For the second consecutive season the Missouri State baseball squad has been tabbed the Missouri Valley Conference favorite by the league’s coaches in their annual preseason poll, which was announced Wednesday. Four Bears were selected for the Valley’s preseason all-conference squad, including 2012 Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year Nick Petree, Freshman All-America stopper Tyler Burgess, MSU A.E. “Ted” Willis MVP Keenen Maddox and two-time All-MVC selection Luke Voit.
The Bears of head coach Keith Guttin tallied 60 points — including six of the eight possible first-place votes — in the poll to edge second-place pick Wichita State (47 points), while defending conference champ Indiana State and Illinois State each received 45 points to tie for the third spot. Southern Illinois (36 points) earned the fifth position in the poll, followed by Bradley (21 points), Creighton (18 points) and Evansville (11 points).
The league’s eight clubs will meet at the MVC Championship, May 21-25, at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill., for the right to represent the Valley in the NCAA Tournament.
“Last year was a very good year for the Valley in general,” Guttin says. “We had three teams earn spots in Regionals, and one of those was the eighth-place team in the regular season. I think that shows the type of depth and parity that exists in this conference. The field should be just as strong this season, with a number of teams bringing back significant veteran returners.”
The Bears, who will welcome back 19 letterwinners from last year’s 40-22 squad that was one of three MVC clubs to earn an NCAA Regional bid, open the season Feb. 15 at the CenturyLink Bobcat Invitational in San Marcos, Texas, against host Texas State.