Green, rhp, Texas
5. Sam Stafford, lhp, Texas
6. Burch Smith, rhp, Oklahoma
7. Chris Marlowe, rhp, Oklahoma State
8. Matt Stites, rhp, Missouri
9. Cody Asche, 3b/1b, Nebraska
10. Adam Smith, ss/3b, Texas A&M
1. Hoby Milner, lhp, Texas
2. Michael Wacha, rhp, Texas A&M
3. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Oklahoma State
4. Tom Lemke, rhp, Nebraska
5. Barrett Barnes, of, Texas Tech
6. Josh Urban, rhp, Texas
7. Blake Brown, of, Missouri
8. Max Muncy, 1b, Baylor
9. Max White, 2b/of, Oklahoma
10. Eric Anderson, rhp, Missouri
Best Pure Hitter—Nick Martini, Kansas State. Best Raw Power—Barrett Barnes, Texas Tech. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Martini. Best Athlete—Brooks Pinckard, Baylor. Fastest Runner—Jamodrick McGruder, Texas Tech. Best Baserunner—McGruder.
Best Defensive C—Kevin Gonzalez, Texas Tech. C/Best Arm—Tyler Ogle, Oklahoma. Best Defensive 1B—Cameron Seitzer, Oklahoma. Best Defensive 2B—Davis Duren, Oklahoma State. Best Defensive 3B—Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma. Best DefensiveSS—Brandon Loy, Texas. Best Infield Arm—Kevin Lusson, Texas. Best Defensive OF—Pinckard. Best OF Arm—Pinckard.
Best Fastball—Taylor Jungmann, Texas. Best Breaking Ball—Logan Verrett, Baylor. Best Changeup—John Stilson, Texas A&M. Best Control—Cole Green, Texas.


•  Nebraska plays its final season in the Big 12 before moving on to the Big Ten in all sports next season. It's hard to know how that will affect the Cornhuskers' recruiting and talent level down the road, but this year's team has a fighting chance to earn an at-large regional bid for the first time since 2008. Nebraska has a veteran lineup that could use a boost from a big year by 6-foot-1, 220-pound OF Khiry Cooper (.242 in 132 career at-bats), who plays wide receiver as well but is a better prospect on the diamond. He was a fifth-round pick in 2008 out of high school (Angels) and has just 13 catches in two football seasons. Nebraska has talent on the mound with power arms such as RHPs Tom Lemke and Sean Yost and three intriguing freshmen, led by prospective closer Brandon Pierce, whose fastball touches 95.

•  Missouri had a six-year regional run end as its pitching continued to deteriote. The 2006 club, which featured Max Scherzer, Nathan Culp and Rick Zagone as well as freshman Aaron Crow, led the Big 12 with a 3.36 team ERA. Over the Crow/Kyle Gibson years, the Tigers sank into the middle of the pack in ERA in the league, then last year the Tigers posted a 6.48 mark in league play, eighth in the conference. Coach Tim Jamieson recognized the problem, and the pitching staff has been revamped with juco transfer RHP Matt Stites, who projects as the No. 1 starter; RHPs Matt Linderer and Myles Smith and LHP Rob Zastryzny.

•  Kansas State returns the league player of the year in OF Nick Martini, who followed up by hitting .257 with as many walks (24) as strikeouts (24) in the Cape Cod League. The lefthanded-hitting Martini has hit .376 in his first two seasons and has average tools across the board aside from his bat. The supporting cast around him has some new blood as well as the return of switch-hitting Jr. 3B Jason King (.316/.367/.506, 14 SB in 2009), who missed 2010 with an elbow injury. The Wildcats' strength, however, is on the mound, with LHP Kyle Hunter (9-2, 4.59, 84 IP/58 SO) returning to an experienced, deep pitching staff that added LHP Levi Schlick (Tr.—Barton County, Kan., JC).

•  Oklahoma ran to the College World Series last season while rival Oklahoma State missed the postseason for the first time since 2005 with a last-place finish. It was an across-the-board meltdown as Oklahoma State ranked last in the league in runs on offense and in ERA (7.13) in conference play. The Cowboys hope to rebuild around a varied raft of newcomers including Fr. RHP Jason Hursh, Montana native OF Gabe Weidenaar (Tr.—JC of Southern Nevada) and Sr. RHP/OF Andrew Heck (.408/.470/.673, 10 HR, 15 SB; 3-8, 6.28). After starring the last three seasons in the Jayhawk League, Heck transferred in for his senior season and doesn't have to sit a year, as his old program Duquense disbanded its program. He's a sinker-slider pitcher on the mound who could work his way into the weekend rotation. In three Jayhawk League season with the Hays Larks, he went 14-1, 2.21, and he hit .291 with six homers last summer.

