MADISON, S.D. -- For the second consecutive season, the Bellevue University baseball team has been picked to win the 2017 North Star Athletic Association, according to the conference coaches' preseason poll which was announced on Monday.
The Bruins claimed all 10 first place votes and 100 points in the 10-team preseason poll. BU is looking to defend their 2016 NSAA Regular-Season and Tournament Championships. Bellevue posted a 54-12 overall record in 2016 and advanced to the Avista-NAIA World Series for the 13th time in program history after winning the Opening Round Davenport Bracket.
Earlier this offseason, Bellevue received national praise being ranked third in the NAIA Preseason Coaches' Poll and second in the PerfectGame.org preseason rankings. Seventh-year head coach Duane Monlux (488-264-5 overall, 256-97-3 BU) returns to lead the Bruins in 2017.
Last season, Bellevue had a pair of right-handed relievers (Leland Tilley and John Timmins) drafted while southpaw starter Braulio Torres-Perez signed a pro contract with an independent club. Those signings mark the third-straight season in which the BU baseball program has had three players sign professional contracts.
Bellevue returns five position player starters – OF/DH Derik Bontempo (.416 AVG, 32 XBH, 77 RBI), C Jake Browne (.338 AVG, 12 XBH, 41 RBI), IF Matt Evans (.327 AVG, 12 XBH, 25 RBI), OF Joe Moran (.444 AVG, 19 XBH, 26 RBI), and 1B/RHP Todd Nicks (.276 AVG, 8 XBH, 23 RBI) – off last year's team as well as Miles Campbell (36 games played, .277 AVG in 2015) who sat out the year as a medical redshirt.
Also returning as position players for the Bruins is C/UT John King while IF Julian Rivera is redshirting this season. Redshirts from 2016 – OF Andrew Churchill, C Riley Baasch, and 2B Colin Rubino – are back in 2017 as well.
Newcomers on the diamond include juniors OF Brandon Salmon (Chandler-Gilbert CC), IF Jordan Baughman (Independence CC), IF Brandon Truesdell (Sioux Falls), IF Lumus Russell (Contra Costa College), 1B/2B Blake Macdonald (Walla Walla CC), IF Diego Iribarren (Muscatine CC), 3B/1B Hunter Robson (Scottsdale CC), C Hunter Kelly (Wentworth Military Academy), OF Alec Chaney (Yakima Valley CC), and freshman OF Nate Hall (Omaha, Neb.).
On the hill, Bellevue returns a pair of weekend starters in right-handers Ben McKendall (12-2, 2.17 ERA, 122 SO) and Nicks (11-2, 2.59 ERA, 98 SO). Also returning are six players who saw action primarily out of the bullpen in 2016 in left-hander Kameron Miner and right-handers Anthony Contonio, Blake Phelps, Robbie Ayres, Teao Buehler, and Brett Franklin. Additionally, LHP Zach Wilson who sat out the 2016 season as a medical redshirt returns in 2017.
New to the Bruins pitching staff in 2017 are junior RHPs Reid Feeley (College of the Sequoias), Max Dwyer (Shoreline CC), freshman RHP Sawyer Bierscheid (La Center, Wash.) as well as junior LHPs David Mendez (Northeastern JC), Colten Barnes (Pierce College), Dylan Thorp (Monterey Peninsula College), and Caleb Rodriquez (Arizona Western CC).
Bellevue is in their second season in the North Star Athletic Association. They open their season with a double-header against University of Saint Mary on Saturday, Feb. 11 at noon on the campus of the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma. Conference play begins on Saturday, Mar. 25 when BU welcomes the University of Winnipeg for a four-game set.
2017 NSAA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Poll:
|Rank||School (1st Place Votes)||Points|
|7.||Valley City State||42|