There are a number of good teams in the OVC this year with a couple of standouts at the top. This conference is very deep top-to-bottom and I really think just about anyone could get hot and win the OVC Tournament.
Austin Peay (2017 Record: 28-30, 13-16)
The Governors had a couple of high profile wins in 2017, but had just 13 wins in conference. Still, they had a pretty good showing in the Ohio Valley Tournament where they went 2-2 before being eliminated.
Catcher Parker Phillips hit .328 last year with 49 runs scored, 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 40 RBI. Garrett Giovannelli should be back at shortstop after hitting .310 a year ago with 42 runs scored, 12 doubles, 2 home runs, 26 RBI and 9 stolen bases. Max Remy hit .304 last year in just 92 at-bats. Outfielder Imani Willis hit .272 a year ago with 35 runs scored, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 5 home runs and 33 RBI.
Josh Rye started 12 games last year and had a 4.34 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched with 53 strikeouts. He should be in the weekend rotation. Michael Costanzo and Brett Newberg both return with starting experience.
The offense should be very good again in 2017, but they lose a lot in the pitching staff. They’ll need some arms to step up in the rotation to compete.
Belmont (2017 Record: 31-29, 17-13)
It was a very solid year for Belmont in 2017 as they won 17 conference games. They survived three elimination games in the OVC Tournament, but fell to one seeded Tennessee Tech in the championship game.
Outfielder Matt Cogen hit .332 last year with 42 runs scored, 17 doubles, 4 home runs, 31 RBI and 8 stolen bases. Shortstop Kyle Conger hit .286 a year ago with 48 runs scored, 10 doubles, 2 home runs and 29 RBI. Hunter Holland is a utility player that hit .284 last year with 7 home runs. Chas Hadden and Logan Jarvis should have a bigger impact on the lineup in 2018. Newcomers that could have an immediate impact include: Infielder Zach Earhart, catcher Jackson Campbell and two-way player Kyle Brennan.
Dylan King should be back in the rotation after making 14 starts last year with a 4.07 ERA in 84 innings pitched with 108 strikeouts. Tyler Vaughn will also be back in the weekend rotation after posting a 5.22 ERA a year ago in 100 innings pitched with 96 strikeouts. Connor Etheridge, started 10 games last year and had a 5.62 ERA in 56 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts. Newcomer Jack Rettig could help out in the pitching staff right away.
“I feel that we will have a deeper pitching staff. Hope to improve on our offensive production.” – Head Coach David Jarvis
Eastern Illinois (2017 Record: 21-35, 12-18)
Eastern Illinois started 2017 just 2-19, but were 19-16 the rest of the way. They’re hoping they can carry that momentum into the 2018 season.
Middle infielder Jimmy Govern should be back in the middle of the lineup after leading the team last year with a .335 average to go along with 42 runs scored, 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 50 RBI. He was First Team All-Conference last year. Outfielder Joe Duncan was a Second Team All-Conference player last year hitting .331 with 57 runs scored, 14 doubles, 4 triples, 9 home runs, 47 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Third baseman Dougie Parks hit .300 last year with 43 runs scored, 10 doubles, 18 home runs and 57 RBI. Matt Albert hit .273 a year ago with 39 runs scored, 10 doubles, 16 home runs and 52 RBI. He can play first base, outfield and will DH.
Michael Starcevich had the best ERA on the team last year at 5.72 in 39.1 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts and 6 saves. But with a team ERA over eight, they will need help from several newcomers to turn this thing around. Junior college transfers Carson Haws and Tyler Jones should help out right away, as well as freshman Will Klein.
“We have our entire offense back from last year with a few additions that had a big year. We hope to improve our pitching staff from a down season last year and cover more ground on defense than we did a year ago.” – Head Coach Jason Anderson
Eastern Kentucky (2017 Record: 24-32, 10-20)
Eastern Kentucky played a very difficult out-of-conference schedule last year and got off to a low start. Things didn’t get much better in conference play as they won only 10 games.