  Conference Overall
  W L W L
*Minnesota 15 9 32 30
Michigan State 11 13 34 19
Michigan 14 10 35 22
Indiana 12 12 28 27
Northwestern 13 11 24 32
Iowa 13 11 30 28
Purdue 12 12 33 24
Ohio State 11 13 28 23
Illinois 10 14 26 26
Penn State 9 15 22 30
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Minnesota.
Conference Schedule: 24 games; begins April 1.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 25-28 at Columbus, Ohio (Huntington Park).
C—Kevin Plawecki, So., Purdue (.343/.384/.529). 1B—Nick O'Shea, Jr., Minnesota (.333/.380/.561, 13 HR). 2B—Micah Johnson, So., Indiana (.312/.366/.530, 11 HR). 3B—Chris Lashmet, Sr., Northwestern (.327/.394/.521). SS—Derek Dennis, So., Michigan (.267/.345/.364). OF—Willie Argo, Jr., Illinois (.318/.421/.495, 41 SB); Patrick Biondi, So., Michigan (.313/.422/.439, 29 SB); Alex Dickerson, Jr., Indiana (.419/.472/.805, 24 HR, 75 RBI). UT—Zach Morton, Jr., Northwestern (.363/.451/.435; 3-5, 7.53, 43 IP/43 SO).
SP—Jared Hippen, Jr., Iowa (6-4, 3.71, 99 IP/71 SO); T.J. Oakes, So., Minnesota (4-3, 3.62, 87 IP/57 SO); Kolby Wood, Jr., Michigan (3-2, 6.34, 2 SV; 38 IP/34 SO). RP—Scott Matyas, Sr., Minnesota (5-1, 2.19, 8 SV, 37 IP/60 SO).
Player of the Year: Alex Dickerson, of, Indiana.
Pitcher of the Year: T.J. Oakes, rhp, Minnesota.
1. Josh Dezse, rhp/1b, Ohio State (HS—Powell, Ohio)
2. Austin Urban, rhp, Penn State (HS—Johnstown, Pa.)
3. Michael O'Neill, of, Michigan (HS—Powell, Ohio)
4. Alex Farkes, c, Penn State (HS—Cambridge, Mass.)
5. Tom Windle, lhp, Minnesota (HS—Osseo, Minn.)
1. Alex Dickerson, of, Indiana
2. Derek Dennis, ss, Michigan
3. Justin Gominsky, of, Minnesota
4. Kolby Wood, rhp, Michigan
5. Jeff Holm, 1b/of, Michigan State


•  Minnesota bounced back from its poor 2008 season to win the conference in 2010 and throw a scare into host Cal State Fullerton in regional play. The Golden Gophers lost ace RHP Seth Rosin and C/OF Mike Kvasnicka (a supplemental first-round pick), but the cupboard is far from bare. RHP T.J. Oakes, son of assistant coach Todd Oakes, should slide into Rosin's Friday role. The Gophers hope for two hitters to have bigger seasons with a return to health. Redshirt Jr. SS A.J. Pettersen (.297/.378/.387) has been a steady defender but saw his OPS drop by 118 points from his 2009 debut, but he's recovered from a back injury that slowed him in the fall. OF Justin Gominsky redshirted a year ago due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He's a moose that moves at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds with surprising speed and is slated to hit third in the lineup ahead of Jr. 1B Nick O'Shea.

•  With the retirement of Bob Todd at Ohio State—the Buckeyes hired Greg Beals away from Ball State to replace him—Minnesota's John Anderson remains the dean of Big 10 coaches in his 30th season, with Northwestern's Paul Stevens ranking second in his 24th season. The Wildcats posted a winning record in the league for the first time since 2006, but they still haven't earned a regional bid since 1957. They have two returning all-conference players, led by RHP/OF Zach Morton, who moves from second base to the outfield to save up his arm while also pitching on Friday nights. Sr. 3B Chris Lashmet (.327/.394/.521) will get helped in the lineup by a pair of outfielders with strong ties to Northwestern—Jr. CF Trevor Stevens, who shifts from shortstop, is the son of the head coach, while Jr. RF Chris Kontos is the younger brother of ex-Northwestern RHP George Kontos, a Padres Rule 5 draft pick in December.

