February 22, 2012

Baseball picked to finish third in GWC preseason poll

NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Northern Colorado Baseball will begin its third season Friday as a member of the Great West Conference when it welcomes North Dakota State to Jackson Field for a Friday-Sunday home series in Greeley.

And the Bears will bring with them to their home opener the No. 3 pick in this year's Great West Conference preseason coaches poll, which was released late Tuesday.

Northern Colorado, which finished second in the Great West regular-season race in 2010 and 2011 before losing in the postseason tournament in each season, earned 46 points in the poll to come in ahead of NJIT (37 points), NYIT (33), Texas-Pan American (24), North Dakota (23) and Chicago State.

Utah Valley, the two-time defending GWC regular-season and tournament champions, was a near unanimous choice to repeat. The Wolverines earned seven first-place votes and took the top spot with 63 points.

Houston Baptist received the other first-place vote and came in second in the poll with 53 points.

"The only spot we're looking for is No. 1, and that's at the end of the season," said Bears coach Carl Iwasaki, who finished 24-32 last season, his first with the Bears. "We talk about that in September [when the players arrive on campus]. We just look at our goal for the end of the season, and that's to contend for the top spot. We've been second the last two years, and this year our expectation is to better that."

Northern Colorado welcomes back in 2012 a roster with a good mix of young and veteran talent. Among its returners will be 17 players who were with Iwasaki in his inaugural run as the Bears' skipper, including Tony Crudo (51 starts last year), Ben Packard (All-GWC Second Team) and Joe Willman (13 starts on the mound last season; 15th in the NCAA in active career wins (27)).

The Bears also welcomed 17 newcomers to the fold this season.

"We have young talent as well as veteran leadership," Iwasaki said. "I've had clubs like this in my years past, and I've found this is the combination for success: Talented youth as well as upperclass leadership. That's a good combination, whether you're in the big leagues or the little leagues."

Free baseball!

College Credit Union has teamed with Northern Colorado Athletics for the 2011-12 athletic season, and, thanks to this partnership admission to all home baseball games during the 2012 season will be free to the public.

Radio plug

Northern Colorado assistant baseball coach Pat Perry is slated to be a guest Friday morning on 104.7 FM The Pirate. He will join Big Daddy Matt  "The Big Kahuna"  and George Gray during the 7 a.m. hour.