Here's a quick look at the Prairie Stars entering the 2017 season.
Last season, University of Illinois Springfield hit the fourth most home runs out of 16 baseball teams in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Prairie Stars hit 44 home runs en route to finishing 28-23 overall and 15-13 in the league.
There are three all-conference players on the roster: senior right fielder/left fielder Trey Hannam, sophomore catcher John Sechen and junior first baseman Michael Rothmund.
In the polls
UIS was voted in the GLVC coaches preseason poll to finish sixth out of eight teams in the GLVC East Division.
The Stars went 0-2 at the conference tournament last May.
What coach Chris Ramirez said
"Looking back at the fall, I think we have the chance to once again have one of the better offenses in the GLVC. I think we have a chance to be even more powerful and more run producing offense. Our lineup has a lot more depth than it did last year."
A senior outfielder, Austin Muench is the Stars' leading returning hitter. He hit .350 in 2016, drove in 19 runs and led the team in stolen bases with 10.
"Last year I started off terrible. I got benched early in the season. Then all of a sudden something clicked and I started hitting the ball like I should. Hopefully that keeps going this spring.
Aaron Kuper, a catcher last year, pointed something out. Midway through the season I really started getting in a rhythm."
A senior outfielder, Trey Hannam was a Great Lakes Valley Conference first-team pick last season.
He was among the conference leaders with 12 home runs and RBIs with 44.
"(Last year) We split every (conference) series. We would show up to every conference weekend and win every first game, then we'd have a letdown the second game. I think this year we're going to have better leadership, and be able to keep the tempo and keep the foot on their throats."
Sophomore catcher John Sechen was voted to the Great Lakes Valley Conference second team as a freshman. He had a .462 on-base percentage and hit .346 for the third best batting average on the team.
"Since I'm a catcher, it's highly recommended to do yoga. I'm more flexible than a lot of these guys. I went to a couple of free major league tryouts and I learned from major league tryouts that yoga is a huge deal when you catch because you have to be so flexible behind the plate."
This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on February 25, 2017.
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