St. PAUL, Minn. - The Bemidji State baseball team has been picked to finish sixth in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in the league’s 2005 pre-season coaches poll, as announced today by the NSIC office.
Bemidji State, which finished 14-34 overall in 2004 and 11-17 in NSIC play, picked up 37 points in the poll. BSU missed a fifth-place finish in the pre-season rankings by a single point, as Northern State picked up 38 points in the tally of the league’s coaches.
Defending NSIC Tournament Champion Wayne State (Neb.) was a narrow favorite to repeat as league champions, picking up 57 points and four of seven first-place votes in the ranking. The Wildcats narrowly edged Winona State, the 2004 NSIC runners up, which received 55 points and two of the remaining three first-place votes.
Southwest Minnesota State was picked to finish third with 52 points and one first-place vote. Concordia-St. Paul (46) and Northern State (38) were fourth and fifth, respectively, followed by BSU. Minn.-Crookston (30) rounded out the poll.
Southwest Minnesota State junior third baseman Colby Pack and Winona State senior outfielder Ben Vasquez split NSIC Pre-Season Player of the Year laurels, while Wayne State’s Travis McCarter and Winona State’s Josh Shultz will share the league’s Pre-Season Pitcher of the Year honor.
BSU’s Tony Klaers and Nate Heim were listed amongst the league’s Players and Pitchers to Watch, respectively.
Klaers enters his junior campaign with a .393 career batting average, and as a full-time player in 2004 notched a .471 slugging percentage in conference play. Klaers hit a team-leading .360 as a sophomore a year ago with a team-high 50 base hits and 27 RBI, third on the team. Klaers played in all 48 games for BSU last year, one of just two players to appear in every game, with 47 starts. He struck out just 17 times in 139 at-bats.
Heim, who has been in Iraq serving with the Minnesota National Guard for the last two years, will pitch for the Beavers for the first time since 2002. That year, Heim hit .263 in 19 at-bats as a position player, but finished 4-1 as a pitcher in eight appearances (five starts). He led the Beavers in ERA at 4.42, allowing just 18 earned runs in 36.2 innings pitched. Heim threw a complete game against UM-Morris on April 20, allowing just one run on three hits. In his last five appearances of the season, Heim was 3-1 with a save. He earned Honorable-Mention All-NSIC honors and helped lead BSU to a No. 1 seed in the 2002 NSIC Tournament.
Bemidji State opens its 2005 baseball campaign on March 5, when it opens a four-game series at Emporia (Kan.) State. The Beavers and Hornets will play a pair of double-headers, with the first pitch on March 5 set for 1:00 p.m. Central time. The Emporia State trip kicks off an 11-game Heartland road trip for the Beavers to open the 2005 campaign; each of the team’s first 11 games of the season will be played in Kansas and Missouri.