The Northern Kentucky University baseball team looks to pick up where it left off last season. After winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament for the second time in three seasons, the Norse have been picked first in the GLVC Coaches poll and are ranked in the top 25 nationally.
The Norse return a strong pitching staff led by All-American Derrik Moeves. Moeves had a 7-4 record with a 1.74 ERA and struck out 102 batters last season.
“Moeves is obviously the best pitcher in the region and the conference,” Norse head coach Todd Asalon said. “He’s our hammer. He’s 1-0 right now and should be 2-0 if we could have scored more runs for him.”
Also returning to the pitching staff is senior reliever Justin Seiter. Seiter recorded nine saves last season and had a 0.75 ERA. Seiter has not pitched yet this season because of tendonitis, but he is expected to pitch during the team’s trip to California over spring break.
“We have the best pitching staff in the conference, and that’s been proven,” Asalon said.
Senior outfielder Alex Frank is the returning leading hitter for the Norse after hitting .290 last season.
Junior catcher Conor McGeehan is the leading returning power hitter for NKU after hitting four home runs last season. Senior Keith Jackson returns, after hitting .288 and driving in 33 runs last season.
NKU will have a much younger and faster team this season. Freshman Jon Back is hitting leadoff and sophomore Kory Lonergan will bat second. Both are expected to use their speed as catalysts for the Norse offense.
In addition to Back, Drew Rushing is another freshman coach Asalon expects to make an impact. Sophomore Jim Volpe pitched for the Norse and has been moved to right field this season.
After going 1-3 in a tournament at the University of West Alabama to start the season, the Norse offense came alive, winning two straight on Feb. 26 playing in Carrollton, Ga.
“We’ve finally had the chance to see live pitching,” Asalon said. “Our hitters have gotten more time in. Our defense was not good during the first week, but improved (while playing in Georgia).”
The Norse will face a tough schedule before they begin GLVC conference play versus SIU Edwardsville on March 19.
The team plays in San Diego and Los Angeles from March 7-10, facing UC San Diego, Cal Poly Pomona and Azusa Pacific.
“UC San Diego was ranked in the top 25 the last time I checked,” Asalon said. “They’re going to be a real tough challenge for us.”
In the conference, Asalon expects challenges from Wisconsin-Parkside and Quincy. NKU will host Parkside for four games on April 2 and 3, and travel to Quincy for a series of games April 30 and May 1.
“Saint Joseph’s could be a surprise team (in the conference),” Asalon said. “They might creep up on some people. Once we get in to conference play and start using wood bats, everything becomes equal.”
The Norse are favored in the conference, but do have some things their coach would like to see worked on.
“We need to make sure to play solid defense,” Asalon said. “We need to keep the strikeouts down, and getting key hits will be important. We need to be able to get those two-out hits.”