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2009 Western Illinois Season Preview: Predictions and Awards

MACOMB, Ill. – With the start of the 2009 season days away, the Western Illinois baseball team has had numerous individuals recognized for their potential entering the season, to go along with one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the entire nation.
The non-conference schedule for the Leathernecks was rated as the 43rd (out of 305 Division-I schools) toughest in the entire nation and their overall schedule put them at No. 105. Western was tops off all state schools in Illinois, finishing two spots ahead of Illinois-Chicago (45), followed by Northwestern (107), Southern Illinois (175), Northern Illinois (180), Illinois (183), Bradley (187), Chicago State (207), Eastern Illinois (208), Illinois State (210), and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (267).

Intended Strength of Schedule Rankings, are used from the previous season’s records of teams, showing difficulty of the schedule that the team intended to play in 2009. Strength of Schedule is measured as the average Iterative Strength Ranking (ISR) of the team’s opponents. This information is reported by Boyd’s World, recognized as the most reputable organization to record this information. ISR’s are updated weekly throughout the season.

College Baseball Foundation: Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List
The individual list starts with perhaps one of the highest honors possible as senior Drew Laidig was named to the College Baseball Foundation Brooks Wallace Player of the Year watch list. The senior out of Pleasantville, Iowa, also landed on all three watch/preseason all-conference lists that scouted The Summit League.

Baseball America
With the team slated to finish in fourth place, three players landed honors from Baseball America. Laidig was named as the third basemen for the preseason all-conference team. Joining him at the shortstop position is fellow senior Lorenzo Gallaga, who returns after finishing second in batting (.328) for Western last year. Junior college transfer Darren Spicer was named as one of three top newcomers in the league after he hit .364 with 11 HRs and 44 RBI at Kirkwood C.C. in 2008.

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper
Six different Leathernecks, the most of any team in The Summit League, received players to watch tags from the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Laidig, Gallaga and Spicer appeared again on the list for Western. Senior outfielder Kenny Price was named after appearing in all 54 games last season and batting .307. Joining the group as well is senior second baseman Cole Waddell, who ended the year third in batting (.312), while taking home Summit League All-Tournament Team honors. On the hill, senior righty Eric Eden received the honor after leading the Leatherneck pitching staff with a 3.28 ERA last season. As a team, Western was predicted to finish in third.
Two Leathernecks landed spots on the preseason all-conference team from the online publication. Seniors Laidig and Price were named to the team at third base and outfield respectively. Eight position players, three starting pitchers, one relief pitcher and a designated hitter were selected to the preseason squad. In the team standings, Western was slated to finish in fourth.

College Baseball Insider
In a more unique ranking system, College Baseball Insider breaks down players and teams as the tops in certain categories as voted on by the coaches. Senior catcher Cooper Stewart garnered a respect around the league as he was named as the catcher with the best arm and the best defensive catcher for The Summit League. No team standings were announced in this poll.

Stan Hyman quotes on preseason rankings
“I understand why people may think we are in a rebuilding stage with our large turnover in the pitching staff, coupled with carrying 11 freshmen on the roster. There is no question that this team has potential at all spots on the field and in the lineup.”

“We definitely will take some lumps early as it will be a maturing process for this team. I have the confidence that these seniors will provide leadership and perform like they have in the past. It will be our performance in the final two-thirds of the season (Summit League play) that is going to measure how far we have come as a program.”

The 2009 season opens Friday, Feb. 20, at No. 16 Oklahoma.

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