Outfielder Daniel McFarland returns as the team’s leading hitter after batting .363 last year with 32 runs scored, 12 doubles, 5 home runs and 25 RBI. Third baseman Alex Holderbach hit .355 a year ago with 39 runs scored, 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 49 RBI. Second baseman Cornell Nixon should be back atop the lineup after hitting .305 in 2017 with 42 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Outfielder Nick Howie hit .290 last year with 46 runs scored, 14 doubles, 8 home runs and 41 RBI.
Jack Piekos made 11 starts last year and had a 5.92 ERA in 59.1 innings pitched with 62 strikeouts. Casey Collins started 12 games and posted a 6.29 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts. They’ll need to replace their closer from 2017 who also threw the second most innings.
Like most teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, the offense should be very good in 2017. The question is whether or not they’ll find the pitching to keep other teams from scoring.
Jacksonville State (30-26, 17-13)
It was a very good regular season for Jacksonville State in 2017 with a couple of wins over Alabama and 17 conference wins. However, they went two-and-out in the Ohio Valley Tournament.
Second baseman Clayton Daniel hit .328 last year with 46 runs scored, 12 doubles, 30 RBI and 8 stolen bases. DH Trent Simpson hit .306 in 2017 with 35 runs scored, 18 doubles, 12 home runs and 50 RBI. First baseman Andrew Naismith hit .302 last year with 30 runs scored, 9 home runs and 29 RBI. Shortstop Taylor Hawthorne hit .342 last year in 155 at-bats with 28 runs scored, 14 doubles, 3 home runs and 34 RBI.
Derrick Adams and Colton Pate both return with plenty of starting experience. Adams had a 5.04 ERA last year in 85.2 innings pitched with 94 strikeouts, while Pate had a 5.67 ERA in 73 innings pitched with 75 strikeouts.
They return their top five hitters from last year so they should be solid on offense. They lose some key pieces from the bullpen, but have two solid starting pitchers coming back.
Morehead State (2017 Record: 36-23, 18-11)
It was a great regular season for Morehead State as they won 18 conference games. But after winning their first two games in the OVC Tournament they lost the next two and saw their season come to an early end.
Outfielder Niko Hulsizer was a First Team All-American and OVC Player of the Year in 2017 after hitting .349 with 69 runs scored, 21 doubles, 27 home runs and 82 RBI. Third baseman Eli Boggess led the team with a .425 average last year, while scoring 54 runs with 11 doubles, 7 home runs and 40 RBI. Second baseman Braxton Morris hit .364 with 51 runs scored, 17 doubles, 5 home runs and 47 RBI. Shortstop Reid Leonard hit .328 a year ago with 54 runs scored, 21 doubles, 2 home runs and 48 RBI. First baseman Tyler Niemann hit .318 last year with 47 runs scored, 9 home runs and 32 RBI. Catcher Hunter Fain should be back behind the plate after hitting .271 with 6 home runs. Adam Rapp is a transfer that could add some thump to the lineup, while playing first base and DH. Another transfer, Connor Pauly, could get the start in center field. Bryce Hensor is another newcomer that could get some immediate playing time.
Jake Ziegelmeyer should get a chance in the weekend rotation after posting a 6.21 ERA last year in 58 innings pitched with 39 strikeouts and 2 saves. Dalton Stambaugh made 14 starts as a freshman last year with a 7.40 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts. Dom Masullo had a good summer and should be a back of the bullpen arm. David Calderon picked up 4 saves last year and will get a shot in the starting rotation. Kyle Cantu is also expected to pitch significant innings this year. Head Coach Mike McGuire is expecting several junior college transfers to give the pitching staff an immediate boost. That includes the likes of Garrett Rogers, TJ Satterly, Grant Crosby and David Looney. Freshman John Sherman could also have an immediate impact.
Even after winning 106 games over the last three years, Head Coach Mike McGuire thinks this is his best team yet with 13-of-17 position players being juniors or seniors.
“We’ve had some of the best offenses in the country the last four years and this team is capable of being our most offensive. But also my most athletic team,” said coach McGuire.
After having to rely on young, inexperienced arms last year, coach McGuire is hoping their maturity and development will help them improve this spring.
