ISU third baseman Zac Johnson makes a throw to first. (Photo compliments of GoRedbirds.com)
By WJBC Staff
Illinois State's baseball team was picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference, according to the league's pre-season coaches’ poll.
Additionally, seniors Zac Johnson, Eric Aguilera and Brett Kay were dubbed first team all-conference preseason selections.
“There is no question that the league will be extremely strong again this year,” fourth-year coach Mark Kingston said. “You have quality teams from top to bottom. I feel the Missouri Valley Conference can be a three to four bid league for the NCAA tournament.”
The Redbirds received 45 points and tied with Indiana State for third. Missouri State was the preseason favorites with 60, while Wichita State was second with 47. ISU received one first-place vote. The Redbirds returns 21 lettermen, including six starters and seven pitchers, from last season’s 33-19 squad.
Aguilera, a 2012 All-MVC first-team player, batted .330 last season, including a league-best .407 in Valley games. The Cary native led ISU with seven home runs and added eight doubles and 36 RBI. He had a .483 slugging percentage and .355 on-base percentage in 52 games, .
Johnson also earned All-MVC first-team accolades last year. The Bloomington product and Normal Community High School graduate hit .323 with a .516 slugging percentage and .396 on-base percentage with six home runs and 43 RBI in 50 games. He also wasthe team-leader with 15 doubles.
Kay hit .269 with a .343 slugging percentage with a .329 on-base percentage. The infielder tallied two home runs and 16 RBI, in addition to four doubles and 33 runs scored. He successfully stole 14-of-16 bases and posted a .985 fielding percentage.
“The honors received by our players are well deserved,” Kingston added. “I think we have more than a chance to garner post-season accolades.”
The Redbirds open the season Feb. 15 at Memphis.