Here is a look at the Missouri Valley baseball season for 2018. They are listed in the order that the coaches select them to finish this year. The Valley website has provided the following preview:
Dallas Baptist welcomes back seven position players with over 100 at-bats and 10 pitchers from a team that finished the season with a 42-21 record, en route to capturing the MVC tournament title. The Patriots ended the season in the NCAA Regionals with a loss to in-state rival TCU. Senior outfielder Devlin Granberg, last year’s MVC batting champ, headlines a Patriot offense that ranked 18th in the nation in scoring in 2017. Granberg hit .359 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 47 RBI a year ago. Junior third baseman Tim Millard will bring the power to the lineup, blasting 17 doubles with a team-high 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 2017. The Patriots will also return a pair of first-team All-MVC selections from last season. Junior catcher Garrett Wolforth (.289, 13 2B, 7 HR) and preseason All-American Jameson Hannah (.328, 69 runs, 19 2B, 9 HR) will look to build off last season’s success. The Patriots enter 2018 as one of just six teams in the nation to post four consecutive 40-win seasons and are one of just 13 teams to advance to the postseason in each of the last four years. DBU’s 11th place pre-season ranking from Collegiate Baseball is the highest preseason ranking in school history since the Patriots joined the Division I ranks in 2004. The Patriots will also enter the season ranked in two other preseason polls (No. 18 D1Baseball.com & No. 17 USA Today Coaches).
Missouri State returns four position starters and eight pitchers from last season’s 43-20 squad that won the MVC regular season title with an 18-1 record. The Bears won the Fayetteville Regional with a win over host Arkansas and fell in the Super Regional to host TCU. Keith Guttin enters the 2018 season as the sixth-winningest active head coach in Division I baseball with 1,219 career wins. and the Bears will enter the season ranked No. 22 in the preseason Collegiate Baseball poll. Jeremy Eierman was a first-team preseason All-America pick by Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball.com after ranking fifth nationally with 23 home runs last spring. Eierman will look to replicate the production from 2017 after hitting .313 with 67 runs scored, 15 doubles, 23 home runs and 68 RBI. Junior outfielder Hunter Steinmetz will also be a key to the Bears lineup this season after earning second-team All-MVC honors a year ago. Steinmetz hit .300 with 60 runs scored, 11 doubles, seven home runs and 42 RBI in 2017. On the mound, Missouri State welcomes back MVC Pitcher of the Year and preseason All-American Jake Fromson. Fromson posted a 2.25 ERA in 37 appearances, going 8-3 with three saves. The reliever tossed 76.0 innings, allowing only 46 hits and 19 earned runs with 88 strikeouts. Junior Dylan Coleman will look to anchor the Bears’ rotation, finishing last season with an 8-3 record in 16 starts. Coleman boasted a 4.80 ERA in 99.1 innings of work, striking out 106 batters over the course of the season.
Indiana State returns six position starters and three key pitchers from last season’s 29-26 team. Since 2010, any time Indiana State has recorded 29 or fewer wins the team has responded with 35 or more wins the following season. Second-team All-MVC selection Dane Giesler returns to lead the Sycamore lineup this spring. Giesler batted .291 with 58 hits including a team best 17 home runs. Infielder Clay Dungan returns for ISU after starting in 55 games last season hitting .275 with 60 base hits and nine home runs. Indiana State will look to fill a void in the starting rotation this season after its top arm was taken in the 11th round of the MLB Draft. Junior RHP Tyler Ward will look to fill the spot after a solid year on the mound. Ward finished at 4-5 with a 4.16 ERA in 84.1 innings. Two Bullpen arms in right-hander Ethan Larrison and southpaw Tristan Polley return for the Sycamores this season as well. Larrison appeared in 19 games last season and struck out 32 batters while walking only one. Polley struck out 35 batters and walked just four in 26.2 innings.