“Our arms are very talented and capable, just have to pitch like we are capable, and no question we are an NCAA regional talent level team.” – Head Coach Mike McGuire
Murray State (2017 Record: 29-30, 15-15)
It was a mediocre season for Murray State as they went .500 in conference play and then went 2-2 in the OVC Tournament.
Outfielder Brandon Gutzler led the team with a .353 average last year to go along with 57 runs scored, 17 doubles, 16 home runs and 71 RBI. Shortstop Jaron Robinson hit .325 a year ago with 41 runs scored, 12 doubles and 11 stolen baes. Third baseman Davis Sims hit .308 in 2017 with 41 runs scored, 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 49 RBI. Outfielder Ryan Perkins hit .279 last year with 41 runs scored, 10 doubles, 12 home runs and 44 RBI.
Chance Carner was solid out of the bullpen last year. Luke Brown returns with the most starting experience after losing its top three starters from last year.
It’s hard to imagine this team making much of an improvement over last year’s totals with all they’ll be losing from the pitching staff.
Southeast Missouri State (2017 Record: 29-26, 16-14)
Southeast Missouri State had a couple of big wins out-of-conference last year over Missouri State and Missouri. They had a winning conference record, but 1-2 in the OVC Tournament.
Second baseman Danny Wright led the team in hitting as a freshman with a .376 average to go along with 43 runs scored, 13 doubles, 5 home runs, 36 RBI and 9 stolen bases. First baseman Tristen Gagan hit .298 last year with 40 runs scored, 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 62 RBI. Trevor Ezell should return to second base after missing a lot of time last year due to an injury.
Nate Green returns with the most starting experience posting a 5.87 ERA last year in 53.2 innings pitched with 18 strikeouts. Carlos Vega was solid as the team’s closer last year with a 3.82 ERA in 35.1 innings pitched with 45 strikeouts and 6 saves. Christian Vick is a junior college transfer that could help out the pitching staff.
This team loses a lot from the lineup and from the pitching staff. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take a step back in 2018.
Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (2017 Record: 23-29, 11-19)
It was not a banner year for SIUE as they won just 11 conference games and failed to make the OVC Tournament. They’ll look to turn things around in 2018.
Outfielder Dustin Woodcock is back after hitting .330 last year with 43 runs scored, 14 doubles, 6 home runs, 42 RBI and 7 stolen bases. The senior will be a leader in the 2018 lineup. Junior catcher Brock Weimer hit .329 last year with 37 runs scored, 8 doubles, 15 home runs and 50 RBI. Three transfers could have an immediate impact on the lineup in Peyton Cordova-Smith (1B/DH), Bret Fehr (OF) and Brock Hammit (OF).
Nelson Martz should be in the weekend rotation after posting a 5.56 ERA in 79.1 innings pitched last year with 66 strikeouts. Mason McReaken was solid out of the bullpen last year with a 3.88 ERA in 46.1 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts and 6 saves. Ryan Byrd is a junior college transfer that could have an immediate impact on the pitching staff. Freshman Colin Baumgartner should also get significant innings this year.
“One of the biggest areas we want to improve on from last year is in the pitching staff. We lacked depth both in the rotation and in the bullpen. That is the area where we feel we will see the biggest difference heading into the 2018 Season.” – Head Coach Sean Lyons
Tennessee Tech (2017 Record: 41-21, 23-7)
It was a dominating year for Tennessee Tech in the OVC as they won 23 conference games and beat Vanderbilt in a mid-week game. They breezed through the OVC Tournament as the one seed, and then advanced to the Tallahassee Regional where they upset host Florida State in their first game before losing the next two, 5-3 each.
