Bethany emerges as baseball favorite
Bethany Lutheran College, the second-place finisher in the 2009 conference race and Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament runner-up, was the overwhelming pick in the preseason coaches' poll to win the league in 2010. If the Vikings were to win the UMAC championship, they would end a 13-year supremacy by the College of St. Scholastica, who has advanced to the NCAA tournament in each of the last five seasons.
Bethany Lutheran returns all but two starters from last year's team that went 17-3 in UMAC play, in addition to four transfer students who are expected to make an immediate impact. Justin Schwecke and Ashton Dorris, the reigning UMAC Pitcher and Player of the Year, come back for their senior seasons, as do all-conference players Trent Sonnicksen, Nick Johnson, Travis Fisher, and Michael Greibrok.
Behind the bat of D3baseball.com preseason All-American Sean Claugherty, St. Scholastica looks to continue its rule over the UMAC again in 2010. With the passing of head coach John Baggs at the beginning of the 2009 season, Corey Kemp and the other Saints assistants stepped up, earning UMAC Coach of the Year honors. Kemp now wears the hat of "Head Coach" as he leads a group of players that includes six seniors and seven underclassmen.
Northwestern College was the clear No. 3 pick amongst the UMAC's coaches. While the Eagles were not able to produce a record over .500 in 2009, head coach Dave Hieb saw great improvement. Presentation College was fourth in the poll. The Saints claimed third place last season in the conference standings and advanced to the conference tournament for the first time in its short baseball history. Presentation returns all but two players from last year's team. Closer Spencer Sudbeck was last year's UMAC saves leader.
After an 8-12 year in UMAC play last season, Northland College returns to the field under second-year head coach Andy Ham. The LumberJacks, who were picked to finish fifth, return all but two starters from 2009 including UMAC First Team All-Conference honoree Bryce Szymanski. Matt Tanneberg, another first team all-conference player, also returns.
Martin Luther College, who was predicted to finish sixth in the UMAC, has undergone an overhaul with Randy Cox taking over the head coaching position. The Knights return four starters from last season's everyday lineup, as well as a few pitchers.
The University of Minnesota, Morris looks to rebound after posting a 5-15 UMAC record in 2009. With six starters returning, the Cougars hope to earn more than their sixth-place spot in the poll. Pitcher and shortstop Matt Peterson is head coach Mark Fohl's best returning player after hitting .330 last year. Nik Randall, who led Morris in ERA in 2009, also returns while Sam Mooney-Leber, a combination catcher-first baseman, will be the Cougars' primary pitch caller again this season. Joining the Cougars is transfer Mike McGill, a center fielder with great playing experience at Midwest Lutheran.
Rounding out the league's top eight is Crown College. Dan Nyquist, a recent product of Northwestern, has been handed the head coaching duties for the Storm in 2009. Crown looks to improve upon last season's 2-18 UMAC mark.
All eight UMAC teams begin to face off against one another on the first weekend of April. At the conclusion of the regular season, the league's four best teams will gather in Duluth for the UMAC Conference Tournament on May 13-15.