INDIANOLA, Iowa – Following a 22-22 campaign in 2014, the Iowa Conference coaches picked the Simpson baseball team seventh in the 2015 Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Simpson received 23 points in the poll, ahead of Luther (18) and behind Dubuque and Central (29). The league's coaches selected defending IIAC regular season and tournament champion, Buena Vista as the team to beat in 2015, followed by Wartburg.
The Storm and ninth-year head coach Ben Blake return four position starters and six pitchers from last year's squad that went 12-16 in conference play, finishing fifth. The team has some holes to fill in the field, but brings back a strong pitching rotation that will pay dividends in a grueling, 28-game conference schedule.
Simpson returns a pair of All-Iowa Conference performers in utility player Jake Scieszinski and pitcher Matt Pennings. Scieszinski earned first team honors in 2014, hitting .279 while going 3-4 with a 4.91 ERA on the mound. Pennings was the team's No. 1 pitcher, going 6-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 14 appearances. He also posted three saves and became the school's career leader when he picked up his ninth in an IIAC Tournament win over Wartburg.
Helping anchor the pitching staff with Scieszinski and Pennings is junior right-hander, Gage Reis. Reis went 4-5 with a 4.15 ERA but saved his best performance for last, striking out eight in a complete-game win over Coe in the conference tournament. Top reliever Brock Borgeson also returns after posting a team-low 2.12 ERA in 18 appearances last year.
Senior Nick Anderson is the team's leading returning offensive player, hitting .333 with 10 RBIs a year ago. Senior shortstop Jake Esdohr is the team's top returning run producer, driving in 28 a year ago.
Simpson opens the season this weekend in Tucson, Ariz. at the Tucson Invitational. The Storm will play eight games against six opponents on its annual Spring Break trip. The schedule is as follows (Mountain Time listed):
Saturday, March 7
vs. Cornell (Iowa), 1 p.m.
vs. Olivet Nazarene, 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 8
vs. Bethany Lutheran (dh), 10 a.m.
Wednesday, March 11
vs. Wesleyan (Conn.), Noon
vs. Cornell (Iowa), 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 12
vs. Minot State, 8:30 a.m.
vs. Carroll (Wis.), Noon
IIAC Preseason Coaches' Poll (first place votes)
1. Buena Vista, 56 (7); 2. Wartburg, 50 (1); 3. Loras, 40; 4. Coe, 35; t-5. Central, 29; t-5. Dubuque, 29; 7. Simpson, 23; 8. Luther, 18
Weather permitting, the Iowa Conference schedule gets underway March 20-21 with two four-game series – Coe plays host to Wartburg and Loras plays host to Simpson. The schools will play a 28-game conference schedule with each school playing a 4-game series against every Conference opponent. One series will be played on a pair of Tuesdays (March 31 and April 21) with a doubleheader played at each site. The remaining series will played on Friday-Saturday at the same site. Each IIAC doubleheader will feature a 7-inning game followed a 9-inning game.
The 2015 Iowa Conference Baseball Tournament hosted by Luther College will be held May 7-9 in Cedar Rapids. The top two teams from the regular season will receive first-round byes and the tournament schedule will feature four games each on Thursday and Friday and two, possibly three, games on Saturday. Excluding one first-round game at Daniels Park, all games are scheduled to be played at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Class A Midwest League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.