The Luther College baseball team has been picked to finish third in the American Rivers Conference preseason coaches' poll released today. The Norse received 46 points and were picked behind last year's regular season champions Coe College (63 pts) and A-R-C Tournament champions Buena Vista University (58 pts).
Head Coach Bryan Nikkel, returns 22 letter winners from last year's team that finished tied for second in the A-R-C with a mark of 15-9, 23-20 overall. Coach Nikkel will need to replace two starters in both the infield and outfield and his top-two starting pitchers from a year ago. Coach Nikkel has posted a record of 130-90 during his five years at the helm of the program.
Sophomore catcher Luke Plunkett (Libertyville, Ill.) headlines the top returners. Punkett batted .352 with 34 rbi last season. He was named first-team all-conference and third-team all-Central Region.
The Norse also return junior first baseman Owen Vander Linden (Dallas, Texas/Parish Episcopal), senior second baseman Kelby Johnson (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South), junior outfielder Joe McKibben (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South) and designated hitter Derek McCready (St. Charles, Minn.), who were all staples in the starting lineup a year ago.
Luther will begin its season Friday, Feb. 21 when it will face St. Olaf College (MN) at US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn. This non-conference double header (2x7) will begin at 9:00 p.m.