Region Preview: Central

No. 16 Webster is the top ranked teams in the
Central Region.

Webster athletics photo

by Jim Dixon

The Central Regional winner went on to win the national title but it was not one of the Central Regonal teams but Texas-Tyler who made the trip. Super Regionals are upon us and it is Iowa where every D-III team with dreams of a walnut and bronze wants to play.

In the last three years only 12 Central teams went on to a NCAA regional with North Central (Ill.) making it in all three years. No 16 Webster is the only ranked team with North Central and Washington (Mo.) receiving votes. Add Carthage and Spalding, both who hit the 30 win mark in 2018 and you have a short list of favorites for the Central Region. Don't count out a cinderella team. Dubuque out of the ARC upset the status quo and with a 2-2 NCAA Regional record, was close to earning a spot in Appleton, Wisc.

New Faces

Chris Krepline, Lawrence: Krepline, a former assistant coach for the Vikings, returns to Lawrence after serving as an assistant coach at St. Norbert since 2015. Krepline replaces Jason Anderson, who stepped down in July after serving as the head coach for 10 seasons. "I am extremely excited to take the lead as this team and this program have great potential to bring pride, passion and purpose to the Lawrence baseball community," said Krepline. "In baseball and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. This could not have been a more perfect opportunity for me and my family, and I am looking forward to building great moments and great memories as a Lawrence Viking." Krepline has been working with the pitching staff at St. Norbert for the past four seasons. During that time, he coached six All-Midwest Conference and four All-Central Region pitchers.

Jacob Waddle, Illinois College: Waddle has been named the new head coach at Illinois College, taking the place of the retired Jay Eckhouse as the man to lead the Blueboys into 2019 and beyond. Waddle was an all-conference and all-region player at Luther before beginning a coaching career in which he has gained nearly a decade of experience as an assistant coach at Loras, Concordia Nebraska and Coe. "I am very eager and excited to get to work with the current student-athletes, faculty and staff on campus," Waddle said. "The enthusiasm for the future of Illinois College Athletics was contagious during my time in Jacksonville. I look forward to being a part of this championship environment."

Mike Wallerich, St. Norbert: Wallerich, an assistant for nine years, was named interim head coach after Tom Winske departed St. Norbert after 20 seasons for an assistant coaching position at NCAA D-I Central Michigan. Wallerich, a 2008 graduate of St. Norbert, played three years with the Green Knights. Wallerich was twice named second-team All-Midwest Conference as a first baseman. As an assistant coach, Wallerich was part of Midwest Conference championship teams in 2012, 2014 and 2017. The Green Knights won at least 27 games three times, including a school-record 30 triumphs in 2017. "It's great to be a part of St. Norbert College," Wallerich said. "I have had the privilege to be an assistant coach here for nine years and I learned a lot from Coach Winske. I am excited to get to work this fall with our players and staff and look to continue the success of the program."

North Central (Ill.) will have an early test when
they meet ranked teams outside their region on
their Florida trip.

North Central (Ill.) athletics photo

Games to Watch in 2019

North Central (Ill.) plays three national contenders in Port Charlotte (March 17-20): North Central will play No. 17 Babson, Denison (receiving votes), and No. 1 Wooster in a four day period on their spring trip.

No. 16 Webster at Spalding (March 20): The Gorloks travel to Spalding to open the SLIAC season and a sweep will give the winning team the early edge for an SLIAC title.

Wartburg at Dubuque (March 22, 23): ARC perennial front runner Wartburg travels to last year's surprise team in the ARC, Dubuque.

Chicago at Lawrence (March 30): Chicago plays their first Midwest conference opponent, making the trip to trip north to Appleton, Wisc.

Conference Previews

American Rivers Conference: Dubuque's (26-17) title run was not the only thing new in the ARC in 2018 as the former IIAC changed their name following the baseball season. The Spartans upset the ARC preseason favorites with a combination of superior pitching, batting and better than average defense. Pitchers Chase Kueter (7-4, 2.68 ERA, 6 CG) and Nathan Schneiderman (3-4, 8 SV, 3.18 ERA) both earned top conference honors for their efforts. The experience in winning the 2018 ARC title and a respectable 2-2 record in the NCAA playoffs should serve the team well and make them a favorite to repeat.

