Missouri Valley Conference Baseball 2010 Preview

February 12, 2010
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Can Wichita State Continue Its Dominance?

2009 Regular Season Champion: Missouri State

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2009 Tournament Champion: Wichita State defeated Creighton 4-2 to win its second straight and 17th overall conference championship.

9 Becomes 8: Northern Iowa eliminated itsbaseball program after last season to cut costs, trimming the league to eight teams this season.  Head Coach Rick Heller landed on his feet as he is now in his first season as head coach of Indiana State

Wichita State finished 3rd in the conference during the regular season but was able to put it together and capture a league-leading 17th tournament title to earn the 8th straight trip to the NCAA tournament.  With the Shockers returning its top 3 starters and 19 letter winners overall, they should be the team to beat once again.

2010 MVC Preview

Bradley

2009 Season: (17-31, 4-17)

Nickname: Braves

Head Coach: Elvis Dominguez

Location: Peoria, IL

Vitals: .259 BA, 21 HR, .355 OBp, .960 Fld. %…5.51 ERA, 1 CG, 6 SVs, 327 K, 214 BB, .281 Opp. BA

The Future is Bright: Bradley’s incoming 16-man recruiting class is ranked #48 according to Collegiate Baseball. It’s the first time Bradley has cracked the top 50, and only Wichita State is ranked higher (#19) among the other Missouri Valley teams.

Strong Foundation: Jr. catcher Kevin Sullivan is the only Brave to be named to the preseason All-MVC team.  Last season, Sullivan hit .277 with 7 doubles and 15 RBI in 34 games.  Also back this season is So. LHP Joe Bircher (4-2, 3.39 ERA, 50 K) who will lead the staff.

Schedule Notes: The Braves play their first 20 games on the road, including match-ups with Illinois, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, and Indiana.  The first home game is March 31st when they host Northern Illinois.  Bradley also will host an exhibition game against the local minor league Peoria Chiefs on April 7th.

Creighton

2009 Season: (31-25, 14-9)

Nickname: Bluejays

Head Coach: Ed Servais

Location: Omaha, NE

Vitals: .299 BA, 37 HR, .391 OBP, .984 Fld. %…4.05 ERA, 4 CG, 9 SVs, 338 K, 164 BB, .267 Opp. BA

Bluejay Revival: Creighton is picked to finish 3rd in the MVC by the coaches this year, with one first place vote, a year after just missing out on the NCAA tournament with a loss in the MVC tournament championship game.  Three Jays are on the preseason All-conference team with Jr. SS Elliot Soto (.322, 77 H, 13 SB), Sr. OF Robbie Knight (.344, 18 doubles, 41 RBI) and Sr. RHP Bobby Lackovic (6-1, 3.55 ERA, SV) all earning the honors.

Moving Homes: This season is the last for Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series.  Creighton will split games between Rosenblatt and its on campus facility.  Beginning next year, the Jays will play some of their home games at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha before moving there full-time in 2012.

Evansville

2009 Season: (25-30, 7-17)

Nickname: Purple Aces

Head Coach: Wes Carroll

Location: Evansville, IN

Vitals: .269 BA, 29 HR, .352 OBP, .967 Fld. %…5.44 ERA, 4 CG, 12 SVs, 373 K, 183 BB, .295 Opp. BA

Tom Heithoff (EU photo)

Plenty of Offense Back: Evansville returns 6 starters and should have a much better offense.  Leading the offense is 2nd team All-MVC players Sr. DH Andy Pascoe (.331, 9 doubles, 21 RBI) and Jr. 3B Cody Fick (.307, 9 HR, 46 RBI).

Staff Aces: Leading the pitching staff is Sr. closer Tom Heithoff (4-3, 2.87 ERA, 8 SVs) as well three different returnees, LHP Seth McCabe, LHP Sean McCarthy and RHP Matt Netherton, who missed 2009 due to Tommy John surgery.

Tough Contests: The Purple Aces travel to Lexington to play Kentucky, play and home-and-home series with Louisville, and host Dallas Baptist all this season.

Illinois State

2009 Season: (25-23, 11-11)

Nickname: Redbirds

Head Coach: Mark Kingston

Location: Normal, IL

Vitals: .281 BA, 32 HR, .372 OBP, .964 Fld. %…5.47 ERA, 8 CG, 7 SVs, 313 K, 175 BB, .275 Opp. BA

Corey Maines (ISU photo)

Pitching Strength: Illinois State brings back several top-notch pitchers from last year.  Returning are Sr. LHP Ryan Copeland (4-5, 3.63 ERA, 6 CG), Jr. RHP Corey Maines (6-5, 4.26 ERA, 69 K), So. RHP Ryan Camp (6-3, 4.73 ERA, .251 Opp. BA), and Sr. RHP Jim Sajewich (4-2, 4.36 ERA, 4 SVs).

Top Hitters: Illinois State loses top hitter Mike Stalowy, but do return Sr. INF Ryan Court (.323, 5 HR, 41 RBI), Sr. OF Anthony Ruffalo (.315, 4 HR, .401 OBP), and Sr. 1B Evan Kohli (.308, 13 doubles, .431 OBP).  Also back is Corey Maines, who only hit .202, but did have 5 HR in 21 total hits.

New Era: Mark Kingston enters his first season as head baseball coach after Jim Brownlee retired after 7 seasons.  Kingston was an assistant for the 2009 season, helping the Redbirds to their first winning season since 2001.

