SMSU BASEBALL: NSIC announces preseason baseball poll
BURNSVILLE – The Southwest Minnesota State University baseball team was picked 15th in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll as voted on by the head coaches in the league. The announcement came Thursday from the NSIC office.
Minnesota State, the defending 2021 NSIC regular and tournament champions, were chosen as the preseason favorite earning 190 points, including nine first place votes, while Augustana was picked to finish second receiving 188 points and six first place votes. St. Cloud State was picked to finish third with 162 points, Minot State was selected fourth with 159 points, while Minnesota Crookston rounded out the top five with 130 points.
UMary was selected sixth earning 122 points, followed by Winona State (116), Wayne State (108), Northern State (89) and Sioux Falls (773) rounding out the top 10. Concordia-St. Paul was picked 11th with 69 points, followed by Upper Iowa (61), Minnesota Duluth (58), Bemidji State (26) and SMSU (24).
Minnesota State junior pitcher Collin Denk was named the league’s preseason Pitcher of the Year, while Augustana junior outfielder Carter Howell was named the preseason Player of the Year.
SMSU freshman left-handed pitcher Ryan Chmielewski and sophomore shortstop Chase McDaniel were both named “Players to Watch” in the conference this season.
Chmielewski was named all-state as a senior last season recording 69 strikeouts in 47 innings with a 0.48 ERA. McDaniel finished fourth on the team last season with a .282 average with three doubles and two home runs.
The 2022 Mustang baseball team will look to change its fortunes from a season ago when the team finished 12-22 overall, but played numerous close games all season long. The 2021 Mustang squad lost 11 games by either one-run or in extra-innings, while losing three more games by two runs. The team showed it could compete with the top teams, including earning two victories or nationally-ranked teams.
This season’s SMSU team, under the direction of 26-year head coach Paul Blanchard, will feature numerous, but talented, underclassmen as they continue their quest up the NSIC standings.
Offensively, SMSU must replace its top three hitters from last season, but do return McDaniel, who along with his .282 average, led the team with seven stolen bases. Also back is junior third baseman/outfielder Kip Gronholz, who started 33 games last season and batted .255 with five doubles and 17 RBIs.
The Mustangs also return five other players who made 10 or more starts a season ago. Sophomore third baseman Max Kalenberg collected three doubles, one home run and 16 RBIs in 21 games in 2021, while junior second baseman Keenan Wenzel had a home run, a double and six RBIs in 20 games. Senior outfielders Andy Andresen and Robbie Smith combined to mark 30 games in 2021, while sophomore first baseman Jaxon Haase started 10 games before suffering a season-ending injury.
The SMSU pitching staff returns several pitchers who gained valuable experience a season ago. Sophomore left-hander Kobe Lovell appeared in a team-high 15 games and struck out 16 batters in 19 2/3 innings with a 4.12 ERA. Sophomore right-hander Kolby Kiser made five appearances with four starts and compiled a 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Another sophomore righty, Hayden Molva, made eight appearances with five starts and finished with a 4.82 ERA in 28 innings with 28 strikeouts. Sophomore Ansen Dulas pitched in six games with four starts and earned one victory, while striking out 18 in 19 2/3 innings.
The Mustangs are currently conducting practice inside the PE Gym and R/A Facility and are scheduled to open the regular season on March 1 with a doubleheader at Briar Cliff (Iowa). SMSU will also play a twinbill versus Minnesota Duluth on March 3 inside US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, before traveling to Tucson, Ariz., for a week of games from March 6-13.
SMSU will begin the 36-game NSIC season at Wayne State on March 19-20 and will have its first home games on April 2-3 versus Concordia-St. Paul.
— Content courtesy
of SMSU Athletic