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The SLIAC baseball coaches have selected their preseason poll and picked Webster University and Spalding Univeristy to be the odds on favorites this spring. Webster totaled 48 points in the poll, picking up 6 of 8 first-place nods, while Spalding totaled 44 points and the other two first-place votes.

#1 Webster University

Webster is the preseason favorites with 48 points. The Gorloks, ranked #1 and #3 in a pair of national polls, have won two straight SLIAC Tournaments. Head Coach Bill Kurich brings back nearly his entire team from last spring including workhorse All-American pitcher Matt Mulhearn. Mulhearn is 22-7 with a 2.60 earned-run average during his Gorlok career. There is depth behind him in the rotation with Sean Beaver, an All-Region pitcher in his own right. The Gorlok lineup will be led by seniors Ben Swords, Matt Staker, and Kyler Kent. Swords earned All-American honors in 2019 and was off to a hot start last spring, hitting .354 with 17 RBI in just 13 games. Staker hit .329 during his last full season while Kent was an All-American in 2018 when he had a school record 83 hits on the year. The Gorlok roster gets even stronger with the additions of freshmen Alek Elges, RJ LaRocco, and JT Miller.

Last Season Overall Record: 8-5

Starters Returning: 11

Head Coach: Bill Kurich

#2 Spalding University

Spalding finished a close second in the poll with 44 total points. The Golden Eagles are receiving votes in the Collegiate Baseball preseason national poll and picked up two first-place votes in the SLIAC preseason poll. Head Coach Matt Downs must replace former All-American outfielder Garrett Wilson but can turn to reigning SLIAC Player of the Year, Eric Meyer to pick up any slack. Meyer hit .380 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI during his award winning campaign season in 2019. Evan Trentman was hitting .412 with a .552 on-base percentage in his 14 games last season. Outfielder Mitchell Langley has hit above .300 in each of his first two seasons with the team while Isaac Lineberry will look to cap off his career on a high note. The ace of the staff will be Jack Parisi. The senior right-hander has compiled a 13-5 overall record with 173 strikeouts and a 3.67 earned-run average with the Golden Eagles. Newcomers that could crack the lineup are Dryden Schroeder, Eric Bronner, and Jared Woodward.

Last Season Overall Record: 11-3

Starters Returning: 15

Head Coach: Matt Downs

#3 Fontbonne University

Fontbonne University was picked 3rd with 34 total points. The Griffins will be an experienced group with 30 players returning including a majority of their lineup. With a pitching staff that is led by All-American Luke Summers, the Griffins are aiming for their best finish in the standings in nearly a decade. Summers has won each of the last two SLIAC Pitcher of the Year awards and enters his senior season with a chance to cement his legacy. He holds a 25-8 career record in the purple and white, striking out 290 batters. He needs just six more wins and 46 strikeouts to become the SLIAC's all-time leader in both categories. Working with him in the rotation is Ryan Howell, who was 2-2 with a team high 28 innings pitched last spring. Fellow hurler Mike Jacobson has seen time in the rotation and bullpen during his career. The Griffin lineup will be held down by Braeden Dobbs and Lane Smith. Dobbs hit .368 with 29 RBI and 32 runs in his last full season while Smith was hitting .326 and had three stolen bases in just 14 games last spring. Head Coach Ryan Good is counting on newcomers Derek Morganthalier, Mason Lewis, and Nick Glaser to give the team added depth.

Last Season Overall Record: 8-9

Starters Returning: 13

Head Coach: Ryan Good

#4 Westminster College

Westminster College received 33 points, coming in a close 4th place on the poll. The Blue Jays have a good core coming back, beginning with pitcher Mason Kirkweg and first baseman Hayden Hirschvogel. Kirkweg, a Third Team All-SLIAC selection in 2019, was 2-1 with a 2.25 earned-run average last spring; improving on his previous season's numbers which garnered him the SLIAC Newcomer of the Year award. Skyler Dickneite and Andrew Boessen give head coach Zach Bishop additional arms to throw. Hirschvogel hit .297 with 26 RBI in 2019 and will team up with catcher Derek Shikles to lead the offense. A strong incoming class of freshmen includes Payton Whitehead, a three-time high school All-Conference shortstop; Dawson Koch, an All-State pitcher; and Coltin Green, another All-Stater and state champion.

