BURNSVILLE - The Southwest Minnesota State University baseball team was picked to finish 10th in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll as voted on by the 15 head coaches in the league.
The announcement came Wednesday from the NSIC office in Burnsville, Minn.
Four-time defending regular season champion Minnesota State was chosen as the preseason favorite, earning 196 points, including 14 first place votes, while St. Cloud State was picked to finish second receiving, 179 points. Augustana earned the other first place vote and was picked to finish third with 169 points.
Wayne State and Winona State (150) were chosen to finish tied for fourth, followed by Minnesota-Duluth (117), Concordia-St. Paul (109), Sioux Falls (94), Bemidji State (92) and SMSU (82) rounding out the top 10. Upper Iowa was picked 11th with 79 points, followed by Northern State (62), University of Mary (44), Minot State (38) and Minnesota-Crookston (14).
Minnesota State senior pitcher Jason Hoppe was named the league's preseason Pitcher of the Year, while Minnesota-Duluth sophomore first baseman Alex Wojciechowski was named the preseason Player of the Year.
Mustangs senior right-handed pitcher Steven Wehr and senior outfield Jon Ellis were both named "Players to Watch" in the conference this season.
Wehr, a native of St. Anthony, made nine starts last season, finishing 2-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 40? innings and ranked second on the team with 27 strikeouts.
Ellis, a native of Fairmont, Minn., played in 37 games last season, batting .318 with three doubles, two home runs and 17 RBIs, while leading the team with eight stolen bases.
SMSU finished 17-23-1 overall last season, including 11-13 in the NSIC.
The Mustangs open the 2014 season with a three-game series versus Dakota Wesleyan, S.D., on Feb. 15-16 in Pittsburg, Kan. Following its opening series, SMSU will play 12 games at the Tucson Invitational from March 7-15.
The Mustangs open their 34-game NSIC schedule on March 22-23 with a four-game, home-and-home series versus Minnesota State. SMSU is scheduled to play 20 home games at Alumni Field. Last season - for the first time in program history -the Mustangs did not play a single home game due to poor weather and field conditions.