Lions sit atop MIAA preseason poll

Senior+Hayden+Steele+high+fiving+his+teammates+Jacob+Bryant+and+Jesse+Rall+after+scoring+a+run+in+the+Missouri+Southern+intra+squad+fall+world+series+game+on+Oct.+22%2C+2015.+The+Lions+will+kick-off+opening+day+next+Friday+in+Warren+Turner+Field+as+they+play+host+to+Bemidji+State.+Southern+was+chosen+to+repeat+as+2016+MIAA+champions+by+the+coaches+in+the+2016+Preseason+Coaches+Poll+on+Jan.+28.%C2%A0

Ian Taylor, The Chart

Senior Hayden Steele high fiving his teammates Jacob Bryant and Jesse Rall after scoring a run in the Missouri Southern intra squad fall world series game on Oct. 22, 2015. The Lions will kick-off opening day next Friday in Warren Turner Field as they play host to Bemidji State. Southern was chosen to repeat as 2016 MIAA champions by the coaches in the 2016 Preseason Coaches Poll on Jan. 28. 

Cody Lee, Staff Writer

Coming off a monster 2015 campaign that saw the Missouri Southern Lions baseball team post a 40-14 record as well as claim the MIAA regular season title and the MIAA postseason title expectations will be high for this year’s group. 

Returning All-Region award winners Cody Hutchinson, Payton Walker, Jesse Rall, and Chris Hoffman are looking to lead the Lions back to the NCAA tournament to settle some unfinished business. 

Head Coach Bryce Darnell had this to say about those four players, “They are a few guys that make up a good core group of guys; I expect them to have big years again this season.” 

To compensate for the ten seniors that the Lions will be losing after this season they brought in sixteen new players in this year’s recruiting class that include six junior college transfers, five NCCA Division 1 transfers and five high school athletes. 

When asked if Coach Darnell thought there was a certain newcomer that he expected to really contribute to this year’s team he told me this, “It would be hard to name a single guy that I thought would have a big impact this year. We brought in each and every guy to potentially contribute this season, I expect them all to have success.” The Lions have gained serious recognition based off of last year’s breakthrough season as it was announced on January 28 that they were picked fifth in the preseason National College Baseball Writers Association Central Regional Poll. If that wasn’t impressive enough the Lions were also picked twenty fourth in the National Coaches Preseason Poll. 

Along with the announcements of the polls, three Lions were named preseason All-Region including Cody Hutchinson, Jesse Rall, and Chris Hoffman. If those gaudy preseason expectations are weighing on this team it was hard to tell when I spoke to Coach Darnell. “We don’t have a certain win total in mind; we just want to improve as individuals and as a team every day.” 

Coming off one of the best years in recent memory the Lions have all the tools to replicate last year’s success and everyone on that team fully expects to be competing for a National Title when all is said and done. The Lions open the season at Warren Turner Field here in Joplin on Friday the 12th with a weekend series against Bemidji State.