Last Season Overall Record: 7-6

Starters Returning: 8

Head Coach: Zach Bishop

#5 Greenville University

Greenville University finished with 26 points, placing 5th on the poll. The Panthers will be a nearly entire new team, fielding just two returning starters after losing 13 seniors from last year's team including the entire starting pitching rotation. Head Coach Lynn Carlson will turn to catcher Mark Islas to provide the team with leadership. A trio of sophomores in Drew Frey, Landon Mokris, and Jax Gibson will play prominent roles on the team this spring. Some of the new faces to look for will be juniors Dusty Sutton and Aaron Klar.

Last Season Overall Record: 5-8-1

Starters Returning: 2

Head Coach: Lynn Carlson

#6 Iowa Wesleyan University

Iowa Wesleyan University totaled 15 points, to finish 6th on the poll. The Tigers, coached by Blake Beaber, return 17 players from last year's team. Leading the way is first baseman Nick Salas. Salas hit .295 with 8 home runs and 32 RBI in 2019, earning All-Conference honors. Shortstop Dominic Gerace is strong up the middle. Pitchers Luis Ayesa, Steve Larson, and Joe Morrison are back to hold down the rotation. Morrison led the team in innings pitched in 2019 and had a team-high 39 strikeouts. Top newcomers include Cauy Massner, Chris D'Elia, and Blayne Cunningham.

Last Season Overall Record: 1-5

Starters Returning: n/a

Head Coach: Blake Beaber

#7 Eureka College

Eureka College received 13 points, good for 7th on the preseason poll. Head Coach Jerry Rashid will have a young team with just two senior position players in the lineup. He is counting on a strong incoming class and the development of his sophomores to push the team's success. One of those sophomores is infielder Jelby Cheramie. Seniors Kyle Christman and Dean Moir will look to drive the offense while pitchers Greg Cluskey and David Throw will be counted on to eat up innings. Cluskey led the staff with 63 innings pitched and a 6-2 mark back in 2019. Among the players joining the Red Devils that could make an impact are Trevor Wingard, Karter Hostetler, and Ryan Bredeson.

Last Season Overall Record: 5-9

Starters Returning: 3

Head Coach: Jerry Rashid

#8 Blackburn College

Blackburn College rounds out the poll with 11 total points. The Beavers return 15 players and eight starters from last year. Head Coach Mike Neal feels that last year's young team gained experience and improved over the past year and will be looking to make strides this spring. Among those returning for the Beavers are two-way players Mitchell Binder and Tyler Jackson. Binder, a junior, has hit .333 in his first two seasons while Tyler Jackson was hitting .324 last spring before the shut down. The pair have also combined to make eight starts for the team from the mound. Adam Holm was ripping the ball at a .371 clip last season, his first with the team. Pitchers Isaac Garrett and Sammy Gordon paced the pitching staff in 2019 with each throwing more than 56 innings. New faces are Jaidon Erivez, Kolton Beckett, and Hayden Sheehan.

Last Season Overall Record: 3-8

Starters Returning: 8

Head Coach: Mike Neal

2021 SLIAC Baseball Preseason Watch List

Fans should be excited to watch these 13 players return to the diamond this spring. The watch list begins with a trio of returning First Team All-Conference pitchers. Fontbonne All-American Luke Summers is a two-time SLIAC Pitcher of the Year and is joined in that trio by fellow All-American Webster's Matt Mulhearn and Spalding's Jack Parisi. The pitching depth continues with former SLIAC Tournament MVP, Webster's Sean Beaver, and Westminster's Mason Kirkweg. The pitchers will have their work cut out for them as two former All-American hitters (Gorloks Kyler Kent and Ben Swords) return as does a former SLIAC Player of the Year in Spalding infielder Eric Meyer. Meyer is joined in the lineup by outfielder Evan Trentman. Fontbonne's Braeden Dobbs, Westminster's Hayden Hirschvogel, and Iowa Wesleyan's Nick Salas will be their teams' anchors on offense. Matt Staker will team up with the aforementioned Gorlok hitters to give them a potent lineup.