With eight starters returning from last year's team that advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship the Webster University Gorloks are the 2014 SLIAC Preseason favorites as voted on by conference coaches. Webster received 81 total points including nine of ten first-place votes.
Webster, who has advanced to the NCAA III Championship two consecutive seasons and won four consecutive SLIAC Championships and seven straight regular season titles, brings back eight starters from last year's squad that went 37-12. Webster, coached by Bill Kurich, is ranked is ranked 8th nationally in the D3Baseball.com preseason poll, marking the third consecutive season they have earned a top 10 preseason ranking. The Gorloks will be led by a pair of First Team All-Conference players in Taylor Stoulp and Isaac Behme. Stoulp, a second baseman, hit .328 as a junior last year and led the conference with 43 runs batted in. Behme, a pitcher, led the conference in wins last season with 10 while compiling a 2.68 earned-run average and 67 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched. Behme earned All-Region honors last year and will be looked upon to replace 2013 SLIAC Pitcher of the Year Steven Dooley. Senior outfielder Corey Lasky, who hit .335 batting average with 27 runs batted in last season, and senior third baseman Ryan Hall, .331 batting average with 28 runs batted in, will look to add to the Webster offense. Senior pitcher Jason Gray, who made a league high 22 appearances last season while holding opponents to a .120 batting average, will provide more pitching depth for the Gorloks. Webster also brings in a trio of newcomers in sophomore infielder Jeff Kammer, junior pitcher Chris Jansen and freshman shortstop Matt Wollnik that could see considerable time.
Spalding University was picked second, finishing with 73 total points and receiving one first-place vote. The Golden Eagles, led by Jeremy Sheetinger, were 33-12 last season and return seven starters from last year's team. Senior Derek Ferch, a two time All-Region infielder, highlights the returners for Spalding. Ferch hit .339 with 33 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases last season while earning First Team All-Conference honors. Junior Ryan Mosby is also back after hitting .386 last season, third best in the SLIAC, and earned All-Tournament honors while sophomore catcher JR Belt also returns after earning First Team All-Conference honors after throwing out 21-of-24 base-stealers. The pitching staff will be led by sophomore Jarrod Messex who was 5-2 with a 2.61 earned-run average and 49 strikeouts in 69 innings pitched. A talented group of newcomers includes freshmen Blake Beamer, Kam Bruner and Kyle Olliges.
Westminster College was picked third in the preseason poll with 59 total points. The Blue Jays finished 2013 with a 23-11 overall record and a second place regular season finish. They are coached by Denny Hughes, in his second season, and return seven starters and 16 players from last year's team. Junior third baseman Tyler Branneky will led the Blue Jays at the plate once again. Branneky hit .406, tops in the SLIAC, with five home runs and 27 runs batted in last season while earning SLIAC Newcomer of the Year and All-Region and All-Conference honors. Sophomore outfielder Deion Hughes also returns after hitting .342 with 26 runs batted in and being named to the All-Tournament team. Senior outfielder Andy Pichler, who hit .295 last year, also returns and will provide leadership for the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays will need to replace a pair of All-Conference pitchers from last season.
Fontbonne University was chosen fourth, receiving 56 total points. The Griffins, coached by Ryan Good, were 18-24 overall last season but 14-10 in conference play. Senior shortstop Rob Berger returns after hitting .350 with 24 runs batted in and earning All-Region honors. Also back on the offensive side are All-Conference performers senior catcher Brett Freund, .386 batting average, and senior first baseman Alex Roedner, .311 batting average with four home runs. The pitching staff will be led by senior Jacob Becker who recorded five wins last season while striking out 51 in 68.2 innings pitched. Newcomers Ben Greenway, a freshman third baseman, and Caleb Tatum, a junior pitcher, should have an immediate impact for the Griffins.
Greenville College was picked fifth in the poll, picking up 50 total points. The Panthers, coached by Lynn Carlson, were 16-19 last season and 11-11 in SLIAC play. Hunter Bryan, a senior first baseman, led the team in hitting last year with a .343 batting average with one home run and 12 runs batted in. Tim Osborne, a sophomore outfielder, also is back after an impressive first collegiate season that saw him hit .274 with four home runs and 22 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases.
Blackburn College was chosen sixth with 45 total points. The Beavers were 15-20-1 overall last season and are coached by Mike Neal, who is in his 15th season. Blackburn returns nine starters including SLIAC Player of the Year Donny Fuhrhop. Fuhrhop, a senior outfielder, hit .386 with two home runs and 32 runs batted in while adding 15 stolen bases. Joining Fuhrhop in the lineup will be senior infielders Franklin Bush, .359 batting average, and Cody Flowers, .349 batting average. Sophomore outfielder Matt Mokriakow, who was second on the team with 27 runs batted in, also returns for the Beavers. The experience club, which features six seniors and ten juniors, also brings in newcomers Doug Matas, Joey Szerletich and Forrest Smith.
Iowa Wesleyan, new to the conference, was picked seventh in the poll with 29 total points. The Tigers were 17-18 last season and will be coached by Derek Zander. The youthful Tigers, which lost nine seniors from last year, will look to Jeffrey Burdett and Logan Thomas as they adjust to the SLIAC. Burdett, a sophomore outfielder/pitcher, hit .339 with 17 runs batted in last season while Thomas, a sophomore pitcher, made 14 appearances and recorded 13 strikeouts in 28.1 innings pitched.
MacMurray College was picked eighth in the poll with 26 points. The Highlanders will be led by first-year head coach Justin Fuhler and return three starters and 14 players from last year's squad that went 7-29 overall. Junior catcher Aaron Krummrich returns after hitting .316 and earning Honorabl Mention All-Conference honors last season. Sophomore Dillon Hodges, who played in 33 games and drove in 12 runs as a true freshman, is also back as is senior pitcher Anthony Willeford who led the staff with 40 innings pitched.
Eureka College was chosen ninth in the poll, receiving 18 total points. Led by first year head coach Kim Johnson the Red Devils finished last season with a 9-25 overall record. Senior outfielder Kamaraon Mason returns for Eureka after hitting .262 last year with 11 runs batted in and four stolen bases. The Red Devil pitching staff will be led by Bryan Meyer, a junior, who threw a team high 62.2 innings pitched last year while striking out 30 and picking up two wins. Senior Kyle Kiesewetter is also back after recording 50 innings pitched and 19 strikeouts.
Principia College was picked tenth in the preseason poll with 13 total points. Principia finished last year with a 4-27 overall record and is led by Alex Ferguson, who is in his third season at the helm. Junior infielder/pitcher Gavin Thomas returns for the Panthers after hitting .266 with 13 runs batted in and making eight starts on the mound, recording 34 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched with two wins. Senior Spencer Clevenger also returns after hitting .258 with one home run and a team high 19 stolen bases last season. The pitching staff will be led by senior Scott Ross. Ross recorded two wins last year and threw a team high 46 innings pitched while striking out 41 batters.
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