St. Louis, Mo. – Defending St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) champion Webster University has been chosen as the pre-season favorite in the SLIAC Baseball Pre-Season Coaches' Poll. The Gorloks received eight first place votes and had a total of 64 points.
Webster has won six straight regular season SLIAC titles and has captured six SLIAC Tournament Championships in the past eight years. The Gorloks posted a 36-14 overall record and 20-4 in conference play last season. Head coach Bill Kurich returns a strong contingent of players from last year's squad that won their first NCAA DIII Regional Championship and went on to post a 1-2 record at the NCAA DIII Championships in Grand Chute, Wis. Three-time First Team All-SLIAC centerfielder, Cody Stevenson, returns after hitting .289 in 2012 with 52 hits, 20 RBI and going 59-of-63 in stolen base attempts. The Gorloks also return Second Team All-SLIAC infielder Taylor Stoulp and left-handed pitcher Isaac Behme. Stoulp, a junior, was second on the Gorloks squad last season with a .372 batting average and had 74 hits, 13 doubles and 42 RBI. Behme, a sophomore, finished 2012 with a 2.21 ERA in 69.1 innings on the mound. He posted a 6-2 record and made nine starts, with two complete games and one shutout. Behme also struck out a total of 50 batters.
Spalding University made a strong showing in the regular season finishing 29-10-1 overall and 17-7 in SLIAC play. The Golden Eagles are post-season eligible for the first time in 2013 and were chosen to once again finish second by the league coaches. Junior Derek Ferch returns at shortstop after earning First Team All-SLIAC honors in 2012. He hit .388 with a team-high 54 hits and added 10 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 27 RBI. Senior pitcher Kyle Hudson will look to anchor the Golden Eagles pitching staff this season. Hudson earned Honorable Mention All-SLIAC honors last year and finished the season with a 2.35 ERA in 57.1 innings pitched, a 5-3 record and 53 strikeouts.
Greenville College and Fontbonne University were chosen third and fourth respectively in the SLIAC Pre-Season poll. Greenville finished fourth in the SLIAC standings last season with a record of 14-9 and 17-22 overall. Fontbonne finished in third place with a 16-8 record in conference and made it to the SLIAC Tournament Championship game against Webster. The Griffins will look to pitchers Drew Schelerth and Jacob Becker. Schelerth, a senior, earned First Team All-SLIAC last season and had 53 strikeouts in 77.1 innings of work, along with four complete games and one shutout. Becker, a junior, recorded 54 strikeouts in 2012 and pitched 68.1 innings and had three complete games. The Panthers return two All-SLIAC players from a year ago in senior third baseman, Kenny Trager, and sophomore first baseman, Ryan Smith. Trager was a First Team honoree and posted a .333 batting average with 44 hits and 28 RBI. Smith was Honorable Mention and hit .312 at the plate with 34 hits, 19 RBI and seven home runs.
MacMurray College was picked to finish fifth this season after placing last in the regular season standings with a 6-18 conference record in 2012. The Highlanders have Second Team All-SLIAC catcher, sophomore Aaron Krummrich, returning after leading the squad with a .330 batting average, including 32 hits, 12 doubles and 22 RBI. Senior outfielder, Jordan Phillips, a 2012 Honorable Mention All-SLIAC selection, also returns with a .314 average, 37 hits, 11 doubles and 23 RBI.
Westminster College (Mo.), who was chosen to finish sixth, posted an 11-13 record in SLIAC play in 2012 and was one of four teams to qualify for the SLIAC Tournament. Senior pitcher Tyler Ten Eyck returns for the Blue Jays and will look to improve upon his 6-5 record and 52 strikeouts. Junior shortstop Danton Hughes also returns and will look to once again lead the squad offensively; he posted a .331 batting average, 46 hits and 21 RBI last season.
Blackburn College and Eureka College were selected to finish seventh and eighth by the SLIAC coaches, with only four points separating the two teams. Blackburn will look to juniors Donny Fuhrhop, a centerfielder, and Franklin Bush, a shortstop, to provide leadership on the field. Fuhrhop hit .341 with 47 hits, six triples and 19 RBI, and Bush returns to the field after sitting out last season. Eureka will be strong up the middle with Grant DeWitt and Eric Cuevas returning at shortstop and second base respectively. DeWitt also led the Red Devils at the plate with a .356 average and 48 hits.
Principia College rounds out the pre-season poll in the ninth spot. Sophomore Gavin Thomas returns after a solid freshman campaign in which he earned Honorable Mention All-Conference. He posted a 2-1 record on the mound and had a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings of work, along with 23 strikeouts. He also hit .314 at the plate with 43 hits, 10 doubles and 22 RBI. Sophomore Spencer Clevenger will make the move to shortstop this season for Principia and brings back a .311 batting average with 42 hits.
SLIAC Baseball Pre-Season Poll
1 Webster (8)
2 Spalding (1)