BURNSVILLE – The Southwest Minnesota State University baseball team was voted 15th in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, as voted by the league head coaches. The announcement came Thursday from the NSIC office.
Minnesota State, the defending NSIC and tournament champions of 2021, was chosen as the preseason favorite, earning 190 points, including nine first-place votes, while Augustana was picked to finish second with 188 points and six votes to the first place. 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 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 preseason Pitcher of the Year, while Augustana junior outfielder Carter Howell was named preseason Pitcher of the Year.
SMSU freshman left-handed pitcher Ryan Chmielewski and sophomore shortstop Chase McDaniel were both named “Players to watch” this season at the conference.
Chmielewski was named all-state as a senior last season, striking out 69 in 47 innings with an ERA of 0.48. McDaniel finished fourth on the team last season with a .282 average with three doubles and two homeruns.
Mustang’s 2022 baseball team will try to change its fortunes from a season ago when the team finished 12-22 overall but played countless close games throughout the season. The 2021 Mustang squad lost 11 games by one run or in extra innings, while losing three more games by two points. The team showed that it can compete with the top teams, including taking two wins or nationally ranked teams.
This season’s SMSU team, led by 26-year-old head coach Paul Blanchard, will feature numerous, but talented, underclassmen as they continue their quest for the NSIC standings.
Offensively, SMSU has to replace its top three batters from last season, but returned McDaniel, who along with his .282 average led the team with seven stolen bases. Also back is junior third baseman/outfielder Kip Gronholz, who last season started 33 games and hit .255 with five doubles and 17 RBI’s.
The Mustangs also return five other players who made 10 or more starts a season ago. Sophomore third baseman Max Kalenberg hit three doubles, one homerun and 16 RBI’s in 21 games in 2021, while junior second baseman Keenan Wenzel had a homerun, double and six RBI’s in 20 games. Senior outfielders Andy Andresen and Robbie Smith combined for 30 games in 2021, while sophomore first baseman Jaxon Haase started 10 games before suffering a seasonal injury.
The SMSU pitching staff returns several pitchers who gained valuable experience a season ago. Sophomore lefthander Kobe Lovell played in a team-high 15 games and struckout 16 batters in 19 2/3 innings with a 4.12 ERA. Sophomore righthander Kolby Kiser made five appearances with four starts and compiled a 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Hayden Molva, another sophomore on the right, made eight appearances with five starts and finished with a 4.82 ERA in 28 innings with 28 strikeouts. Sophomore Ansen Dulas appeared in six games with four starts and recorded one win, while striking out 18 batters in 19 2/3 innings.
The Mustangs currently practice at the PE Gym and R/A Facility and will open the regular season on March 1 with a doubleheader in Briar Cliff, Iowa. SMSU also plays a twinbill against Minnesota Duluth on March 3 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, before traveling to Tucson, Arizona March 6-13 for a full week of games.
SMSU will kick off the 36-game NSIC season at Wayne State on March 19-20 and have its first home games on April 2-3 against Concordia-St. Paul.
— Substantive courtesy
from SMSU Athletic