Indiana State

2009 Season: (33-21, 15-7)

Nickname: Sycamores

Head Coach: Rick Heller

Location: Terre Haute, IN

Vitals: .317 BA, 59 HR, .404 OBP, .976 Fld. %…5.94 ERA, 2 CG, 5 SVs, 365 K, 222 BB, .301 Opp. BA

Starting Over: Indiana State begins a new era this year with Rick Heller taking over as head coach.  Heller came from Northern Iowa after they eliminated their baseball program following the 2009 season.  Heller succeeds Lindsay Meggs who left to become the head coach at Washington.

Rebuilding Year?: ISU’s 33 wins in 2009 was the most since 2003, and their 15-7 league record was good enough for second place, best finish since 1998.  This year, however, the Sycamores return just 5 regular starters, and only 4 out of 11 pichers return.  The biggest losses are leading hitter Nick Ciolli (.401, 5 HR, 50 RBI), Brady Shoemaker (.359, 14 HR, 50 RBI), and closer Matt Shelton (4-1, 5.45 ERA, 5 SVs).

Good Rotation: 2 of the 4 pitchers that do return are the top two pitchers from last season.  Jr. RHP Jacob Petricka (7-3, 4.76 ERA, 49 K) and Sr. LHP Joe Rodriguez (7-3, 5.29 ERA, 1 CG) are back to lead the inexperienced pitching staff.

Missouri State

2009 Season: (34-20, 17-5)

Nickname: Bears

Head Coach: Keith Guttin

Location: Springfield, MO

Vitals: .302 BA, 61 HR, .395 OBP, .961 Fld. %…4.51 ERA, 5 CG, 11 SVs, 431 K, 199 BB, .264 Opp. BA

Big 2009: Missouri State began 2009 a disappointing 4-10, but quickly rebounded going 30-10 over the final 40 games capturing the MVC title, their first since 2003.  Two MSU players earned All-American honors with Buddy

Kevin Medrano (MSU photo)

Baumann (11-1, 3.23 ERA, 101 K), the MVC Pitcher of the Year, a second-team selection by Collegiate Baseball and the ABCA, and Brayden Drake (.414, 10 HR, 54 RBI), MVC Player of the Year, a third-team All-American from Collegiate Baseball.

Still Talented: While the Bears lose Baumann and Drake, and had 6 players drafted, Missouri State still brings back a lot of talent for 2010.  The offense will be led by Freshman All-American So. INF Kevin Medrano (.329, 76 H, 40 RBI) while Jr. LHP Aaron Meade (9-2, 3.39 EA, 89 K) heads up the pitching staff.

Challenges Abound: A tough non-conference slate faces the Bears this season.  Among the non-conference slate are games against Georgia Tech, Southern Mississippi, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Oral Roberts.

Southern Illinois

2009 Season: (24-28, 11-9)

Nickname: Salukis

Head Coach: Dan Callahan

Location: Carbondale, IL

Vitals: .286 BA, 35 HR, .348 OBP, .971 Fld. %…4.77 ERA, 1 CG, 8 SVs, 288 K, 183 BB, .291 Opp. BA

Key Returners: Southern Illinois returns several key members from last season.  Seven starters return to the lineup including preseason All-MVC selection C Tyler Bullock (.292, 11 HR, 33 RBI) and Sr. OF Aaron Roberts (.301, 35 R, 6 SB).  The pitching staff is led by the schools all-time leader in saves Sr. RHP Bryant George (3-0, 3.21 ERA, 8 SVs), and returning starter Sr. LHP Jimmy Cornell (2-2, 3.26 ERA, .216 Opp. BA).

Courage Under Fire: SIU head coach Dan Callahan received the 2009 MVC Most Courageous Award given to those who demonstrates unusual courage in the face of personal illness, adversity or tragedy and whose behavior reflects honor on the institution or the Conference.  Callahan was diagnosed with a form of melanoma in 2006, and continues to battle the illness today.  After coaching full-time in 2007 and 2008, he was unable to travel with the team last season, but still coached every home game.  Callahan hopes to travel with the team once again this season.

Wichita State

2009 Season: (30-27, 11-7)

Nickname: Shockers

Head Coach: Gene Stephenson

Location: Wichita, KS

Vitals: .275 BA, 33 HR, .362 OBP, .964 Fld. %…4.26 ERA, 6 CG, 11 SVs, 508 K, 186 BB, .265 Opp. BA

Continuing Dominance: Wichita State finished 3rd in the regular season last year, but put it together to capture their second consecutive, and 7th conference tournament title of the decade.  They also made the NCAA tournament for the 8th consecutive year, and for the 21st time in the last 22 years.  This season 7 starters and 20 letterwinners overall return.

Jordan Cooper (WSU photo)

Pitching Prowess: The Shockers return their top four starters from a season ago in Jr. Tim Kelley (5-4, 2.86 ERA, 3 CG), Freshman All-American So. Jordan Cooper (8-6, 2.78 ERA, 3 CG), Freshman All-American So. Charlie Lowell (6-2, 2.95 ERA, .246 Opp. BA), and So. Brian Flynn (2-5, 4.98 ERA, 59 K)

To Be the Best: Wichita State will play several challenging games this season with contests against Kansas, Oklahoma State, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Beach State, Arizona, Oral Roberts, Nebraska, and Dallas Baptist.

2010 Missouri Valley Predictions

Conference Champion: Wichita State

2010 Player of the Year: Elliot Soto–Creighton

2010 Pitcher of the Year: Jordan Cooper—Wichita State

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