Wartburg (26-13) will find a lot of competition down the standings as they look to finish in the top two. Gone are four seniors honored for their seasons in 2018 with one lone All-ARC team member making the the 2019 roster. Darren Kilpatrick (3-0, 3.69 ERA) was named an All-ARC Honorable Mention starting pitcher. The Knights came on strong as they batted 15 points higher in IIAC games but continued to pitch at the same high level and was the top fielding team in the ARC, both in conference and outside Iowa.

Luther (26-16) will jump up the standings and is poised to be the main threat to Dubuque. Pitching strength starts with 2018 ARC Pitcher of the Year and Preseason All-American Joey Cardamon (9-1, 1.43 ERA, 3 CG). Joining the ARC's best will be Tyler Boesel (5-3. 2.82 ERA, 2 CG). The bats will be in good hands with Trent Athmann (.345, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 14 SB), Jake Halverson (.371, 24 RBI) and Jake Vogt (.305, 24 RBI, 18 SB) at the top of the lineup and in the middle of the defense.

Coe (24-18), Loras (25-15), and Buena Vista (15-23) made the IIAC tournament and are in position to do the same but all have holes to fill. The Kohawks bring back three First-Team All-ARC performers in pitcher Jack Greene (4-2, 3.28 ERA), first baseman Jordan Kaplan (.415, 41 RBI), and outfielder Kevin DeLaney (.317, 15 RBI). The cupboard is a bit barer for Loras with several key components to the 2018 season received degrees. Tops among the returning Duhawks is second baseman Austin Konagel (.347, 18 RBIs). Back for Buena Vista are outfielder Peyton Renning (.362, 3 HR, 31 RBI) and two-way player Nick Henrichs (.242, 14 RBI, 4-2, 3 SV, 2.67 ERA)

Central (Iowa) shortstop Garrett Saunders played
with the Thunder Bay Border Cats last summer.

Central photo by Dan L. Vander Beek Photography

Central (16-23), Nebraska Wesleyan (9-26), and Simpson (8-28) finished outside the tournament. Central will be in search of their sixth ARC title with the last crown coming in 2012. They will have to do it without pitching ace Dylan Diveney who finished a stellar four-year career in 2018. Zach Edwards (4-3, 1 SV, 4.05 ERA) and Nick Long (3-5, 2 SV, 4.76 ERA) are the top pitchers with two seniors in Garrett Saunders (.388, 23 RBI, 21 SB) and Tanner Wood (.305, 26 RBI, 7 SB) anchoring the offense. Simpson designated hitter Kolton Arnold (.266, 8 RBI) returns for the Storm.

Favorite: Dubuque

College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin: North Central (Ill.) (29-14) is on a roll in the CCIW with four straight conference titles. Uniform number 22 will not be on the back of Michael Mateja this season as he opted for chance at a MLB career following being drafted in June 2018. Not a problem as Cardinal head coach Ed Mathey has plenty of offense with Rob Marinec (.335, 7 HR, 55 RBI) and Eric Outlaw (.329, 24 RBI) back on an offense that batted .340 as a team in 2018. The story for the pitching staff is the same. Pitcher of the Year Russell Hoh graduated but Charlie Klemm (6-2, 5.03 ERA) will be the team ace. Although these two pitchers took about half the starts, a bevy of pitchers have been given the change to hone their skills and are ready to step forward in 2019.

Carthage (31-12) was the only CCIW team to top the 30 win mark and has a loaded team again. Two junior starters will anchor an offense that has built in replacements for the graduating seniors. The junior duo include Vince Schwartz (.345, 34 RBI) and Cody Phelps (.323, 36 RBI). The Red Men's top pitcher entering 2019 is Nate Odahl (7-2, 3.06 ERA). Carthage will once again challenge North Central, trying to knock the Cards from their perch.

Augustana (25-16) hit the 25 win mark for the 19th time in the last twenty seasons. The pitching staff will feature a lefty, righty combination that will give their opponents fits. Connor Berek (3-1, 2 SV, 3.53 ERA) will throw from the left side and Mike Powers (7-3, 3 CG, 2.22 ERA) from the right. The offense will welcome back Gunnar Haskins (.299, 4 HR, 43 RBI) and Ryan Kairis (.400, 38 R, 18 RBI, 13 SB). These four seniors will be joined by 17 other returning lettermen.

