Minnesota State baseball will open their 2017 season in a nonconference match-up against the Minnesota-Crookston Golden Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis Saturday.
The Mavericks finished their 2016 season with a 36-18 record and 24-9 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). They also made their 35th NCAA D-II bid and 11th consecutive post-season appearance
Minnesota State was voted as the preseason favorite in the NSIC Baseball Preseason Coach’s Poll for the seventh time in the past eight years. St. Cloud State and Augustana were voted to finish second and third respectfully while defending NSIC Champions, Minnesota-Duluth, was voted to finish fifth.
The voting works with each coach ranking the other respective teams from 14 to one with the top team receiving 14 points and the second place team receiving 13 points and so on.
Ranked 8th last year in the preseason poll, the Mavericks are returning four of their top hitters: senior infielder Eric Peterson with a .351 batting average (BA), junior shortstop Luke Waldek with a .344 BA, junior outfielder Josh Wenzel with a .330 BA and sophomore outfielder Jordan Hard with a .320 BA.
Lead by head coach Matt Magers, who will be entering his ninth season, the Mavericks recorded the second lowest team earned run average (ERA) for the 2016 NSIC season at 4.23, with only St. Cloud State ranking better than them with a 4.03. Magers has compiled a 342-104 [.765] record with Minnesota State, while leading the team to four NSIC regular season titles and four NSIC postseason tournament championships. He also guided the team to eight consecutive NCAA regional tournaments and earned four titles.
“We are excited to begin the season and are hopeful that we can lean on our returners early in the year and look for our newcomers to contribute in various ways,” Magers said. “The schedule looks very competitive and should prepare us for postseason opportunities.”
Minnesota State is also returning junior right-handed pitcher Dalton Roach, who will lead the team after posting a 3.34 ERA and a conference-leading 89 strikeouts over 67.1 innings in 2016. Roach also had a conference-leading two shutouts, tied with Zach Carstens from Upper Iowa University and tied two other pitchers with four complete games. Fellow Maverick returner Brody Rodning notched an impressive 84 strikeouts over 74.2 innings. Junior pitcher Dakotah Belter managed to pick up eight saves over the 23 games he pitched in, ranking second in the NSIC.
Minnesota-Crookston finished the 2016 NSIC season 18-11 and 25-21 overall. The two teams have not played each other since 2014 when the Mavericks won over the Golden Eagles, 18-4. Minnesota State has a 12-0 all-time record against Minnesota-Crookston with six of them being shutouts.
First pitch is slated for 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Mavericks will then head to Florida to play seven games over spring break, starting March 2.