David Garza returns at shortstop after hitting .293 last year with 50 runs scored, 12 doubles, 2 home runs, 27 RBI and 10 stolen bases. First baseman Chase Chambers should return to the middle of the order after hitting .299 a year ago with 61 runs scored, 11 doubles, 18 home runs and 61 RBI. Alex Junior hit .323 last year with 68 runs scored, 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 35 RBI. Outfielder Kevin Strohschein hit .292 last year with 55 runs scored, 12 doubles, 14 home runs and 60 RBI. Third baseman Trevor Putzig is an excellent defender and hit .394 last year with 56 runs scored, 23 doubles, 6 home runs and 52 RBI. Nick Osborne is a two-way player that will have an impact in the lineup and in the pitching staff. John Ham is a junior college transfer that could see time on the infield. Jason Hinchman is a freshman from Georgia that is a very good hitter.
Ethan Roberts was solid out of the bullpen last year with a 3.88 ERA in 47.2 innings pitched with 77 strikeouts and 13 saves, as was Travis Moths who had a 3.88 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched with 69 strikeouts. Ty King made four starts last year and had a 2.43 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts. Alex Hursey is a junior college transfer that could help fill out the pitching staff immediately.
Head Coach Matt Bragga said he hopes his team improves in every facet of the game. Even after a very good 2017 season, his expectations are to be even better every year, making small gains in every facet.
UT-Martin (2017 Record: 25-30, 12-18)
UT-Martin snuck into the OVC Tournament as the eight seed, but lost in their one only game of the tournament.
Infielder Tyler Albright hit .343 a year ago with 46 runs scored, 13 doubles, 5 home runs and 38 RBI. Outfielder Creighton Eldridge hit .287 in 2017 with 40 runs scored, 10 doubles, 6 triples, 9 home runs and 34 RBI. Another outfielder, Connor Aube, had a solid freshman season last year hitting .277 with 48 runs scored, 11 doubles and 15 stolen bases.
Dalton Westfall started 14 games last year and had a 5.24 ERA in 80.2 innings pitched with 81 strikeouts. Peyton Cain posted a 5.45 ERA last year in 72.2 innings pitched with 48 strikeouts. Winston Cannon also returns with plenty of starting experience.
There is enough coming back in the pitching staff for this team to compete in 2018. If the players they have returning take a step forward they could certainly improve from last year.
2018 All-Ohio Valley Preseason Team:
C: Brock Weimer (SIUE)
1B: Chase Chambers (Tennessee Tech)
2B: Braxton Morris (Morehead State)
SS: Reid Leonard (Morehead State)
3B: Eli Boggess (Morehead State)
OF: Kevin Strohschein (Tennessee Tech)
OF: Brandon Gutzler (Murray State)
OF: Niko Hulsizer (Morehead State)
DH: Trent Simpson (Jacksonville State)
SP: Dylan King (Belmont)
SP: Josh Rye (Austin Peay)
SP: Derrick Adams (Jacksonville State)
SP: Ethan Roberts (Tennessee Tech)
SP: Travis Moths (Tennessee Tech)
RP: Mason McReaken (SIUE)
RP: Carlos Vega (SE Missouri St.)
C: Parker Phillips (Austin Peay)
1B: Tristen Gagan (SE Missouri St.)
2B: Jimmy Govern (Eastern Illinois)
2B: Clayton Daniel (Jacksonville State)
2B: Danny Wright (SE Missouri St.)
SS: David Garza (Tennessee Tech)
SS: Garrett Giovannelli (Austin Peay)
SS: Kyle Conger (Belmont)
3B: Trevor Putzig (Tennessee Tech)
3B: Dougie Parks (Eastern Illinois)
3B: Alex Holderbach (Eastern Kentucky)
3B: Davis Sims (Murray State)
INF: Tyler Albright (UT-Martin)
OF: Alex Junior (Tennessee Tech)
OF: Dustin Woodcock (SIUE)
OF: Joe Duncan (Eastern Illinois)
OF: Daniel McFarland (Eastern Kentucky)
OF: Nick Howie (Eastern Kentucky)
OF: Matt Cogen (Belmont)
DH: Matt Albert (Eastern Illinois)
SP: Tyler Vaughn (Belmont)
SP: Dalton Westfall (UT-Martin)
Predicted Order to Finish:
- Morehead State
- Tennessee Tech
- Jacksonville State
- Eastern Illinois
- Murray State
- SE Missouri St.
- Austin Peay
- Eastern Kentucky