Bemidji State picked sixth in pre-season NSIC coaches poll
Wednesday, March 5, 2003
March 5, 2003

BEMIDJI, Minn. - The Bemidji State University baseball program has been picked sixth in a pre-season poll of coaches in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the league office announced late last week.

Defending NSIC champion Southwest State headlines the pre-season poll, picking up seven of nine first-place votes for 61 points. Wayne State (Neb.) picked up one first-place vote but finished seven points behind Southwest State, in second place with 54 points. Winona State (52 points, one first-place vote) was narrowly third, followed by Minn.-Duluth (43, 4th), Concordia St. Paul (37, 5th) and Bemidji State. Minn.-Crookston (24 points), Northern State (14) and Minn.-Morris (9) rounded out the poll.

"I'm surprised," Bemidji State head coach Chris Brown said. "It's a pre-season poll and those don't mean much. How many times do they come out the way people think they will? It's not too bad to be the underdog sometimes."

BSU junior catcher/outfielder Shaun Ross was named a pre-season NSIC "Player to Watch." Ross, a 2002 First-Team All-NSIC pick, finished third in the league in hitting (.443), sixth in slugging (.711), fourth in on-base percentage (.505) and tied for sixth in doubles (14). He led the league with a .636 batting average as a leadoff hitter.

Southwest State's Travis Irwin, a 2003 Collegiate Baseball Magazine pre-season All-America pick, was the NSIC Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year.

Relief pitcher/shortstop Brian Beuning was named a "Pitcher to Watch." Also a 2002 First-Team All-NSIC pick, Beuning was third in the NSIC with four saves a year ago and tied for third in the league with 10 games finished. He had a 3-2 record with a 2.30 ERA as BSU's closer, holding the opposition to a .233 batting average.

Southwest State's Pat O'Brien was named NSIC Pre-Season Pitcher of the Year.

" Shaun and Brian are two of our leaders, on and off the field," Brown said. "We look for big contributions from them and will look to get them involved in the game as much as possible. They are also guys who are going to help our younger players step up and make the adjustment from being a redshirt to contributing on a regular basis."

The 2002 BSU baseball campaign was one of the most successful in school history, as the team finished 19-11 overall and 13-3 in the NSIC. The 19 wins were the most by a BSU team since 1997, when it finished 24-24 and won the NSIC regular-season title with a 14-4 record. The 19 wins tied for seventh-most in a season in BSU history; Doug Smith's 1989 squad finished 19-18.

BSU's 13-3 league record was good for a first-place finish in the regular-season NSIC race, earning the Beavers the right to host the conference post-season tournament. However, for the first time no regular-season NSIC champion was crowned; the only league champion honor went to the tournament titlist. BSU's 13 conference wins tied the 1977 team (13-7 Northern Intercollegiate Conference) for third-most in school history. BSU's 1982 NAIA World Series team won 14 NIC games (14-6), and the 1997 NSIC Championship squad also won 14 (14-4).

BSU's success helped earn former head coach Jim Grimm his second career NSIC Coach of the Year award, and NSIC Player of the Year Nate Olson headlined a group of eight Beavers named to the All-NSIC team.

Bemidji State opens its 2003 baseball campaign on March 10, when it opens an eight-game tournament schedule at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla. The Beavers open the Classic with a double header against West Liberty and also have double-headers against Wayne State (Mich.) and Alderson-Broaddus, with single games against Lock Haven and Stonehill.