A quartet in the middle of the standings will be fighting for a playoff spot. North Park (20-23), Elmhurst (22-17), Illinois Wesleyan (22-17), and Carroll (22-18) finished within two games of third place Augustana. A fight for the final playoff spot could boil down between Elmhurst and Illinois Wesleyan. The Blue Jays return three All-CCIW performers and the Titans two. Millikin (18-22) has made progress over the last couple seasons and takes the best balanced team in the history of the Big Blue into the 2019 season. Jon Walters (.359, 6 HR, 37 RBI) is the team leader and has the talent to carry the team to a possible postseason appearance. Connor Gross (4-5, 4.1 ERA) is the top pitcher back on a pitching staff that has shown consistent progress over the last three years. Wheaton (Ill.) (15-24) finished at the end of the standings and have two All-CCIW performers back in Michael McCraith (3-4, 3.23 ERA, 83 K) and Joel Pierce .336, 19 RBI)

Favorite: North Central (Ill.)

Tyler McDonald earned All-MWC honors in 2018.
Monmouth athletics photo

Midwest ConferenceSt. Norbert (24-15) will see a familiar face in a new role as long-time assistant Mike Wallerich steps into the head coaching job. The Green Knights took two of the four major postseason awards in 2018 with Player and Pitcher of the Year. Nick Klavekoske (4-2, 4 SV, 3.67 ERA, 2 CG), and Carson Jacques (4-3, 4.76 ERA, 3 CG) will form a formable 1-2 on the mound. A pair of senior outfielders, Sean Ferraro (.277, 29 RBI) and Griffin Jack (.275, 20 RBI, 15 SB) will anchor the offense.

Monmouth (29-14-1) will challenge for the Midwest South title with Grinnell in 2019. Key to the Scot's success will be the play of senior outfielders Harry Sanchez (.305, 4 HR, 35 RBI) and Jake Starkey (.348, 27 RBI, 15 SB) with speedster Sanchez holding on to the leadoff spot and Sanchez filling a spot in the heart of the Monmouth batting order. Keeping the opponents runs of the board will be All-MWC pitcher Tyler McDonald (5-4, 4.42 ERA, 2 CG). The experience in the 2018 NCAA regional tournament (1-2) will be valuable experience if the Scots can repeat as the Midwest tournament champions.

Chicago (26-13) is coming off a program record for wins (also done in 2001) as an independent team. The disapppintments in not securing a NCAA playoff bid in the competative Pool B and C markets are behind them as they play their first season in the Midwest Conference. The Maroons' senior class features six four-year starters and are a threat to the status quo in the MWC. Connor Hickey (.361, 23 RBI, 9 SB), Brady Sarkon (.352, 34 RBI), Josh Parks (.321, 5 HR, 35 RBI), and Ian Bohn (.304, 21 RBI) will swing the bats and Brenton Villasenor (4-4, 3.22 ERA, 77 K), Jacob Petersen (8-2, 3.99 ERA) will sling the balls. Joining all this experience is left-hander Kyle Petri who should make the starting pitching rotation.

Grinnell (17-22) will be looking for an 11th straight Midwest Tournament appearance in 2019. Pitcher Brock Weirather (5-1, 3.88 ERA) and outfielder Andrew Shults (.370, 20 RBI, 27 SB) are the top returning players. A program with this long-term success starts with the returning lettermen but ends with a top notch recruiting class. Head coach Tim Hollibaugh looked and found quality in the class of 2022 as the recruits will provide depth where needed.

Austin Newton won five of his nine starts in the
2018 campaign for Illinois College.

Illinois College athletics photo

Head coach Jason Anderson had Lawrence (15-21) headed the right direction with a postseason appearance in 2018. The Vikings will have a new head coach in Chris Krepline. One of two former St. Norbert assistants who earned a head coach spot in 2019, Krepline is familiar with Lawrence as an assistant in 2013-14. The first order of business will be rebuilding the pitching staff that lost 22 of 36 starts in 2018 to graduation. The offense will be a strength with the likes of catcher Patrick McDonnell (.308, 4 HR, 34 RBI) back for 2019. The good news for Viking fans is that the 2019 team has just two seniors who saw action in 2018. If Lawrence misses the postseason tournament, the results could very well be different in 2020.

