Baseball looks to back up No. 33 ranking

By Gus Bode

The Collegiate Baseball newspaper didn’t tell the Saluki baseball team anything it didn’t already know.

The annual Fabulous 40 Preseason Poll ranked the SIU baseball team at No. 33 after the team’s 34-win season and third-place Missouri Valley Conference finish.

SIU coach Dan Callahan said the national recognition is an honor that has the team excited to start the season.


“It’s nice to be recognized on a national scale and we are appreciative,” Callahan said. “I guess you could say it’s a feather in our cap and it really means something to us. I’m glad it worked out that way.”

The focus and work ethic of the Salukis that led to a 34-win season is already showing this year as the pitching staff has braved weather of 30 degrees or less on a daily basis to throw bullpen sessions.

Pitching was a strong point for SIU last year as the staff finished second in the MVC with four complete games and third in the MVC with 17 saves. Preseason Brooks Wallace candidates Byrant George and Cody Adams will lead a staff that lost only one pitcher, Jordan Powell, during the offseason.

Senior pitcher Ian Reinhart was one of the Salukis unwilling to settle for last season’s success and continued to work all throughout the summer. Reinhart had the most appearances for the Salukis last season and gave up only two homeruns in 40 innings, but that didn’t stop him from honing his skills during a summer league in Virginia.

Reinhart said he didn’t expect the Salukis to get that immediate attention but expects their ranking to be higher by the end of the year.

“I didn’t think we would be ranked that high in the beginning of the year,” Reinhart said. “I thought we would be that high towards the middle of the year, though, because I knew we would get out there and prove some things.”

A major reason for the Salukis’ preseason accolades is the amount of returning players. SIU lost Powell and outfielder Kevin Koski, but return the top offensive threats from last season. Junior Mark Kelly and sophomore Aaron Roberts return as the Saluki leaders in hits.


Callahan said while the offense is important, the key to the Salukis’ success this season will depend on infield defense and how well they hold up at the end of the season.

Last season the Salukis had a streak where they won 19 of 22 games, but a 1-6 streak followed and prevented SIU from building any significant win streak for the rest of the season.

Defensively, the Salukis ranked eighth in the MVC, but senior pitcher Shawn Joy said the defense is underestimated and should play well this season.

“It’s not a matter of us playing with everybody because we know we can beat anybody now, so we’re just ready to go,” Joy said. “This team is mentally tough and physically stronger and an all-around better team this year.”

After the last three seasons ended in 30-plus wins and near NCAA tournament bids, Callahan said this team could be ready to break the glass ceiling.

Callahan said this team is capable of a 40-win season and an MVC championship, which would lead to an NCAA tournament appearance.

“There aren’t many NCAA teams that get in (the tournament) with 34 wins,” Callahan said. “We finished tied for third in the league last year and our goal this year is to finish at the top of the conference and get to 40 wins and hopefully the postseason stuff will take care of itself.”

Jeff Engelhardt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected].