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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Conference previews: Horizon

Kendall Rogers        
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The college baseball season is right around the corner, and as part of our 2013 College Baseball Preview, we take an in-depth look at each conference with predicted order of finish, Preseason All-Conference teams, top prospect lists and a complete team-by-team notes/scouting packet.

ALSO SEE: 2013 College Baseball Preview index

Overall/conference won-loss records from 2012 indicated; expectation level denoted -- College World Series= CWS, NCAA Super Regional= SR, NCAA Regional= R

No Team W L W L
1. Valparaiso - R
22 8 35 25
2. Wright State
20 10 37 21
3. Illinois-Chicago
12 17 23 34
4. Milwaukee 18 11 27 27
5. Youngstown State
7 23 11 44


Pos Name Class School Stats/Notes
C Will Fadness
Milwaukee .316-4-30, good bat w/ clean defensive actions
1B Alex Grunenwald
Sr. Illinois-Chicago
.345-5-39, very good hitter, good raw/gap power
2B Tanner Vavra Sr. Valparaiso .332-1-20, just one eye, but great bat w/ instincts
SS Spencer Mahoney
So. Valparaiso .348-0-23, good hitter, very smooth defensively
3B Drew Dosch
Jr. Youngstown St. .353-8-42, Great raw power, very consistent in bad lineup
OF Chris Manning Jr. Valparaiso .283-2-35, improved offensively, terrific defensively
OF Jon Ryan Jr. Illinois-Chicago .302-6-40, good gap power, versatile player
OF Luke Meeteer
So. Milwaukee .331-1-15, led team in hitting as freshman
DH Garrett Gray
Sr. Wright State .354-3-36, good eye/hitter, keeps strikeout total low
UT Andrew Bain
Valparaiso .318-0-20, versatile player, can help in many ways
SP Casey Henn
Sr. Wright State Great strike thrower, missed last season because of TJ
SP Kyle Wormington
Sr. Valparaiso 3.33 ERA, 102.2 IP, 58 K, 19 BB, good command
SP Cale Tassi
Milwaukee 2.74 ERA, 95.1 IP, 69 K, 28 BB, good command
RP Jack Van Horn So. Wright State
2.65 ERA, 34 IP, 30 K, 4 BB, impeccable command

Player of the Year: 3B Drew Dosch, Youngstown State
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Kyle Wormington, Valparaiso
Top Freshman: C Jason DeFevers, Wright State
Top Transfer: RHP Cole Webb, Valparaiso


2013 Draft Class

1. Drew Dosch, Jr., 3B, Youngstown State

2. Josh Uhen, So., RHP, Wisconsin-Milwaukee

3. Nick Manuppelli, Jr., RHP, Youngstown State

2014 Draft Class

1. Spencer Mahoney, So., SS, Valparaiso

2015 Draft Class

1. Jason DeFevers, Fr., C, Wright State


* Illinois-Chicago typically finishes near the top of the Horizon League, so when it finished last season with a losing conference record, it certainly came as a surprise. Don't expect the Flames to emulate last season's failures this spring, as they welcome back a very solid club. The Flames enter the season with a solid weekend rotation, led by right-handed pitchers Brian Evak and Joey Begel. Evak went 5-6 with a 4.70 ERA in 92 innings last season. He also struck out 35 and walked 31, so command must improve. Meanwhile, Begel had a 5.38 ERA in 98 2/3 innings. He struck out 46 and walked 33, while teams hit .298 against him. UIC also will have a stout bullpen with the return of Charlie Weinberg, Tomas Michelson, Collin Weyer, Mike Schoolcraft and others ... As deep as the Flames' pitching staff will be this season, they also welcome back a talented crop of hitters from an offense that finished the 2012 campaign with a .274 batting average. UIC returns outstanding first baseman Alex Grunenwald and six other top hitters. Grunenwald led the Flames last season with a .345 batting average, 13 doubles, five homers and 39 RBIs. Meanwhile, third baseman Joe Betcher and outfielder Jon Ryan are back after each hitting over .300 last season. Also keep an eye on redshirt junior Ryan Boss, who must be more consistent offensively, but has good raw power after slugging seven homers last season.

* Valparaiso made a statement last season by reaching the Gary, Ind., Regional, and looks to become the northern darling this spring. The Crusaders have a very solid club on paper. Valpo welcomes back an experienced and talented weekend rotation with senior right-handed pitcher Kyle Worthington leading the way. Worthington, who has a good changeup, made 15 starts last season and tallied a 3.33 ERA in 102 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on No. 2 starter Chris DeBoo and No. 3 starter Cole Webb. Meanwhile, keep close tabs on junior right-handed closer Karch Kowalczyk. Kowalczyk  is returning from Tommy John surgery and shined on Scout Day, sitting 91-93 with his FB. He continues to develop a breaking ball that has the potential to become a good strikeout pitch. The Crusaders also welcome back a solid bullpen with Sean Kennedy, Ben Mahar and freshman right-hander Trevor Haas arms to watch. Haas also will serve as the team's midweek starter, but will throw out of the pen on the weekends. Haas has a lean frame with an upper 80s FB. He's a consistent strike thrower with good mound presence ... The Crusaders finished the 2012 campaign with a solid .290 batting average and welcome back seven of their top nine hitters, including sophomore shortstop Spencer Mahoney and second baseman Tanner Vavra. Mahoney hit .348 with 23 RBIs last season while Vavra hit .332 with a home run and 20 RBIs. Also keep an eye on junior outfielder Chris Manning, who has good speed and is a terrific player from a defensive standpoint. In other news ,the Crusaders welcome back sophomore outfielder Michael Morman, who had an ACL injury last season.

* Wisconsin-Milwaukee finished the 2012 campaign with a solid 18-11 mark in the Horizon League, but hopes to take a step forward this spring with a trip to the NCAA postseason. The Panthers welcome back a solid starting rotation with senior right-hander Cale Tassi and right-hander Eric King leading the way. Tassi made 15 starts last season with a 2.74 ERA in 95 1/3 innings of work, while King had a 4.29 ERA in 35 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on junior newcomer Tyler Thicke, who will be in the rotation, as well as talented relievers Alex Erdmann and Jake Long, who had ERAs of 1.50 and 3.80, respectively ... From an offensive standpoint, the Panthers welcome back six of their top eight hitters, including outfielders Luke Meeteer and Ryan Solberg, and second baseman Mike Porcaro and catcher Will Fadness. Meeteer hit .331 with a home run and 15 RBIs last season, Solberg hit .305 with a home run and 16 RBIs, Porcaro hit .316 with 18 RBIs and Fadness hit .316 with four homers and 30 RBIs ... Last but not least, keep an eye on hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Josh Uhen. Uhen has dealt with some injury issues in the past, but has a huge arm with a low to mid 90s FB.

* Wright State has been a consistent power in the Horizon League under the tutelage of coach Rob Cooper, and that trend isn't expected to stop this season. The Raiders do have some holes to fill, however. The Raiders welcome back a solid starting rotation, led by senior right-handed pitcher Casey Henn, who missed last season because of Tommy John surgery. They also return junior right-hander Taylor Braun and senior left-hander Cody Kopilchack. Braun finished last season with a 4.97 ERA in 63 1/2 innings while Kopilchack had a 5.20 ERA in 55 1/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on sophomore right-handed closer Travis Hissong. Hissong finished last season with a rough earned-run average over eight, but showed flashes of greatness during fall workouts with a fastball in the lower to mid 90s. WSU also welcomes back other talented relievers, including right-handers Luke Mammer and Jack Van Horn. Mammer made 15 appearances in 2012 with a 1.72 ERA in 31 1/3 innings while Van Horn made 23 appearances and had a 2.65 ERA in 34 innings ... The Raiders finished last season with a .311 batting average, but have some serious holes to fill. That puts much pressure on senior designated hitter Garrett Gray, who is the team's leading hitter after batting .354 with three homers and 36 RBIs also last season. Shortstop Justin Kopale is back after tallying four homers and 45 RBIs in '12, while junior outfielder Mark Fowler, junior second baseman Joe Ford and junior outfielder Beau Phillips are talented newcomers to watch.

* Youngstown State struggled last season and has some work to do this spring if it wants to take a significant step forward. The Penguins must greatly improve both at the plate and on the mound. For instance, YSU hit just .256 last season and welcomes back just two solid hitters from that club, including third baseman Drew Dosch and Jason Shirley. Dosch hit .353 with 13 doubles, eight homers and 42 RBIs last season, while Shirley hit .303 with seven doubles and 16 RBIs ... The pitching staff has some serious work to do this spring. The Penguins return some experienced starting pitching with the return of right-handers Russ Harless and Patrick O'Brien and left-hander Blake Aquadro. Harless made 11 starts last season and had a 5.15 ERA in 80 1/3 innings, while Aquadro had a 7.33 ERA in 86 innings of work. O'Brien made 10 starts last season and tallied a 5.59 ERA in 46 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on junior right-hander Nic Manuppelli, who has a physical frame and tallied a 5.79 ERA in 37 1/3 innings of work last season.

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