  Conference Overall
  W L W L
Wright State 17 6 31 25
Illinois-Chicago 15 9 24 30
*Wisconsin-Milwaukee 17 8 33 26
Valparaiso 9 10 24 32
Butler 11 13 21 29
Youngstown State 9 17 22 34
Cleveland State 5 20 12 43
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Wright State.
Conference Schedule: 26 games; begins March 25.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 25-28 at Dayton, Ohio.
C—Garrett Gray, Jr., Wright State (.360/.403/.589, 10 HR). 1B—Ryan O'Gara, Sr., Valparaiso (.388/.450/.603). 2B—Matt Serna, Sr., Illinois-Chicago (.379/.462/.526, 11 SB). 3B—Grant Fillipitch, Sr., Butler (.322/.368/.480). SS—Ryan Shober, So., Illinois-Chicago (Tr.—.216/.337/.318 in 2009 at Valparaiso). OF—Kyle Gaedele, Jr., Valparaiso (.373/.429/.610, 17 SB); Steve McGuiggan, Sr., Illinois-Chicago (.355/.440/.608, 19 SB); Corey Moylan, Sr., Butler (.369/.469/.519, 15 2B). DH—Jake Hibberd, Jr., Wright State (.369/.425/.473). UT—Jason Ganek, Sr., Illinois-Chicago (.342/.449/.525; 0-1, 1.54, 12 IP/10 SO).
SP—Jon Gulbransen, Sr., Valparaiso (4-6, 4.67, 94 IP/75 SO); Casey Henn, Jr., Wright State (7-0, 3.19, 85 IP/82 SO); Phil Klein, Sr., Youngstown State (2-5, 6.51, 65 IP/57 SO). RP—Cameron Amsrud, Jr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2-5, 3.00, 9 SV, 36 IP/25 SO).
Player of the Year: Kyle Gaedele, of, Valparaiso.
Pitcher of the Year: Casey Henn, rhp, Wright State.
1. Josh Uhen, rhp, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (HS—Oshkosh, Wis.)
2. Ryan Shober, ss, Illinois-Chicago (Tr.—Valparaiso)
3. Matt Heaslip, rhp, Illinios-Chicago (Tr.—Kankakee, Ill., JC)
1. Kyle Gaedele, of, Valparaiso
2. Steve McGuiggan, of, Illinois-Chicago
3. Jason Ganek, rhp/3b, Illinois-Chicago


•  Wright State and Illinois-Chicago have been the top two programs in the league over the last decade, but Wisconsin-Milwaukee had its best season in Scott Doffek's fourth season as head coach, finishing second in the regular season, then winning the conference tournament to earn an automatic NCAA bid. While Wright State's returning pitchers, led by Jr. RHP Casey Henn, makes it the favorite, the Panthers return several key pieces. Sr. RHP/C Chad Pierce, Jr. closer Cameron Amsrud and versatile IF Paul Hoenecke, who will play first base primarily but also can play second or third, provide a solid foundation. The key to repeating that success will be a talented group of newcomers, highlighted by Fr. RHP Josh Uhen, a projectable 6-foot-4, 185-pounder whom Doffek said touched 93 mph in fall workouts.

•  Jr. OF Kyle Gaedele, the great nephew of Eddie Gaedele, gives the Horizon League its best hitting prospect since Curtis Granderson played for Illinois-Chicago nearly a decade ago. While the 3-foot-7 Gaedele was signed in 1951 as a promotional stunt to play one game for the St. Louis Browns by late owner Bill Veeck, the younger Gaedele has legitimate physicality at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and average-to-plus tools. Gaedel hit more home runs last summer with wood (nine) than he did in the spring with metal (seven), and he should continue to bring out his raw power as he becomes more selective. He runs well, especially for his size, and wasn't caught stealing in 2010.

