Webster and Spalding Early Season SLIAC Favorites

Webster and Spalding Early Season SLIAC Favorites

Webster University and Spalding University have been chosen as the favorites this season in the SLIAC preseason baseball poll as voted on by the league's coaches. Webster received 45 total points while Spalding received 44 total points. This marks the first time in SLIAC history baseball will be split into separate divisions, the East and West.

Spalding received 44 total points, including eight first place votes, to edge out Greenville as the preseason favorites in the East Division. Spalding was 28-15 overall and 20-7 in the SLIAC last season, advancing to the SLIAC Tournament for the second consecutive year. The Golden Eagles are coached by Jeremy Sheetinger and bring back just three starters. They will need to replace 2014 SLIAC Player of the Year Derek Ferch as well as All-Region performer Matt West and will turn to Ryan Mosby, JR Belt, and Korie Vire to fill that void. Mosby, a senior designated hitter and pitcher, led the team with a .396 batting average while adding three home runs and 23 runs batted in. Mosby also made a team high 11 starts on the mound last year, throwing six complete games and recording 51 strikeouts in 78.1 innings pitched. Belt, a junior catcher, hit .301 with 25 runs batted in and 17 stolen bases while Vire, a junior infielder, hit .367 and tied for the team lead with five home runs. In addition to Mosby the Golden Eagles bring back sophomore pitcher Kyle Olliges, who was 4-2 with a 2.98 earned-run average last year and earned SLIAC All-Tournament honors. Spalding brings in several newcomers including Brad Speek, Nic Chafin, and Josh Exton who should compete for time.

Greenville received 42 points and the remaining two first place votes to finish second in the poll in the East Division. The Panthers are coached by Lynn Carlson and bring back nine starters and 22 players from last year's team that went 24-20 overall and 19-8 in conference play, advancing to the SLIAC Tournament Championship game. Greenville's offense will be carreid by the trio of Tim Osborne, Trevor Montgomery, and Jared Storment. Osborne, an outfielder named Second Team All-Conference last year, hit .377 with 12 home runs and 52 runs batted. Montgomery, a junior catcher, earned First Team All-Conference honors after hitting .388 with five home runs and 30 RBI while Storment, a senior first baseman, hit .298 with eight home runs and 34 runs batted to earn Second Team All-Conference honors. The Panthers pitching staff brings back Nick Bifano and Michael Wittmer. Bifano, a junior, was one the league's premier relievers finishing first in the conference in both appearances (28) and saves (11). Wittmer appeared in 24 games last season and finished with a 2.90 earned-run average in 31 innings pitched.

Blackburn College and MacMurray College tied for third in the East Division with each team receiving 24 total points. Blackburn, coached by Mike Neal, was 11-29 overall and 10-17 in the SLIAC last season. The Beavers return junior outfielder Matt Mokriakow, who hit .395 with a team high four home runs and 42 runs batted in last season. Junior infielder Aaron Moody also returns after hitting .321 with 32 runs batted in as does senior Vinnie Birk who hit .361 and made nine appearances on the mound. The top returning pitchers for Blackburn are junior Tim Hillis and Jacob Baalman who combined for 16 starts and 90.2 innings pitched last year.

MacMurray was 12-25 overall and 7-20 in conference play last season under first-year head coach Justin Fuhler. This year Fuhler brings back five starters and 19 players including senior catcher Aaron Krummrich who led the team with a .362 batting average and 14 doubles. The offense will also be led by Alec Quandt, a sophomore infielder who hit .318 with a team high 28 runs batted in as a true freshman and Raustin Zahradka, a sophomore outfielder, who hit .323 with 18 runs scored. On the mound the Highlanders will need to replace First Team All-Conference pitcher Anthony Willeford. They will turn the ball over to sophomore Dryden Craven, who recorded 15 strikeouts in 20.2 innings pitched last year as well as incoming freshman Cory Steinhart and Aaron Derousse. Also joining the team are freshmen infielders Nick Balkenbusch and Collin Antoine.

Principia College was picked fifth in the East Division, receiving 13 total points. The Panthers are led by first year head coach Larry Frank and return seven starters from last year's squad that went 11-28 overall and 5-22 in the SLIAC. The Panthers are led by sophomore outfielder Ed Bargmann, who hit .297 with 16 runs batted in and 21 stolen bases while being named All-Conference. Also returning are infielder/pitchers Gavin Thomas and Dallen Russell. Thomas hit .297 with a team high 35 runs batted in while recording 33 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched. Russell made seven appearances on the mound and hit .250 with seven doubles. Also back is infielder Christian Thomas who hit .261 with 17 runs batted in. Principia will need to replace their top two pitchers from last season and look to newcomers Aleq McMullin, Parker Davidson, and Jeff Ross to throw quality innings.

