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2011 Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll

ST. LOUIS – Illinois State, which returns a dominating young pitching staff and solid depth from last year’s State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship squad, has been tabbed as the league favorite in the annual coaches’ preseason poll, receiving four of eight first-place votes.

The Redbirds tallied 58 points and were a close favorite over second-place pick Wichita State (53 points).  Evansville (41 points) was picked to finish in the third position.

Indiana State was selected in fourth place with 37 points, followed by Creighton in fifth (35) and Missouri State in the sixth slot (27).  Southern Illinois (25) and Bradley (13) round out the final two positions in the poll.

Rank Team (1st-Place Votes) Points
1. Illinois State (4) 58
2. Wichita State (4) 53
3. Evansville 41
4. Indiana State 37
5. Creighton 35
6. Missouri State 27
7. Southern Illinois 25
8. Bradley 13

The Valley demonstrates a depth of talent and experience returning to the league this season.  The coaches have voted 15 players representing six teams to the 2011 preseason all-MVC baseball squad.

After winning a share of its first-ever regular season league title and its second-ever MVC tournament crown last season, Illinois State returns seven starters and 19 letterwinners in 2011.  The Redbirds are led by the 2010 MVC Joe Carter Player of the Year, Kevin Tokarski, who ranked among the nation’s leaders in batting average (.412), doubles (25) and on-base percentage (.538) last season.  Illinois State returns its entire infield, with the bulk of its offensive prowess coming from Ryan Court (3B), Matt Mirabal (C) and Zach Amrein (1B), along with Tokarski (2B) and Brett Kay (SS).  The Redbird pitching staff returns their shutdown closer in left-handed Kenny Long, who tallied the nation’s third-lowest ERA (1.38) last season.  Also back on the mound are Corey Maines (6-3, 67 K, 86.0 IP) and Brad Sorkin (4-1, 38 K, 58.0 IP).

Wichita State returns five starters and 16 letterwinners from a 2010 squad that went 41-19 and won a share of its league-leading 20th MVC regular-season title.  The Shocker pitching staff returns eight pitchers from the 2010 staff that posted a 4.45 ERA, including four of its top five starters.  Leading the charge is first team all-Valley selection Tim Kelley (11-2, 3.94), juniors Charlie Lowell (3-2, 3.25) and Josh Smith (4-3, 5.02) and sophomore Tobin Mateychick (3-0, 5.50).  Senior Preston Springer, the league’s reigning Newcomer of the Year, returns to the Shocker lineup as the primary designated hitter after hitting .324 with 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 2010.  Honorable mention all-Valley selection and Freshman All-American sophomore Johnny Coy (.331, 13 2B, 7 HR, 32 RBI) returns to the Shockers at first base.  Junior Tyler Grimes returns after starting 59 games at shortstop a year ago.  He hit .249 with 12 doubles, 28 RBI and seven stolen bases.

Evansville returns an experienced group of players including seven position starters and 18 letterwinners from last year’s squad that won 32 games.  The Purple Aces will be powerful at the plate, aggressive on the base paths and reliable in the field.  Senior Greg Wallace (OF), who led the league in hits (91), RBI (75) and triples (13), returns to the Purple Aces lineup as the top offensive threat.  Senior Cody Fick (19 HR, 65 RBI), one of the Valley’s top power hitters, is back at third base, while the MVC’s reigning Freshman of the Year, Eric Stamets (SS), returns as the league’s top stolen base threat (43), while also hitting .321 with 15 doubles and 27 RBI in 2010.  Evansville’s young, but developing pitching staff, comprised of nearly all underclassmen, will be piloted by sophomore Sam Johns (5-4, 5.71 ERA, 54 K, 58.1 IP), senior Zach Taylor (3-1, 4.89 ERA, 35 K, 49.2 IP) and sophomore Kyle Lloyd (2-3, 7.93 ERA, 36.1 IP).  A deep bullpen includes Jake Naumann, Adam Culiver, Josh Biggs and Jordan Chavis.

Indiana State welcomes back four starters and six pitchers from last season’s 35-19 team, but will look to fill the void left behind on offense by Ryan Strausborger and Luke Fieser and on the mound by Jake Petricka and Joe Rodriguez.  Sophomore Robby Ort (UT) returns as the Sycamores leader in RBI (50) and batting average (.353), while sophomore Jeremy Lucas (C) and junior Kyle Burnam (OF) will also add to the offensive production.  Senior Jason Van Skike (3-3, 4.70 ERA, 58 K, .244 Opp. BA) will lead the way on the mound for Indiana State, with closer Tyler Browning (10 saves, 5.90 ERA, 37 K) as the go-to Sycamore in the bullpen.

