Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC], Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood), Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian), and Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) were all recognized Wednesday when the Horizon League released its 2016 Preseason Baseball All-League Team and Coaches Poll. The survey of head coaches predicted the Crusaders to finish in third place.
Lundeen and Yoder represented two of the four pitchers tabbed for All-League honors. Lundeen, the owner of 205 strikeouts in just under 250 career innings, was joined alongside incumbent Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Jake Dahlberg of UIC, and Jesse Scholtens from Wright State. Yoder, who saved six games a season ago, was the lone reliever on the Preseason All-League Team.
The coaches rewarded Lodden and Palace for their breakout campaigns in 2015.
In his first season with the Crusaders, Lodden coupled a .327 batting average with 38 walks for a .441 on-base percentage. He clubbed 12 doubles, two homers, and drove in 34 runs. Lodden's 10 stolen bases were also a team watermark.
As a sophomore, Palace feasted on opposing pitching to the tune of a .579 slugging percentage. An upper-body injury torpedoed his May, but the California native amassed a team-high seven home runs and 39 RBI in just 152 at-bats. Defensively, he did not commit an error at first base.
In the team poll, Valpo was tabbed third in a bottleneck for second place. With 25 polling points, the Brown and Gold finished two points behind UIC and one ahead of Milwaukee. Defending champion Wright State received six first-place votes en route to 36 points. Youngstown State (15) was slotted for fifth place, two points ahead of newcomer Northern Kentucky (13). Oakland rounded out the survey with seven points.
Valpo opens the 2016 season Friday in Alabama versus the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State. Lundeen (5-7, 3.75 in 2015) will get the ball opposite righty Graham Officer in the 3 pm start. Links to the audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll (first place votes in parentheses)
1. Wright State (6) – 36
2. UIC (1) – 27
3. Valparaiso – 25
4. Milwaukee – 24
5. Youngstown State – 15
6. Northern Kentucky – 13
7. Oakland – 7
Preseason All-League Team
C – Sean Murphy, Wright State
1B – Nate Palace, Valparaiso
2B – Ian Yetsko, Oakland
SS – Mitch Roman, Wright State
3B – Mickey McDonald, UIC
OF – Ryan Fucci, Wright State
OF – Nolan Lodden, Valparaiso
OF – Luke Meeteer, Milwaukee
DH – Gabe Dwyer, UIC
UTIL – Trey Ganns, Northern Kentucky
SP – Jake Dahlberg, UIC
SP – Dalton Lundeen, Valparaiso
SP – Jesse Scholtens, Wright State
RP – Bryce Yoder, Valparaiso
Preseason Player of the Year: Sean Murphy, Wright State
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Jake Dahlberg, UIC