  Conference Overall
*Kent State 18 9 39 25
Miami (Ohio) 13 14 28 28
Bowling Green State 18 9 31 23
Ohio 13 14 20 35
Buffalo 9 18 23 29
Akron 3 24 21 34
Toledo 19 8 34 22
Central Michigan 20 7 36 22
Eastern Michigan 13 14 27 32
Ball State 19 8 29 29
Northern Illinois 12 15 24 31
Western Michigan 5 22 12 42
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Kent State.
Conference Schedule: 27 games; begins March 25.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 25-28 at Chillicothe, Ohio.
C—Ryan Schlater, Sr., Bowling Green State (.314/.360/.466). 1B—Nate Theunissen, Jr., Central Michigan (.384/.458/.574, 20 2B). 2B—Chris Dudics, Sr., Toledo (.391/.429/.502, 14 SB). 3B—Travis Shaw, Jr., Kent State (.330/.453/.622, 15 HR). SS—Jon Berti, Jr., Bowling Green (.423/.482/.573, 29 SB). OF—Ryan Curl, Jr., Miami (.253/.299/.352); Ben Klafczynski, Sr., Kent State (.367/.458/.613, 10 HR); Drew Turocy, Jr., Akron (.358/.380/.521. DH—Don Sherwood, Jr., Toledo (.302/.389/.639, 14 HR). UT—Seth Streich, So., Ohio (.317/.356/.553; 2-5, 7.82, 51 IP/32 SO).
SP—Andrew Chafin, So., Kent State (4-1, 1.26, 8 SV, 36 IP/55 SO in '09); Zach Cooper, Jr., Central Michigan (4-3, 2.45, 2 SV, 44 IP/44 SO); Michael Hamann, So., Toledo (6-3, 4.12, 79 IP/56 SO). RP—Dietrich Enns, So., Central Michigan (7-0, 2.12, 59 IP/64 SO).
Player of the Year: Jon Berti, ss, Bowling Green.
Pitcher of the Year: Andrew Chafin, lhp, Kent State.
1. Daniel Ward, rhp, Ohio (HS—Garfield Heights, Ohio)
2. Alex Davison, of, Bowling Green State (HS—Grand Ledge, Mich.)
3. Ethan McKenney, rhp, Bowling Green (HS—Defiance, Ohio)
4. Tyler Hall, 3b, Central Michigan (Tr.—Grand Rapids, Mich., JC)
5. Derek Toadvine, 2b, Kent State (HS—Springfield, Ohio)
1. Andrew Chafin, lhp, Kent State
2. Ryan Curl, of, Miami
3. Cody Elliott, rhp/of, Ball State
4. Travis Shaw, 3b, Kent State
5. Andrew Thomas, of, Central Michigan
6. Zach Cooper, rhp, Central Michigan
7. Lincoln Rassi, rhp, Toledo
8. Nate Theunissen, 1b, Central Michigan
9. Ben Klafczynski, of, Kent State
10. Ryan Schlater, c, Bowling Green


•  Central Michigan was the league's top regular-season club in 2010 and will have a more athletic roster in 2011, without as much offensive power. As coach Steve Jaksa wrote, "Great time to make these bat changes with the roster we have." Aside from an experienced rotation with potential breakout Jr. RHP Zach Cooper (4-3, 2.45, 44 IP/44 SO) and closer So. LHP Dietrich Enns, the league's top freshman in 2010, the Chippewas will be more athletic up the middle. Jr. CF Andrew Thomas returns from a wrist injury that wrecked his 2010 season and is a plus runner that Jaksa compared to Tigers CF Austin Jackson, with less of an arm. Sr. SS Robbie Harman will focus on baseball for the first time; the fifth-year player was a four-year starter at guard for the Central Michigan basketball team, averaging 14.9 points per game as a senior. He's a .235 hitter through 293 at-bats as a part-timer in baseball but went through fall practice in baseball for the first time and should reap the rewards this spring.

•  Kent State has been to regionals three of the last four seasons and is the preseason favorite with the return of LHP Andrew Chafin from June 2009 Tommy John surgery. He'll move from a closer role as a freshman to the Friday starter role. However, Toledo should challenge the Golden Flashes, with a veteran infield that shifts all-conference choice Joe Corfman from third base to shortstop, while the right side stays intact with Jr. 1B Matt Delewski and 2B Chris Dudics, who had a 39-game hit streak in 2010. The Rockets also return their weekend rotation, and look for a strong season for Sr. RHP Matt Zahel (0-2, 3.68, 3 SV) in an expanded role in the bullpen.

•  Ball State and Western Michigan have new coaches for 2011. Assistant Alex Marconi was promoted to the Cardinals' top job when Ohio State hired away his old boss, Greg Beals. Marconi anticipates moving Jr. CF/RHP Cody Ellis, who was a rarely used reliever last year, into the weekend rotation. He flashed plus athleticism and arm strength last summer in the Northwoods League, and some scouts like him better on the mound than in the outfield. The Broncos hired Billy Gernon, previously a head coach at Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne and then an assistant for two years at Michigan State, to replace the fired Randy Ford.

