Welch represents the Salukis in MVC poll

Welch represents the Salukis in MVC poll

By Aaron Graff

Senior shortstop Jake Welch received an extra 22nd birthday present after being named to the Missouri Valley Conference preseason baseball team.

SIU was picked to finish fifth out of eight teams for the second straight year, and of the 14 MVC preseason players, Welch was the only Saluki to be named to the team.

“It’s an honor,” Welch said. “I really appreciate the respect from all the coaches in the conference.”


Last season, Welch tied Austin Montgomery for the team lead in hits. He had a .317 batting average with 79 hits, 20 stolen bases and 51 runs.

Senior pitcher, Tyler Dray said Welch would be crucial to the team’s success this season.

“We came in together as freshmen,” Dray said. “He’s a four year starter for us. He’s a leader on and off the field.”

Dray said senior catcher Matt Jones could have been named to the team. Wichita State University’s catcher Tyler Baker earned that spot, but Dray said they both have impressive numbers.

Coach Ken Henderson said Welch should be recognized for everything he has done for Saluki baseball.

“He’s become such a quality player and a quality person,” Henderson said. “He understands the game and he has earned everything he has gotten.”

SIU finished seventh in the conference last year. Henderson said polls are fun, but the preseason poll is based solely on players who return to the team.


“We have 17 new guys,” he said. “Nobody in the league knows who those guys are, or anything about them.”

Last year’s conference champion Wichita State, was picked to finish first in the conference, and had four players named to the preseason team.

Henderson said the Shockers deserved to be picked first, but a lot of players from every team deserve praise of their skills.

“There’s so many guys that are worthy of recognition that don’t get it,” Henderson said.

Welch said he does not blame anyone for ranking the Salukis fifth, but he wants to prove them wrong.

“We don’t think a whole lot of teams respect us right now,” Welch said.

The team has been practicing since Jan. 24, and Welch said this year’s team has shown a lot of enthusiasm thus far.

“The morale and the work ethic is a lot different than last year,” Welch said. “We have a lot more baseball guys compared to athletes from last year.”

The conference schedule will have a few changes this year for SIU. Creighton University left the MVC for the Big East, but Dallas Baptist University has officially joined the conference in baseball.

Henderson said Dallas Baptist played against every conference school a few years ago, but some teams did not want them joining. Dallas Baptist joined the Western Athletic Conference when it could not join the MVC, but all teams eventually supported them joining.

Loyola University Chicago replaced Creighton, but they do not have a baseball team. Henderson said the conference needed eight teams, and Dallas Baptist was a good program to add.

Baseball is the only sport Dallas Baptist competes in at the Division I level. The team was picked to finish fourth and had no players named to the preseason team.

The Salukis will have their first game Feb. 14 at Western Kentucky University. They will host their first conference game April 4 against Bradley University, who was picked to finish eighth.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected], @Aarongraff_DE, or 536-3311 ext. 269.