Last season was a very exciting one in the Southland Conference with two teams making the NCAA Tournament and Sam Houston State reaching the Super Regionals. We’ll see if things will be just as exciting in 2018.
Abilene Christian (2017 Record: 13-43, 3-27)
It was a disappointing year for Abilene Christian in 2017 as they won just three conference games. They’ll try to get back on track in 2018.
Catcher Luis Trevino returns as an All-Conference player after hitting .366 last year with 31 runs scored, 18 doubles, 4 home runs and 43 RBI. Derek Scott should return to the outfield after hitting .297 a year ago with 40 runs scored, 11 doubles, 5 home runs, 25 RBI and 18 stolen bases.
They’ll be relying on a lot of newcomers in the pitching staff this year. Among those are Jonathon Nicholson, Brock Barger, Brennon Lewis, Briley Buckley and Ryan Knowles. Depending on how well the pitching comes together will determine how well the 2018 season goes.
“This year we need to improve on pitching better. We have addressed this issue and feel like we have guys that will compete on the mound and in the zone.” – Head Coach Britt Bonneau
Central Arkansas (2017 Record: 34-26, 16-13)
It was a solid year for Central Arkansas as they fought their way to the Southland Tournament championship but fell short to Sam Houston State.
First baseman Hunter Strong returns after starting all 60 games last year and leading the team with a .351 average to go along with 50 runs scored, 24 doubles, 4 home runs and 47 RBI. Outfielder Keaton Presley should be back atop the order after batting .284 last year with 60 runs scored, 16 doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs, 55 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Third baseman Rigo Aguilar hit .256 a year ago with 6 home runs and 42 RBI. Dusty Wright hit .303 in just 76 at-bats last year.
Mark Moyer and Tyler Gray should return to form a solid 1-2 punch in the weekend rotation. Moyer posted a 3.38 ERA last year in 85.1 innings pitched with 48 strikeouts, while Gray had a 3.80 ERA in 87.2 innings pitched with 89 strikeouts. Will Brand posted a 3.86 ERA in 46.2 innings pitched last year with 37 strikeouts. Cody Davenport made 12 starts a year ago.
There are a couple of key loses from 2017, but for the most part this team remains intact and should compete for the Southland title again.
Houston Baptist (2017 Record: 29-25, 18-12)
It was a very strong season for Houston Baptist in 2017 winning 18 conference games. They lost their first game in the Southland Tournament, but fought back to get to the semi-finals where they were ultimately eliminated.
Outfielder Spencer Halloran returns after leading the team with a .329 average last year and 42 runs scored, while racking up 12 doubles, 4 triples, 3 home runs, 32 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Tyler Depreta-Johnson should return at shortstop after hitting .309 a year ago with 34 runs scored. First baseman Jake Pulcheon hit .275 in 2017 with 3 home runs and 37 RBI.
JT Newton was great out of the bullpen last year with a 2.15 ERA in 54.1 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts and 6 saves. Zach Carter was solid as well both as a reliever and a starter posting a 3.28 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts. Daniel Endsley started nine games last season and had a 3.29 ERA in 68.1 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts.
This team will have to replace two of its best hitters from last year, as well as two of its best starting pitchers. But there is enough coming back to compete, and if some newcomers step up they could surprise some people.
Incarnate Word (2017 Record: 20-36, 8-22)
Incarnate Word was only able to win eight conference games last year and missed out on the Southland Baseball Tournament.
Outfielder Mark Whitehead returns to lead the lineup after hitting .304 last year with 46 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. Kyle Bergeron hit .249 a year ago with 26 runs scored, 8 doubles, 3 home runs and 24 RBI. He’ll play catcher and on the infield this year. Shortstop Ryan Gonzales hit .271 last year in just 96 at-bats. Freshman Nick Diaz could have an immediate impact on the infield, while Christian Rodriguez could earn some playing time as well in his first year.
Bernie Martinez should be one of the top options in the starting rotation after posting a 5.12 ERA last year – second on the team – in 84.1 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts. John Shull started 14 games last year and had a 6.33 ERA in 69.2 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts. Cody Allen led the team with a 4.10 ERA last year out of the bullpen with 27 strikeouts in 41.2 innings pitched. Freshman Tyler Perez should have an immediate impact as a freshman.
Head Coach Patrick Hallmark said he hopes to see the pitching staff improve from last season.
