Oral Roberts tabbed Favorite in Summit League

FROM CONFERENCE PRESS RELEASE
ELMHURST, Ill. – After winning its record 10th straight league championship a year ago, Oral Roberts was selected to claim its 11th consecutive Summit League title in 2008 as voted on by the league’s eight head coaches. The Golden Eagles (49 points) were a unanimous selection after garnering seven first-place votes (coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams). Western Illinois (40 points) finished second in the voting, while Centenary (35 points) came in third with the final first-place vote. League newcomer South Dakota State (31 points) was close behind in fourth, while Southern Utah (25 points) was selected in the fifth slot. Oakland (21 points), North Dakota State (15 points) and IPFW (8 points) rounded out the voting.

The defending champion Golden Eagles will be led by reigning co-Player of the Year, Brendan Duffy. Duffy finished the season with a team-leading .356 batting average, 62 runs, 77 hits and 21 stolen bases. Returning to the mound will be Jerry Sullivan, who was named to the Louisville Slugger and Ping! Baseball Freshman All-America Teams last season. Sullivan finished the year with a 5-0 record, a 2.04 ERA and 45 strikeouts. ORU also welcomes back first-team all-league selections Adam Younger (.278, 39 RBI) and Brian Van Kirk (.299, 9 HR, 40 RBI), and second-team member Kelly Minissale (.316, 43 RBI, .399 OB%).

Despite losing co-Player of the Year Travis Check, the Leathernecks bring back a core group of starters in an attempt to end Oral Roberts’ streak of league championships. After leading the league with a .357 average and 79 hits, Brett Pendell returns to the Western lineup, along with all-tournament team selection Kyle Surprenant (.280, 10 2B, .352 SLG%). Starters Travis Tolsma (4.84 ERA, 4-5) and Mark DiBernardo (4-1, 48 K’s), along with closer Bryan Faulds (5 saves), return to the hill for defending Coach of the Year Stan Hyman.

After finishing runner-up to the Golden Eagles in last season’s tournament, Centenary looks to claim its first baseball championship. Left-handed starter and second-team all-league selection Dakota Robinson returns after posting a 3.41 ERA in 58.0 innings pitched and leading the league with 31 appearances. Teddy Saenz will once again patrol the hot corner for the Gents after finishing last season with a .308 average, 64 hits and a .415 on base percentage.

Summit League newcomer South Dakota State welcomes back eight batters who hit above .300 a year ago, including Tyson Fisher (.387, .538 SLG%), Tim Hanigan (.356) and Nick Adams (.345, 51 RBI, .552 SLG%). Starters Kirby Morsching (4-2, 2.66 ERA) and Caleb Thielbar (7-3, 4.15 ERA) return to the mound for the Jackrabbits.

The Thunderbirds have seven starters returning from a squad that narrowly missed qualifying for last season’s tournament. All-league first-team members Chester Wilson (.302, 60 hits) and Joe Wright (.309), along with second-team selections Cameron Nelson (.318, 8 HR, .512 SLG%), Bucky Aona (.337) and Keli’i Zablan (.271, 12 SB) return to the field for SUU. Alec Reichle, a second-team selection, returns after posting a 3.28 ERA and 3-3 record last season.

Oakland first-year head coach John Musachio welcomes back 22 letterwinners from last season’s team that finished fifth in the league standings. Leading the way will be outfielder Justin Wilson, who hit .350 and collected 70 hits and 40 RBI last year. Andrew Stafford (.348, 40 RBI) and Dan Ryan (.325, 11 2B) will be two other key returning starters for the Golden Grizzlies. Matt Traushch (4.93 ERA, 5-4) and Mike Takshima (.458 ERA, 3 saves) will lead the OU pitchers in the 2008 campaign.

The Bison also feature a new coach at the helm as Tod Brown makes his way to Fargo. Infielder Ryan Langlais will be the top starter returning to the NDSU dugout this year, as he had a .355 batting average, to go along with 10 home runs and 38 RBI last season. Southpaw Jake Laber returns to the mound after finishing last season with a 6-6 record, a 3.89 ERA and 68 strikeouts.

The top four hitters from a year ago return for IPFW, including Jared Davis (.376, 54 RBI, .636 SLG%), who was named to the 2008 Preseason Brooks Wallace Player of the Year watch list. Shaun VanDriessch (.359, .538 SLG%), Mark Carden (.339, .410 OB%) and Ryan Beer (.302) round out the top returnees for the Mastodons.

The top four teams based on the regular-season standings will compete for The Summit League Baseball Championship at J.L. Johnson Stadium in Tulsa, Okla., May 22-24. The winner of the double-elimination tournament will take home the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

2008 Baseball Preseason Poll

Team (1st)

Points

1.

Oral Roberts (7)

49

2.

Western Illinois

40

3.

Centenary (1)

35

4.

South Dakota State

31

5.

Southern Utah

25

6.

Oakland

21

7.

North Dakota State

15

8.

IPFW

8