Webster was the overwhelming favorite in the West Division with 45 points including nine of ten first place votes. The Gorloks, coached by Bill Kurich, were 37-7 overall last season and went 24-0 in the SLIAC while rolling to their fifth consecutive SLIAC Tournament title. The Gorloks will be led by the strength of their pitching, returning three of their top pitchers from last season. Leading the way is 2014 SLIAC Pitcher of the Year Isaac Behme. Behme, a senior, was 8-1 in 12 starts with a 3.52 earned-run average and 66 strikeouts in 79.1 innings pitched. Joining Behme in the rotation is 2014 SLIAC Newcomer of the Year C.J. Lee. As a true freshman Lee made seven starts last season and finished with a 1.89 earned-run average and 52 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. The third returning member of the staff is senior Chris Jansen, who made nine starts and finished with a 3.39 earned-run average and 59 strikeouts in 58.1 innings pitched. The Gorloks will need to replace their big bats of Taylor Stoulp, Corey Lasky and Joe Wickel but look to three transfers as possible solutions. Joining the team are Blake Thomas, an outfielder from Lewis and Clark Community College; Kyle Uhrich, a sophomore pitcher/first baseman from Maryville University; and Alec Bahnick, a sophomore outfielder from Southeast Missouri State University. Also returning are first baseman Jeff Kammer, a senior who hit .362 with eight home runs and 36 runs batted in, and Matt Wollnik, a sophomore, who hit .273 with 24 runs batted in.

Fontbonne University finished second in the West Division, receiving 30 total points. The Griffins are coached by Ryan Good and bring back six starters and 22 players from last year's squad that went 23-19 overall and 17-10 in the SLIAC. The Griffins will be led by junior pitcher Tanner Carter who went 6-3 with a 3.15 earned run average and 73 strikeouts in 71.1 innings pitched last season while earning First Team All-Conference honors. Fontbonne's offense will be carried by shortstop Ethan Boyer and outfielder Zack Carel. Boyer, a sophomore, hit .320 with 17 runs batted in and eight stolen bases while Carel, a junior, hit .326 with 32 runs batted in and 15 doubles. Fontbonne will count on several newcomers to make a difference including freshmen pitchers Keaton Wall and Tyler Scott and sophomore third baseman Devon Tolan.

Westminster College was chosen third in the West, receiving 29 total points including the remaining first place vote. The Blue Jays are coached by Denny Hughes and return six starters and 26 players from last year's team that was 21-14 overall and 15-12 in conference action. Westminster will rely All-Conference, All-Region, and All-American utility man Deion Hughes. Hughes hit .361 with 26 runs batted in at the plate and was 8-1 with a 1.94 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 55.2 innings pitched on the mound. Joining Hughes in the rotation is junior Will Miller, who was 5-3 with 70 strikeouts in 67.1 innings pitched. The Blue Jay offense is led by Tim Chambliss and Tanner Branneky. Chambliss, a senior first baseman, hit .346 with three home runs and a team high 30 RBI last season while Branneky, a junior third baseman, hit .366 with a team high four home runs and 23 runs batted in.

Eureka College was picked fourth in the West, finishing with 16 total points. The Red Devils are coached by Kim Johnson and return four starters from a team that went 7-27 overall and 7-19 in the SLIAC. Eureka returns catcher Blake Lishka, a sophomore, who hit .380 with 26 runs batted in and eight stolen bases last season. Also back is Steve Buttice, a junior outfielder, who hit .380 with 12 runs batted in and a team high 10 stolen bases. On the mound the Red Devils return John Kurtz, a senior, who made 14 appearances over 22.2 innings pitched. Eureka brings in newcomers Scott Coutts and Nick Passini to add to the team's depth.

Iowa Wesleyan College received 15 total points and was picked fifth in the West Division. The Tigers are coached by Derek Zander and went 11-28 overall and 8-19 in the conference last season. Iowa Wesleyan returns seven starters from last year's team including infielders Chayancze Stirbis, Raul Lozano, and Travis Kostello. Stirbis hit .312 with 20 RBI last year while Lozano hit .319 with a team high five home runs and 25 RBI and Kostello finished with a .336 batting average and a team high 26 RBI. On the mound the Tigers return Jeffrey Burdett, a junior, who made nine starts last year while recording a 4.19 earned run average and 41 strikeouts in 62.1 innings pitched. Several newcomers should see time and include freshmen Brandon Baymiller, Devon Rager, and Jarred Boyer.

SLIAC EAST DIVISION SLIAC WEST DIVISION
School Points (1st) School  Points (1st)
Spalding 44 (8) Webster 45 (9)
Greenville 42 (2) Fontbonne 30
Blackburn 24 Westminster 29 (1)
MacMurray 24 Eureka 16
Principia 13 Iowa Wesleyan 15
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