KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the first pitch of the season just around the corner, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association released the 2019 Preseason Baseball Coaches Poll Thursday (Jan. 31). The Fort Hays State baseball team will head into the new campaign ranked 12th in the conference.
The Tigers picked up 23 points in the balloting process, just three points behind 11th-place Southwest Baptist. Defending conference tournament champion Central Missouri tops the poll, followed closely by Central Oklahoma and Pittsburg State in second and third, respectively.
Fort Hays State enters its first season under head coach Jerod Goodale in 2019. Goodale returned to his alma mater last summer after building Colorado School of Mines into a national contender, leading the Orediggers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018.
The Tigers return multiple starters on offense, including infielder Ryan Grasser and Cody Starkel, outfielders Jordan Wilkerson and Marcus Altman and catcher Dawson Sramek. Grasser led the Tigers with 41 runs scored a year ago while turning in a .415 on-base percentage, second best on the team. Wilkerson clubbed 10 home runs and drove in 34 RBI, both ranking second a year ago. Sramek made just two errors behind the dish, posting a fielding percentage of .987.
Ryan Ruder and Tanner Smith return from last year's starting rotation, with the pair combining to start 22 games last season. Ruder led the team among qualified pitchers with a 7.00 ERA, 70.2 innings pitched and 48 strikeouts. Smith posted a 7.33 ERA across 50.1 innings of work, striking out 45 to account for nearly one strikeout per inning (8.05 K/9).
The Tigers will open the season on the road against Northwestern Oklahoma State on Tuesday (Feb. 5) before returning to Larks Park for their first home action the following weekend. FHSU will host New Mexico Highlands for a four-game series beginning Friday, February 8 at 3 p.m.
2019 MIAA Preseason Baseball Coaches Poll
1. Central Missouri (6) - 115 points
2. Central Oklahoma (3) - 107 points
3. Pittsburg State (2) - 102 points
4. Missouri Western - 81 points
5. Emporia State - 80 points
6. Missouri Southern (1) - 67 points
T-7.Lindenwood - 60 points
T-7.Northwest Missouri - 60 points
9. Northeastern State - 38 points
10. Washburn - 34 points
11. Southwest Baptist - 26 points
12. Fort Hays State - 23 points