There should be enough in the lineup to compete, but a few arms will need to take a step forward in the pitching staff for this team to succeed.
Lamar (2017 Record: 33-25, 16-14)
Lamar had wins over Oklahoma State, Baylor and Rice last year. They had a winning record in conference, but went two-and-out in the Southland Conference.
First baseman Robin Adames hit .344 last year with 37 runs scored, 13 doubles, 7 home runs and 58 RBI. He’ll be one of the top hitters in the conference. Second baseman Grant DeVore also returns to the lineup after hitting .333 a year ago with 32 runs scored, 8 doubles and 25 RBI. He also had a .418 on-base-percentage and struck out just 10 times in 162 at-bats. Cole Coker has a chance to play third base and left field after a strong summer. Same can be said for shortstop Payton Robertson. Senior Chad McKinney has a chance to becomes the team’s starting catcher. Freshman Cole Secrest has a chance to play in the outfield, while Chase Kemp could see playing time at first base and in right field as a freshman.
Jace Campbell has a chance to step up in the weekend rotation this year after posting a 4.13 ERA in 61 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts last season. Tanner Driskill has a great feel for the strikezone and reaches in the lower 90s. He had a 2.87 ERA last year in 78.1 innings pitched with 63 strikeouts and 6 saves. He also made 5 starts last year and figures to move into the starting rotation. Several transfers figure to work their way into the pitching staff this year. That list of players includes Noah Sills, Jason Blanchard, Grason Wright and Kristjan Storrie.
After brining in the top ranked recruiting class in the conference, this team will be talented but young and inexperienced. It may take a while for this team to come together in 2018.
McNeese State (2017 Record: 37-20, 22-8)
It was a dominating regular season for McNeese State as they won 37 games overall and 22 conference games. However, after winning their first game in the Southland Tournament they dropped the next two and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They’ll be looking to finish things off in 2018.
Second baseman Joe Provenzano is back after hitting .336 last year with 40 runs scored, 12 doubles, 6 home runs and 54 RBI. Outfielder Shane Selman will bring the thunder in this lineup after belting 14 home runs last year, while hitting .333 with 35 runs scored, 16 doubles and 59 RBI. First baseman Mitchell Rogers hit .302 last year with 34 runs scored, 11 doubles, 9 home runs and 20 RBI. Transfer Carson Maxwell could have an immediate impact on the infield, as could freshman Reid Bourque.
Bryan King and Aidan Anderson could join the weekend rotation after starting 12 and seven games respectively last season. Grant Anderson was 8-0 last year in 31 appearances with a 2.30 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts. Transfer Cayne Ueckert will try and provide some immediate relief to this pitching staff.
This was a really good team in 2017, and they have a chance to be just as good or better in 2018. One area they’d love to improve upon is their overall team defense. They look to be a little more athletic defensively this year.
New Orleans (2017 Record: 30-28-1, 16-14)
It was a solid year for New Orleans in 2017 with a winning record. But they went 2-2 in the Southland Tournament and saw their season come to an early end.
John Cable is back after hitting .349 last year with 37 runs scored, 13 doubles, 3 home runs and 33 RBI. He’ll DH and catch. Third baseman Owen Magee hit .314 a year ago with 38 runs scored, 17 doubles, 5 home runs and 46 RBI. Outfielder Orynn Veillon is also back after hitting .300 last year with 38 runs scored, 13 doubles, 15 home runs and 53 RBI.
Bryan Warzek is back to lead the weekend rotation after posting a 2.12 ERA in 101.2 innings pitched with 94 strikeouts in 2017. Martin Reeves was solid last year with a 3.92 ERA in 62 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts. Christopher DeMayo had a 4.37 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts.
With their top hitters back in the lineup and most of their innings back in the pitching staff, this could be a big year for New Orleans.
Nicholls State (2017 Record: 29-27, 15-15)
They had big wins over Wake Forest and Lafayette to start the season, but not much else after that. They finished 15-15 in the conference, but failed to make the Southland Tournament.