  Conference Overall
  W L W L
Wichita State 15 6 41 19
*Illinois State 15 6 32 24
Southern Illinois 10 10 28 29
Evansville 10 11 32 27
Creighton 9 12 27 25
Indiana State 10 10 35 19
Bradley 8 13 20 32
Missouri State 6 15 21 34
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Wichita State.
Conference Schedule: 21 games; begins April 8.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 24-28 at Omaha.
C—Matt Mirabal, Jr., Illinois State (.323/.362/.456). 1B—Chris Serritella, Jr., Southern Illinois (.374/.457/.644, 13 HR). 2B—Kevin Tokarski, Sr., Illinois State (.412/.538/.681, 33 SB). 3B—Rob Elliott, Jr., Bradley (.341/.421/.464, 15 SB). SS—Eric Stamets, So., Evansville (.321/.422/.436, 43-51 SB). OF—Trevor Adams, Sr., Creighton (.356/.443/.630, 12 HR); Brian Martin, Sr., Bradley (.364/.413/.505, 24 SB); Robby Ort, So., Indiana State (.353/.409/.493). DH—Kevin Medrano, Jr., Missouri State (.410/.482/.571, 16 SB). UT— Cody Fick, Sr., Evansville (.351/.441/.671, 19 HR, 12 SB; did not pitch  in 2010).
SP—Tim Kelley, Sr., Wichita State (11-2, 3.94, 96 IP/80 SO); Charlie Lowell, Jr., Wichita State (3-2, 3.25, 36 IP/36 SO); Corey Maines, Sr., Illinois State (6-3, 4.60, 86 IP/67 SO). RP—Kenny Long, Sr., Illinois State (4-4, 1.38, 9 SV, 65 IP/74 SO).
Player of the Year: Kevin Tokarski, 2b, Illinois State.
Pitcher of the Year: Charlie Lowell, lhp, Wichita State.
1. Mike Hollenbeck, c, Illinois State (HS—Joliet Township, Ill.)
2. Dakota Holcomb, ss, Southern Illinois (HS—Fort Collins, Colo.)
3. Mike Gerber, of, Creighton (HS—Naperville, Ill.)
4. Cam Maldonado, rhp, So. Illinois (Tr.—Seward County, Kan., JC)
5. Johnny Lieske, rhp, Illinois State ·HS—Machesney Park, Ill.)
1. Kevin Medrano, 2b, Missouri State
2. Charlie Lowell, lhp, Wichita State
3. Johnny Coy, 1b, Wichita State
4. Brian Flynn, lhp, Wichita State
5. Tyler Grimes, ss, Wichita State
6. Kevin Tokarski, 2b, Illinois State
7. Corey Maines, rhp, Illinois State
8. Jacob Borden, rhp, Bradley
9. Chris Serritella, 1b, Illinois State
10. Chance Sossamon, rhp, Wichita State


•  The Missouri Valley Conference had an offseason filled with tragedy. The baseball community lost former Southern Illinois coach Dan Callahan, who died of cancer on Nov. 15 at age 52. He went 442-447-1 in 16 seasons with the Salukis after five seasons previously as the head coach at Eastern Illinois. Associate head coach Ken Henderson replaces Callahan as interim coach for the season, having served 20 years as an assistant at the school. He was interim coach for 20 games in 1994, when the team went 12-8.

•  Two conference teams had two-way players die in the offseason as well. Bradley RHP/1B Phil Kaiser, 21, died Oct. 18 of an undiagnosed heart condition. He was the best prospect on the team thanks to his good size and four-pitch mix on the mound. In August, Wichita State Sr. RHP/OF Mitch Caster died in a car accident in Iowa, driving home after pitching in the Northwoods League.

•  The league's tournament will be a showcase and practice for the new home of the College World Series, TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. The new, 24,000-seat, $127 million will play host to the CWS for the first time in June, and makes Creighton the home of the MVC tournament for the first time since 1978.

•  The league has shifted its schedule to just 21 conference games the last two seasons since the loss of Northern Iowa's program; as recently as 2004, the league played 32 conference games. Wichita State takes advantage by playing road non-league series at Oregon and Tulane, and Southern Illinois is the only other team with a comparable schedule, at South Carolina.

•  Illinois State edged out Wichita State for the regular-season and tournament MVC titles a year ago under coach Mark Kingston, and the two teams are the favorites again. The Redbirds return the league's most complete player, Sr. 2B Kevin Tokarski, who was the league's player of the year in 2010. He's a tough profile from a pro standpoint, as his athleticism may be a bit short for the middle of the diamond, but he can hit and has outstanding baseball instincts.

