Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian), Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]), Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood), Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]), and Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) were all represented on the 2016 College Sports Madness Horizon Preseason All-League teams. The five selections equaled the most of any Horizon League club with the exception of Wright State.
Palace, who received a First Team nod, led Valpo in the Triple Crown stats a season ago with .329/7/39. The junior also slugged a team-best .579 and clobbered 15 doubles. The infielder missed the final 15 games of 2015 due to injury, but projects to be as potent as any middle-of-the-order bat in the Horizon League after a healthy offseason.
Lodden was also elected to the First Team following a steady first campaign in the Brown and Gold. The Heartland CC transfer coupled a .327 batting average with a .441 on-base percentage. Lodden finished second on the team in runs scored (45), doubles (12), and walks (38). He corked two homers and drove in 34 runs in 2015.
Despite leading the Horizon League in strikeouts (93) by a wide margin, and finishing second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.48), strikeouts per nine innings (9.03), and complete games (3), Lundeen landed on the Second Team. The 2014 Horizon League Co-Pitcher of the Year posted two shutouts and a 3.75 earned-run average in 2015. He enters his senior season 77 1/3 innings shy of becoming Valpo's all-time leader in innings pitched. Lundeen also needs 90 strikeouts this season to move into second place on the Crusaders' all-time strikeout list.
Fritze recorded a 3.82 ERA during the 2015 regular season. The right-hander posted 61 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings pitched, both second on the staff behind Lundeen. Fritze, who was Valpo's Saturday starter for the majority of the season, registered five quality starts.
Delaney, like Lodden, shined in his first spring with the Crusaders. He batted .325 while reaching base at a .400 clip in the cleanup spot. Delaney tallied 19 multi-hit tilts in 2015 while driving in two or more runs 11 times. He is the only returner to play in all 53 games last season.
Valpo opens the 2016 season Friday, February 19th in Jacksonville, Alabama. The Jacksonville State Gamecocks host the Crusaders in a three-game series at Rudy Abbott Field.