Senior outfielder Chet Niehaus returns to the lineup after hitting .303 last year with 25 runs scored, 13 doubles, 1 home run and 23 RBI. Gage Teer should return on the infield after hitting .270 a year ago with 13 doubles, 3 home runs and 26 RBI. Shortstop Joey Morales hit .254 last year with 36 runs scored, 10 doubles and 13 stolen bases. Kyle Knauth hit .291 last year in 127 at-bats with 20 runs scored, 6 doubles, 4 home runs and 18 RBI. He’ll catch and play first base. Ethan Valdez will return at second base after hitting .243 a year ago with 35 runs scored, 8 doubles, 4 home runs and 25 RBI. Transfer Landon Powell will have an impact on the lineup this year as well.
Left-handed senior Alex Ernestine has a shot to jump into the weekend rotation after posting a 3.65 ERA in 69 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts a year ago. They’ll hope a couple of transfers in Jake Bedevian and Parker White can help boost the pitching staff.
Head Coach Seth Thibodeaux said the bullpen needs to be a strength in 2018, and they need to improve overall on offense. He believes both of those could be an area of strength this season.
Northwestern State (2017 Record: 20-34, 10-20)
The Demons won just 10 conference games in 2017 and failed to make the Southland Tournament.
David Fry should return to the lineup after hitting .340 last year with 42 runs scored, 21 doubles, 10 home runs and 44 RBI. Shortstop Caleb Ricca returns to the lineup as well. But the majority of the starting lineup from last season is gone.
Nathan Jones should lead the weekend rotation after posting a 4.86 ERA last year in 83.1 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts. Cullen McDonald had a 4.08 ERA in 57.1 innings pitched last year with 25 strikeouts.
There will be a lot to replace in both the lineup and the pitching staff from last season. It’s hard not to see this team falling even further back in 2018.
Sam Houston State (2017 Record: 44-23, 19-11)
It was a very exciting year for Sam Houston State in 2017. They won over 40 games and cruised to a Southland Tournament championship. After beating Arizona in their first game in the Lubbock Regional, they lost to host Texas Tech. But they beat Arizona again and Texas Tech twice to move on to the Super Regionals. There they lost a close one to Florida State before getting eliminated.
Shortstop Andrew Fregia hit .302 a year ago with 47 runs scored, 10 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs, 48 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Blake Chisolm should play some first base after hitting .343 last year with 42 runs scored, 17 doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs and 35 RBI. Outfielder Hunter Hearn hit .326 a year ago with 42 runs scored, 12 doubles, 4 triples, 2 home runs and 42 RBI. Outfielder Clayton Harp hit .289 in 2017 with 45 runs scored, 12 doubles, 5 home runs and 50 RBI. A couple of transfers, Chase Cryer and Ben Haefner, could help out on the infield.
Riley Gossett should return to lead the starting rotation. He missed all of last year to injury, but in 2016 he was a Freshman All-American posting a 2.64 ERA in 95.1 innings pitched with 62 strikeouts. Hayden Wesneski started 13 games last year and had a 3.93 ERA in 84.2 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts. Seth Ballew had a 4.03 ERA in 73.2 innings pitched with 60 strikeouts. Dakota Mills will also be back after starting 13 games last year with a 4.54 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts. Nick Mikolajchek was solid as the team’s closer with a 3.38 ERA a year ago in 29.1 innings pitched with 32 strikeouts and 13 saves. Landon Ausley could have a chance to pitch significant innings as a freshman.
One thing Head Coach Matt Deggs said he hopes to see the team do a better job of in 2018 is get off the field and stay at the plate.
Southeastern Louisiana (2017 Record: 37-22, 20-10)
It was a good year for Southeastern Louisiana in 2017 as they had some big wins early in the year, which played a big factor when they made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. In the Baton Rouge Regional they beat Rice in their first game, but then lost to LSU and Rice in the rematch.
Third baseman Taylor Schwaner led the team with a .332 average last year with 56 runs scored, 15 doubles, 4 triples, 16 home runs, 72 RBI and 17 stolen bases. Outfielder Drew Avans hit .312 a year ago with 55 runs scored, 14 doubles, 4 home runs, 32 RBI and 29 stolen baes. Shortstop Brennan Breaud hit .209 last year with 29 runs scored. Transfer Bryce Steckler will have a chance to play in the outfield, and Cody Grosse is another transfer that could play on the infield. Trey Shaffer is a two-way player that could play in the outfield.