Southern Illinois returns three position starters and six key pitchers from its 2017 team that finished 27-30. The Salukis will be led offensively by senior second baseman Connor Kopach. Kopach earned honorable mention All-MVC accolades last season, hitting .272 with 44 runs scored, 14 doubles four triples, four home runs and 34 RBI. Logan Blackfan enters his senior season with the second-most career doubles of all active players in NCAA Division I, boasting 54 two baggers after his junior season. The Salukis return two key arms to the mound in 2018. Senior right hander Michael Baird started 13 games last spring, going 4-4 with a 4.56 ERA in 79.0 innings of work. Senior reliever Ryan Netemeyer led the MVC with 15 saves last season and posted a 3.48 ERA in 31.0 innings of work. In 27 appearances, Netemeyer allowed only 12 earned runs and 20 hits, striking out 32 batters.
Illinois State welcomes back all nine position starters and most of the pitchers from last year’s 16-40 team. The Redbirds finished the season strong, advancing all the way to the championship game of the MVC Tournament. ISU was the only league team to defeat league champion Missouri State, as the Redbirds accomplished the feat three times. The Redbirds lost 12 games by one run last season and six more by only two runs. Illinois State returns 95.2 percent of its total starts and 95.6 of the team’s at-bats from last season. Most of the pitching staff also returns, including 78.6 percent of starting assignments and 77.3 percent of innings pitched. Junior shortstop Owen Miller will lead the Illinois State offense. Miller hit .325 with 36 runs scored, 19 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 48 RBI a year ago, earning second-team All-MVC honors. Senior catcher Collin Braithwaite is the top returning power bat for the Redbirds. The senior hit .239 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 36 RBI in the middle of the order a year ago.
Bradley returns eight position starters and six pitchers with over 30 innings of work from last year’s 20-31 squad. The Braves welcome back last year’s MVC Freshman of the Year winner as Brendan Dougherty prepares for his sophomore season. Dougherty led the Braves with a .305 batting average, adding 33 runs scored, nine doubles and 15 RBI. The power for the Bradley lineup returns as well as senior first baseman Derek Bangert looks to improve upon last year’s team-high of 14 home runs and 42 RBI. On the mound, junior lefty Cole Cook claimed an 8-6 record in 2017. Cook held a 4.77 ERA in 11 starts and 77.1 innings of work. The 2018 campaign will mark the ninth season in which the Braves return at least one pitcher who won at least seven games (Cook) the previous season and the team’s top hitter by batting average (Dougherty). The last year it occurred, 2015, the Braves finished 36-21 overall and earned their first NCAA Regional appearance in 47 years.
Evansville returns eight position player starters and six pitchers with over 20 innings of work from last season’s 18-39 team. Senior catcher Travis Tokarek returns after earning second-team All-MVC honors last season. Tokarek hit .265 in 2017 with 31 runs scored, 13 doubles, eight home runs and 36 RBI. Tokarek will be joined in the middle of the Aces order by senior Andrew Tanous. Tanous posted a .303 batting average last season, adding 32 runs scored with 18 doubles, four home runs and 31 RBI. On the mound, senior right hander Justin Hayden is the lone returning starter for Evansville. Hayden started 15 games last spring, going 4-8 with a 5.99 ERA. The senior tossed 76.2 innings and struck out 58 batters.
Valparaiso will compete as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference for the first time this spring. The Crusaders return 12 position players and 14 pitchers from last year’s team that finished 24-29 overall as a member of the Horizon League. Three Crusaders earned Horizon League all-freshman team honors last season, the first time Valpo had three players on the all-freshman team since 2013. After posting a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and seven saves, right-handed pitcher Jon Tieman was named a Freshman All-American, becoming the first Crusader to earn that high honor since shortstop Spencer Mahoney in 2012. The Valpo offense has enjoyed a significant statistical uptick over the last three seasons. The Crusaders held a combined average of .279, slugging percentage of .387 and on-base percentage of .372 from 2015-2017, all improvements from a .265/.351/.337 slash line from 2012-2014. Senior outfielder Giovanni Garbella is the top returning power bat for the Crusaders, hitting .302 with 17 doubles, five home runs and 32 RBI last season.
DBU will host the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference Championship, May 23-26, in Dallas, Texas. All games will be played at Horner Ballpark and will be shown live on The Valley on ESPN3.