•  The Shockers have more pro talent and have a potentially exciting weekend rotation. Sr. RHP Tim Kelley excelled in league play (6-1, 2.66) a year ago, and a pair of power lefties who were the top two prospects in the Jayhawk League last summer are back to complement him. No. 1 Jr. Charlie Lowell made just nine outings (eight starts) due to elbow soreness but was throwing in the low-to-mid-90s last August in the NBC World Series, while No. 2 Brian Flynn, a physical 6-foot-8, 239-pounder, returns after being academically ineligible last season. He was 2-5, 4.98 in 2009 and struck out 59 in 56 innings.

  Conference Overall
  W L W L
South Dakota State 19 9 39 21
Oral Roberts* 19 9 36 27
Oakland 13 14 23 34
Southern Utah 11 16 18 36
IPFW 13 15 17 38
North Dakota State 11 16 22 30
Centenary 17 9 28 26
Western Illinois 6 21 14 39
Projected NCAA Teams (1): South Dakota State.
Conference Schedule: 28 games, begins April 7.
Conference Tournament: Four teams, May 26-28 at Sioux Falls, S.D.
C—Tayler Shaw, So., Southern Utah (.364/.422/.519). 1B—Joel Blake, Sr., South Dakota State (.391/.451/.617, 33 2B). 2B—Bo Cuthbertson, Jr., Southern Utah (.344/.370/.545). 3B—Jesse Sawyer, Sr., South Dakota State (.359/.500/.700, 19 HR 79 RBI). SS—Eric Cain, Jr., South Dakota State (.385/.442/.631, 16 HR, 83 RBI). OF—Nick Baligod, Sr., Oral Roberts (.390/.486/.638, 11 HR); Tim Ryan, Jr., Oakland (.336/.434/.422, 23 SB); Billy Stitz, Sr., South Dakota State (.392/.421/.576, 26 SB). DH—John Koszulinski, Sr., Western Illinois (.354/.426/.500). UT— Zach Wentz, Jr., North Dakota State (.389/.466/.585; 5-2, 4.41).
SP—Mark "Boomer" Hermes, So., Nork Dakota State (1-3, 4.10, 53 IP/46 SO); Bryce Smolen, Sr., Oral Roberts (9-3, 4.41, 98 IP/86 SO); Blake Treinen, Sr., South Dakota State (7-1, 6.90, 75 IP/82 SO). RP—Tyler Vermeulen, Sr., South Dakota State (9-1, 1.45, 10 SV, 68 IP/62 SO).
Player of the Year: Jesse Sawyer, 3b, South Dakota State.
Pitcher of the Year: Blake Treinen, rhp, South Dakota State.
1. Alex Gonzalez, rhp, Oral Roberts (HS—Boca Raton, Fla.)
2. Brandon King, of, Oral Roberts (Tr.—Fresno, Calif., JC)
3. Garrett Bolt, rhp, Western Illinois (Tr.—Muskegon, Mich., JC)
1. Blake Treinen, rhp, South Dakota State
2. Kelsey Outram, rhp, Southern Utah
3. Brandon King, of, Oral Roberts
4. Garrett Bolt, rhp, Western Illinois
5. Nick Baligod, of, Oral Roberts


•  South Dakota State ended Oral Roberts' regular-season run in the Summit League, earning the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, but Oral Roberts still won the league tournament to make its 13th consecutive NCAA regional appearance. The Golden Eagles reinforced for another run at the tournament this season with a pair of high-profile newcomers, both drafted by the Orioles last June. RHP Alex Gonzalez was an 11th-round pick while OF/DH Brandon King was a 15th-rounder. Gonzalez could pitch at the front of a rotation that returns wins leader Bryce Smolen, who led the league in innings pitched and complete games (six), as well as hard-throwing closer Sr. RHP Sean Johnson (3-4, 3.01, 4 SV, 40 IP/47 SO). ORU coach Rob Walton has to break in a new shortstop after the Brewers picked Tyler Saladino in the eighth round, adding Yavapai (Ariz.) JC transfer SS Cam Schiller.

•   South Dakota State has four of its top hitters back from last year's bunch, which bashed its way to a .355 average. Preseason player of the year 3B Jesse Sawyer has hit 38 homers the last two season s, while SS Eric Cain lends solid defense next to him in the field while protecting him in the lineup. The most important piece for the Jackrabbits, though, may be sidewinding Sr. RHP Tyler Vermeulen, who ranked second on the team in innings despite never starting a game and tied for the league lead in victories while leading in appearances (35) and saves.