Carlisle Koestler made 13 starts last year and posted a 5.03 ERA in 68 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts. Kade Granier will be returning from a shoulder injury after making just five starts last year. Josh Green was solid out of the bullpen with a 4.14 ERA last year in 37 innings pitched with 22 strikeouts and 3 saves. A couple of transfers who could help boost the rotation are Mason Knopp and Jared Biddy. Freshman Will Warren could see significant playing time right away.
“We must continue to improve defensively and find a solidified rotation. Our leadership will be critical for this team’s success. We graduated a lot of veteran leaders last year.” – Head Coach Matt Riser
Stephen F Austin (2017 Record: 29-28, 17-13)
Last season Stephen F Austin was very good in conference play until it came to the Southland Tournament where they went two-and-out.
First baseman Josh Evans led the team with a .383 average in 2017 to go along with 25 runs scored, 10 home runs and 38 RBI. Outfielder Andrew Cole hit .293 a year ago.
Trevor Kiminski posted a 5.40 ERA in 66.2 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts, while Tony Grabowske had a 4.42 ERA last year in 55 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts. They’ll have a shot to lead the weekend rotation. Tyler Starks was solid out of the bullpen last year with a 2.39 ERA in 37.2 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts and 4 saves.
There should be enough arms for this team to compete, but they’ll need some newcomers and inexperienced players to step up in the lineup.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2017 Record: 22-32, 14-16)
It was a tough year for Corpus Christi out-of-conference in 2017 where they only won eight games. They were average in conference, but failed to make the Southland Tournament.
Outfielder Dalton Stark will hit in the middle of the lineup after batting .325 last year with 35 runs scored, 15 doubles, 3 home runs and 32 RBI. He’ll make a move from right to center field this year. Luke Marbach will have to DH because of a shoulder injury, but he should be a big bat in the lineup for them after hitting .319 in 2017. First baseman Thomas Jeffries is a junior college transfer that should have an immediate impact on the lineup.
Chris Cooper was the team’s closer last year posting a 3.78 ERA in 64.1 innings pitched with 58 strikeouts and 7 saves. He’s capable of working multiple innings at the end of the game. Aaron Hernandez should be available to pitch this year. He has a fastball that sits between 92-95 MPH and should have an instant impact on the rotation. Will Floyd is a junior college transfer that could also have an immediate impact on the rotation.
Head Coach Scott Malone said he hopes they can improve their pitching as a whole, while becoming a stronger and more consistent pitching staff with added depth. He’s hoping they make big strides in the pitching staff, moving up from the bottom half of the league to the top half with a revamped staff.
2018 All-Southland Preseason Team:
C: Luis Trevino (Abilene Christian)
1B: Robin Adames (Lamar)
2B: Joe Provenzano (McNeese State)
SS: Andrew Fregia (Sam Houston State)
3B: Taylor Schwaner (Southeastern Louisiana)
OF: Shane Selman (McNeese State)
OF: Drew Avans (Southeastern Louisiana)
OF: Keaton Presley (Central Arkansas)
DH: Hunter Strong (Central Arkansas)
SP: Tanner Driskill (Lamar)
SP: Riley Gossett (Sam Houston State)
SP: Tyler Gray (Central Arkansas)
SP: Bryan Warzek (New Orleans)
SP: Mark Moyer (Central Arkansas)
RP: Grant Anderson (McNeese State)
RP: Nick Mikolajchek (Sam Houston State)
RP: J.T. Newton (Houston Baptist)
C: John Cable (New Orleans)
1B: Shane Selman (McNeese State)
1B: David Fry (Northwestern State)
1B: Josh Evans (Stephen F Austin)
2B: Grant DeVore (Lamar)
3B: Owen Magee (New Orleans)
OF: Orynn Veillon (New Orleans)
OF: Derek Scott (Abilene Christian)
OF: Spencer Halloran (Houston Baptist)
OF: Hunter Hearn (Sam Houston State)
OF: Clayton Harp (Sam Houston State)
OF: Dalton Stark (Texas A&M Corpus Christi)
OF: Mark Whitehead (Incarnate Word)
RP: Tyler Starks (Stephen F Austin)
RP: Chris Cooper (Texas A&M Corpus Christi)
Predicted Order to Finish:
- Central Arkansas
- Sam Houston State
- McNeese State
- New Orleans
- Southeastern Louisiana
- Houston Baptist
- Stephen F Austin
- Texas A&M Corpus Christi
- Nicholls State
- Northwestern State
- Incarnate Word
- Abilene Christian