Team-by-team breakdown of 2007 MIAA baseball

Jesse Cordova

Instead of giving just a look into the Lions baseball team this season, we here at The Chart have decided to take a deeper look and bring the entire conference into perspective team by team.

Missouri Southern Lions: Like in previous years Coach Warren Turner and his squad have begun the season in a very challenging fashion, by taking on D-I Oral Roberts University. The Lions were unable to pick up a win during the two game series in Tulsa however there were a few bright spots that came out over that weekend. Sophomore center fielder Juan Hernandez went a combined 5 for 9 in the series, for an early season batting average of .556, with a stolen base and a run scored. Senior second baseman Brett Velliquette and senior third baseman Kyle Cupp were also able to put up batting averages better than .500 and Velliquette led the team with two runs batted in. The Lions finished last season 11-39 with a 6-24 mark in the MIAA but the team returns six starters from their regular lineup a season ago.

Pittsburg State Gorillas: The only thing that any MIAA baseball fan needs to remember about Pittsburg State is their infield, which brings back four starters with All-MIAA credentials. Junior Drew Shulte, who has been named to the all-conference team twice already as a designated hitter, will vie for time at first base this year. Last year Shulte ranked seventh in the MIAA in batting with a .390 average. Arguably the most dangerous hitter in the Gorilla lineup this season will be senior second baseman T.J. Prentice. Prentice batted .401 last season with 10 home runs and 49 RBI.

Fort Hays State Tigers: Little is known about these MIAA newcomers, however this much is for certain, they are good. The Tigers return six all-conference (Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) players and three all west-region players. The team is highlighted by last years RMAC pitcher of the year, senior right-hander Bobby Lewton. Lewton finished last season 12-3 with an earned run average of just 2.03 in 16 starts. In 2006 the Tigers finished 46-17, an impressive mark, but they weren’t playing in the MIAA.

Missouri Western Griffons: All-Region senior shortstop Sam Walker leads the Griffons into the 2007 campaign. Walker batted .348 with 46 RBI last season in leading the Griffons to the D-II national tournament. Pitching, however, will be a problem as the Griffons watched three of their starting pitchers graduate at the conclusion of last spring. The Griffons were 31-25 in 2007 with a conference record of 21-9.

Northwest Missouri State Bearcats: This season the Bearcats will have to fight through the loss of their four leading hitters and their three top pitchers from last season. The Bearcats will sorely miss the offensive production from the departed Matt Coons (.415 and seven home runs) as well as the bullpen production from graduated pitcher Lane McKay (3.46 ERA). But Northwest will depend heavily on senior shortstop John White. White batted .354 last year with five home runs and 31 RBI, he also swiped 13 bags. The Bearcats will NEED the offensive production, as their top returning pitcher, senior Justin Hildebrand, boasted a 5.72 ERA last year. The Bearcats will have a tough time matching last year’s 26-23 overall record. But the conference record last year, 15-14, sort of tells this year’s story… mediocre.

Southwest Baptist Bearcats: This season’s flavor will be pitching for the SBU Bearcats. The main course will be junior Zane Montgomery, an All-Central Region First-Teamer and All-MIAA first team selection. “He’s really competitive. Hopefully, his competitiveness will rub off on our other players” said Head Coach Sam Berg. Berg also believes this to be one of the strongest offensive teams he has coached. Returning to lead the offense is the 2006 MIAA “Freshman of the Year”, outfielder Jason Asher. Last year Asher hit .325 and led the team in runs scored with 37. Last season the Bearcats went 21-29 with a 10-19 conference record. This year they should be better.

Truman Bulldogs: There is a new beginning in Kirksville as Dan Davis begins his first campaign as Truman head coach. To help him smooth the transition will be a host of returning starters including junior outfielder Jason Thomas. Thomas batted .341 last season with 12 RBI. On the pitching staff, junior A.J. Barton who finished last season with a 3-4 record and a 3.48 ERA in 10 starts is the top returning starter. Last season Truman finished 10-33 with a 4-26 mark in the MIAA. Bad news for them this year doesn’t look to be much better. Good news for them, this is a junior heavy team.

Washburn Ichabods: Junior catcher Mark Stoltz leads the Ichabods into the 2007 year with high hopes. Stoltz and senior designated hitter Randy Wild pace an offense that returns three starters that hit better than .300 last year. Stoltz hit .348 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI. He will be joined at the heart of the lineup by Wild (.338 four HR 23RBI) and senior infielder Tommy Mangino (.314 two HR 11RBI). Senior right-hander Jeff LaCerte will anchor the pitching staff this season. LaCerte finished last season 6-3 in nine starts with a 5.36 ERA. He also only allowed two home runs all year last year. In 2006 Washburn finished 29-25 and 16-12 in the MIAA. Washburn is a dangerous team but a lack of depth in the pitching staff could prove costly come early May.

Central Missouri Mules: Yes, if you didn’t already know, they really are the mules and that really is their logo. But there is absolutely nothing funny about this team. They are a powerhouse, as a matter of fact they are the winningest NCAA baseball program of the millennium if you believe their website. They have been to 13 straight D-II post season tournaments, won seven consecutive MIAA post season tournament championships, they have made 10 trips to the national championship series in the last 13 years, and won 12 MIAA regular season championships in the last 13 years. Bad news Lion fans, they haven’t suddenly stopped dominating. Back to lead the Mules this season are Gered Mochizuki and Brandon Morris. Morris, a nine game winner from a season ago, will anchor the pitching staff. Morris, a sophomore, was an impressive 9-0 with a 2.79 ERA last year. Mochizuki is a senior second baseman who hit .392 last year with 44RBI. Last year the Mules were 44-16 and 22-8 in the MIAA en route to the tournament championship. They lost the regular season title to…

Emporia State Hornets: The Hornets, led by All-American junior outfielder Mark McBratney, are looking to repeat as MIAA regular season champions this year. McBratney hit .390 with 13 home runs and an conference best 80RBI. During their regular season championship run in 2006 the Hornets finished 44-10 with a 27-6 MIAA record.

Emporia State will definitely challenge for another conference title this season.