INDIANAPOLIS – Wright State is a narrow choice to win the 2011 Horizon League Baseball Championship in balloting by the conference’s seven head coaches. The Raiders received 32 points and three first-place votes.
Milwaukee, the 2010 Horizon League Tournament Champion, also notched three first-place votes and earned 31 points to place second in this year’s preseason poll. UIC (27) and Valparaiso (24) took third and fourth, respectively, while Butler and Youngstown State tied for fifth with 13 points and Cleveland State (7) came in seventh in the poll.
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams in the poll.
Wright State posted a 31-25 overall record and 17-6 Horizon League mark a season ago taking the regular-season title and finishing runner-up in the conference tournament.
The Raiders return three All-League performers for the 2011 campaign in juniors Casey Henn, Jake Hibberd and Garrett Gray, and are led by the 2010 coach of the year Rob Cooper.
Henn, a right-hander who was named to the All-League First Team, ranked among the League leaders in ERA (1st, 3.19), batting average against (1st, .241), wins (2nd, 7), strikeouts (4th, 82), and games started (T-4th, 14) in 2010.
Hibberd, an infielder also chosen to the first team, placed among the circuit’s best in hits (6th, 82), RBI (7th, 54), batting average (8th, .368), putouts (2nd, 425), and fielding double plays (T-6th, 32). First- team teammate Gray ranked in the top ten in slugging percentage (7th, .589), home runs (T-5th, 10) and total bases (T-9th, 126).
Milwaukee returns three All-League selections from 2010 in junior utility player Paul Hoenecke, senior infielder Cole Kraft and senior designated hitter Sam Sivilotti. Relief Pitcher of the Year Cameron Amsrud and Co-Newcomer of the Year Chad Pierce, both right-handed pitchers, also return for the Panthers, who were the only Horizon League team recognized in the College Baseball’s Preseason Poll.
Senior infielder Matt Serna, the 2010 Co-Newcomer of the Year, along with seniors infielder Jason Ganek and outfielder Steve McGuiggan, who also earned All-League honors a year ago, return for UIC in 2011.
Valparaiso features returning All-League pick junior outfielder Kyle Gaedele who has been named a Louisville Slugger Division I Preseason Third-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper for the 2011 campaign.
Butler welcomes back All-League selection, senior infielder Luke Duncan.
Cleveland State, Milwaukee, UIC, Valparaiso, Wright State and Youngstown State open the 2011 season the weekend of Feb. 18-20, while Butler begins play the weekend of Feb. 25-27.
The 2011 Horizon League Baseball Championship is slated for May 25-28 at Nischwitz Stadium in Dayton, Ohio. The event will feature the League’s top six schools in a double-elimination format at the home of the Wright State Raiders. The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2011 Horizon League Preseason Baseball Poll:
1. Wright State (3 first-place votes) — 32 points
2. Milwaukee (3) — 31
3. UIC (1) — 27
4. Valparaiso — 24
T5. Butler — 13
T5. Youngstown State — 13
7. Cleveland State — 7