Defending Valley Champs Open Baseball Season at Belmont
Feb. 17, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
Following a historic season in which the Redbirds won a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title for the first time in program history, Illinois State begins the 2011 campaign with a four-game, non-conference road series at Belmont this weekend (Feb. 18-20), including a Saturday doubleheader. Friday's season-opener is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m., Saturday's doubleheader will begin at 11 a.m., and Sunday's finale is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
The Redbirds return 19 letterwinners from last years' championship team, including seven starting position players and nine pitchers, consisting of the entire weekend rotation and the closer.
"These guys have been through the battles and they know what to expect, and they know what it takes," said second-year head coach Mark Kingston. "We also have guys that have gotten a lot better in the off-season who will push for playing time. Our talented recruiting class will also compete for playing time."
Leading off again this season for the Redbirds will be reigning Valley player of the year, Kevin Tokarski, who set seven ISU single-season records in 2010, including hits (84), runs scored (70), doubles (25), on-base percentage (.538), stolen bases (33), walks (53) and intentional walks (7).
"I'm looking forward to getting back onto the field and giving it everything I've got so we can pick up where we left off last season," Tokarski said.
MVC coaches are expecting the Redbirds to be a contender in 2011, as ISU received the top nod in the Valley Preseason Baseball Coaches' Poll. Also, Tokarski, catcher Matt Mirabal, starting pitcher Corey Maines and relief pitcher Kenny Long were named to the preseason All-Valley team.
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