Written by Joe Gabbert
University of Nebraska-Omaha
Despite starting out with an 0-3 record, the University Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks were picked to finish first in the Summit League in the coaches’ preseason poll. The Mavericks were picked first in the poll by three of the five coaches, and were placed ahead of the second place South Dakota State by three points (15 to 12). North Dakota State placed third, Western Illinois fourth (with one first placed vote) and Fort Wayne fifth.
South Dakota State is the defending tournament champion, but the Mavericks were the regular season champions and are not allowed to play in the league tournament until 2015.
Omaha will return four all league performers from a year ago. Alex Mortensen and Tyler Splichal made the first team, and Brett Bass and Clayton Taylor made the second. Bass, Mortensen and Taylor all finished the 2013 campaign in the league’s top-10 in batting average. Taylor is the top returning hitter in the league. Tyler Fox and Zach Williamsen are the Mavericks top returning hurlers. Fox finished with a 6-2 record and 3.99 ERA while Williamsen was 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 42 strikeouts.
The Mavericks have already played two games this season, both of which were losses. One loss at 5-4 against Milwaukee with both Tyler Biggs and Connor Messinger acquiring two RBIs, and another a come from behind win for Northwestern where they erased UNO’s 4-0 lead to win 8-5. Both of these games took place at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte Fla. The Mavericks have five remaining games in the tournament.
The Mavericks will play against Grand Canyon, Kansas State, Air Force and Dartmouth before their first summit league play against South Dakota March 30th.
Eleven pitchers return for Western Illinois, including second team all-league and all-tournament team winner Aaron Michel. Michel led the Summit League with a 1.23 ERA and a .179 opponent batting average a year ago as a freshman. All-league players Jameson Henning and Neil DeCook also return to the Leatherneck lineup.
North Dakota State will return a league high five all-league selections, including Kyle Kleinendorst, Tim Colwell, John Hechtner, Wes Satzinger, and John Skrbec. Kyle Kleinendorst led the Bison with a .333 average, which put him at fourth best in the league, while Tim Colwell led the league with 40 runs scored and was second with four triples. Hechtner had a .269 Batting average and Satzinger a .307 with 32 RBI.
Fort Wayne welcomes back three all-league second team selections in Caleb Fenimore, Steve Lowden and Tyler Shepherd. Fenimore recorded 18 RBI and Shepherd lead the league with 29 stolen bases and lead Fort Wayne’s lineup with a .296 batting average.
Last season’s tournament champions, SDSU, are led by second team all-league pitchers Adam Bray and JD Moore. Bray was 7-2 with a 3.19 ERA and also had 41 total strike outs and one complete game. Moore lead the league in both saves and appearances at 13 and 26, and was also named to the all-tournament team. Hitters Paul Jacobson and All-tournament winner Scott Splett are returning. In Jacobson’s freshman campaign, he batted .293 with 27 doubles and 37 runs scored. Splett hit .288 with a 32 RBI.