Cornell (17-21), Illinois College (18-17), Ripon (12-20), Beloit (20-18), and Knox (11-24) all missed the four-team postseason tournament. The Blueboys return a mix of returners and talented newcomers as Illinois College's new head coach looks to earn a bid to the MWC tournament. Outfielder Joe Paparelli (.352, 16 RBI) is an athletic outfielder capable of setting the tone both offensively and defensively. On the bump will be Austin Newton (5-2, 3.26 ERA), a hard-working pitcher who will build off of a solid freshman season.

Favorite: Chicago

St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: No. 16 Webster (38-10) has 12 straight SLIAC titles and this year will net a lucky 13th as the Gorloks are favored to take the West SLIAC title again. Head coach Bill Kurich brings back seven starters, headed by Kyler Kent (.428, 6 HR, 46 RBI) and Ben Swords (.360, 37 RBI, 18 SB). Barring injury or the MLB draft, both players will have two more years in navy and gold. Pitching will be just as experienced headed by starter Matt Mulhearn (10-2, 2.99 ERA) and backed by All-SLIAC reliever Shane Donovan (6-1, 8 SV, 1.72 ERA).

Spalding (31-12) reached the 30 win mark for the second time as a member of the SLIAC and like Webster are favored to win their division (East). The Golden Eagles return a good core of upper classman including one of the best players in the nation in Garrett Wilson (.470, 28 RBI, 32 SB). The starting infield will have some new faces but not new to the roster. On the mound, Jimi Keating will be missed but should be better overall with Dillon Sievert (3-0, 3.86 ERA) filling that #1 role and have a real strong weekend crew in Jack Parisi (5-3, 4.47 ERA) and Hayden Davenport (4-1, 4.17 ERA).

Klaiton Wolff is 4-2 with 10 saves and batted .320
in his previous two years for the Panthers.

Greenville athletics photo

Greenville (23-20) garnered two first-place votes in the SLIAC preseason poll, coming in second to Spalding in the East. The Panthers bring back 27 players and eight starters but will be missing the core of their lineup due to graduation of two of their top three hitters. Junior two-way player Klaiton Wolff (.347, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 3-1, 3.95 ERA) returns to the lineup and the pitching staff. Joining him at the dish and mound is Adam Lamb (.226, 15 RBI, 3-5, 4.36 ERA). Sam Hodges (.314, 3 HR, 24 RBI) and Andrew Torbeck (.308, 19 RBI, 9 SB) will fill out the Panther lineup.

Fontbonne (19-20) brings back 18 players and eight starters from a team that totaled 19 wins for head coach Ryan Good. The Griffins have one of the top pitchers in the league in Luke Summers (7-3, 2.10 ERA, 83 K). The offense will include a trio of .300 hitters in Gus Purschke (.339, 18 RBI), Michael Puckett (.312, 5 HR, 28 RBI), and Matt Tossick (.311, 18 RBI). Infielder Jonathan Hoevelmann (.238, 13 RBI) will look for a bounce back season after hitting .366 two years ago. Transfers Lance Chapman, Mike Jacobson, and Alex Phillips are expected to play key roles.

Westminster (Mo.) (20-15) will be looking to extend their tournament appearance streak to five games. With their two top hitters graduated, the offense will be built around 2018 SLIAC Newcomer of the Year, Ryan Clavin (.336, 9 HR, 35 RBI). Senior Ian Cassidy (7-3, 4.04 ERA) led the team with 75 innings pitched. Eureka (14-17-1) and Iowa Wesleyan (7-33) are expected to finish last in the West Division. MacMurray (14-24), Principia (22-15), Blackburn (10-29) are not expected to contend for the SLIAC title. The Principia Panthers finished 2018 with a school wins record, in head coach Chris Marston's third year.

Favorite: Webster

University Athletic Association: Washington Univ. (21-14) will be a young team in 2019 but with an experienced pitching staff as all pitchers from staff that was 6th nationally in ERA last year return. The Bears's top starter will be Preseason All-American John Howard (6-3, 1.01 ERA) and will be joined in the starter ranks by Ryan Loutos (5-3, 2.83 ERA) and Matt Ashbaugh (1-1, 3.57 ERA). If needed in relief, John Brinkman (1-0, 1 SV, 3.38 ERA) will be ready. The Bears will need to be much better both in the field and on offense to be considered a championship-level team and have added 13 freshmen to the returning lettermen to improve their offense. One piece they do not have to improve on is the bat and glove of starting first baseman Brinkman (.372, 15 2B, 42 RBI).