Creighton brings back four starters and a barrage of talented veteran pitchers from last year’s squad, including sophomore Ty Blach (3-3, 3.11 ERA), senior Jonas Dufek (8-3, 4.92 ERA) and junior Brandon Koenigstein (5-2, 3.95 ERA).  The bullpen will house senior Jack VanLeur (3-4, 4.83 ERA), who led the Jays with four saves in 2010, and sophomore Mark Winkelman (2-3, 4.37 ERA.  CU’s solid infield experience welcomes back two starters from last season’s team that led the league in fielding percentage (.980), in senior Jimmy Swift (.296, 61 H, 45 R) and sophomore Alex Staehely 2B).  Senior all-Valley selection Trever Adams (.356, 74 H, 15 2B, 12 HF, 58 RBI) will anchor the Jays’ outfield, and lead the charge on offense.

Missouri State welcomes back six starters and six pitchers from its 2010 squad, and will be led by two-time first team all-MVC junior second-baseman Kevin Medrano, who ranked second in the league in both batting average (.410) and hits (86).  The Bears’ strength will be in their returners up the middle, including catcher Luke Voit (.272, 29 RBI), shortstop Travic McComack (.274, 16 RBI) and outfielder Aaron Conway (.278, 23 RBI, 24 stolen bases).  A solid young pitching staff in sophomores Grant Gordon (4-2, 4.66 ERA, 74 K, 7 saves), Clay Murphy (3-2, 3.21 ERA, 43 K) and Pierce Johnson (1-2, 7.52 ERA, 36K) will lead the charge from the mound.  Missouri State welcomes 13 newcomers, including three Junior College World Series participants (Brent Seifert, Kyle Hardy and Dan Kickham).

Southern Illinois returns five starters and 14 letterwinners from its 2010 squad that won 28 contests.  The Salukis will be a very young team, with 19 of its 28 players being underclassmen.  Offense will be a strong point for SIU, as the Salukis return their top five hitters from last year’s unit that hit a collective .308.  Leading the way is Chris Serritella (1B), a first team all-MVC selection in 2010, who ranked in the top five in eight different offensive categories in the Valley last season (.374, 83 H, 64 RBI, 19 2B, 13 HR).  Also returning to the SIU infield are Blake Pinnon (.333, 70 H, 16  2B, 45 RBI) and Austin Montgomery (.319, 43 H, 57 RBI).  Chris Murphy (.320, 72 H, 16 2B) and Nick Johnson (.309, 59 H, 22 RBI) will anchor the Saluki outfield.  Sophomores Cody Forsythe and Aaron Snyder are SIU’s top returning pitchers, and along with transfer Cameron Maldonado, the trio figure to be SIU’s weekend starters.

Bradley welcomes back six position starters and seven pitchers from its 2010 team, led by senior outfielder Brian Martin, the Braves returning leader in batting average (.364), hits (75), doubles (12), triples (4), RBI (39)  and stolen bases (24).   Junior Rob Elliott (.341, 61 H, 9 2B, 27 RBI, 15 SB) and sophomore Jason Leblebijian (.323, 50 H, 8 2B, 14 SB) also return to the Bradley lineup.  Junior LHP Joe Bircher (4-5, 5.67 ERA, 68 K, 2 CG) and junior RHP Jacob Booden (4-4, 3.99 ERA, 35K) are the Braves’ top returning hurlers.

All eight Missouri Valley Conference baseball teams begin action the third week of February, with tournament play and non-conference games, while league battles will heat up starting Friday, April 8.

Player, Team Pos. B/T Yr. Hometown (Previous School)
Johnny Coy, Wichita State 1B R/R So. St. Joseph, Mo. (Benton/Arizona State)
Chris Serritella, Southern Illinois 1B L/F Jr. Glenview, Ill. (Loyola Academy)
Kevin Tokarski, Illinois State 2B R/R Jr. Downers Grove, Ill. (North)
Cody Fick, Evansville 3B R/R Sr. Freeburg, Mo. (Fatima/Jefferson College)
Eric Stamets, Evansville SS R/R So. Dublin, Ohio (Dublin Scioto)
Matt Mirabal, Illinois State C R/R Jr. Chicago, Ill. (Mt. Carmel)
Preston Springer, Wichita State DH L/R Sr. Denton, Texas (Denton/Odessa College)
Kevin Medrano, Missouri State UT L/R Jr. Lee’s Summit, Mo. (Lee’s Summit North)
Trever Adams, Creighton OF R/R Sr. Lincoln, Neb. (Lincoln Southeast/Hutchinson
Aaron Conway, Missouri State OF R/R Sr. Edwardsville, Ill. (Triad)
Greg Wallace, Evansville OF L/R Sr. Nanaimo, British Columbia (Dover Bay S.S.)
Tim Kelley, Wichita State SP R/R Sr. Tulsa, Okla. (Bishop Kelley)
Corey Maines, Illinois State SP R/R Sr. Houston, Texas (Langham Creek)
Grant Gordon, Missouri State RP R/R So. Salem, Mo. (Salem)
Kenny Long, Illinois State RP L/L Jr. Fox River Grove, Ill. (Dundee Crown)
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