College Preview

2012 Missouri Valley Conference Preview

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

Conf. Overall

Missouri State 11 9 33 23
Wichita State 14 7 39 26
Illinois State 13 8 36 18
*Creighton 15 6 45 16
Southern Illinois 11 10 23 34
Bradley 4 17 22 32
Indiana State 8 13 29 28
Evansville 7 13 28 25
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Missouri State.
Conference Schedule: 21 games, begins March 23.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 22-26 at Missouri State.
Player of the Year: Chris Serritella, 1b, Southern Illinois.
Pitcher of the Year: Ty Blach, lhp, Creighton.
1. Pierce Johnson, rhp, Missouri State
2. Sean Manaea, lhp, Indiana State (2013)
3. Ty Blach, lhp, Creighton
4. Kevin Medrano, 2b, Missouri State
5. Mitch Mormann, rhp, Wichita State
6. Eric Stamets, ss, Evansville
7. Chris Serritella, 1b, Southern Illinois
8. Johnny Coy, 1b, Wichita State
9. Josh Smith, lhp, Wichita State
10. John Nasshan, rhp, Bradley
1. Mitch Mormann, rhp, Wichita State (Tr.—Louisiana State)
2. Chris Razo, rhp, Illinois State (Tr.—Heartland, Ill., CC)
3. Casey Gillaspie, 1b, Wichita State (HS—Omaha)
4. A.J. Ladwig, rhp, Wichita State (HS—Omaha)
5. Nathan Dorris, lhp, Southern Illinois (Tr.—Rend Lake, Ill., CC)

Kevin Medrano
• Missouri State is poised to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003, when it made a surprising run all the way to the College World Series. The Bears have produced eight big league pitchers since 2000 and could have another in the making in Jr. RHP Pierce Johnson (6-5, 4.76, 76 IP/72 SO), who has a slender 6-foot-3 frame, a low-90s fastball and a sharp breaking ball. Missouri State also has the MVC's best pure hitter in Sr. 2B Kevin Medrano (.325/.380/.383, 13 SB), who turned down the Cardinals as a 14th-round pick last summer and is part of a lineup that features eight returning starters. So. RHP Nick Petree (9-2, 2.81, 96 IP/81 SO) was the league's freshman of the year and the MINK League's top prospect in 2011.

• After missing regionals in 2011 for just the sixth time in Gene Stephenson's 34 seasons as head coach, Wichita State has to replace its entire weekend rotation and its three top hitters. The Shockers do have the best class of newcomers in the MVC, led by Sr. RHP Mitch Mormann, who sat out last year after transferring from Louisiana State. Mormann, who pitched his first two college seasons at Des Moines Area CC, throws in the mid-90s but still is figuring out command and consistency. Two freshmen could make immediate contributions: 6-foot-4, 230-pound switch-hitting 1B Casey Gillaspie, whose brother Conor was a Shockers star and the 37th overall pick in the 2008 draft, and projectable 6-foot-5 RHP A.J. Ladwig, the Phillies' 45th-round choice in 2011. Wichita State's best veterans are Jr. 1B Johnny Coy (.274/.344/.421, 17 2B), a former Arizona State basketball player, and Sr. LHP Josh Smith (7-4, 3.00, 78 IP/56 SO), the Jayhawk League's No. 1 prospect in 2011.

• Southern Illinois welcomes back Jr. 1B Chris Serritella, who missed all of last season after breaking his right wrist in an intrasquad game. He finished third in the MVC in all three triple-crown categories when he hit .374-13-64 in 2010. The Royals drafted him in the 31st round last June, but he opted instead to play in the Prospect League, where he won the MVP award and home run (15) and RBI (62) crowns.

• Creighton won the MVC regular-season and tournament titles in 2011, thanks in large part to league pitcher of the year Jonas Dufek (12-1, 2.08, 113 IP/128 SO), who won the pitching triple crown. Dufek is gone after signing with the Astros as a ninth-round pick, but the Bluejays once again should have the MVC's best pitcher. Jr. LHP Ty Blach (10-3, 2.65, 102 IP/100 SO) is a better pro prospect than Dufek, as he's a lefthander with a low-90s fastball and command of three pitches.

• Indiana State will be tough to beat on Friday nights. So. LHP Sean Manaea (5-5, 4.32, 83 IP/82 SO) is a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder who consistently works in the low 90s with his lively fastball and should add more velocity as he fills out. He rated as the top pitching prospect in the Prospect League last summer and won't be draft-eligible until 2013.