DSU begins quest for third straight DAC title

The Dickinson State baseball team has began a season in this situation before. The result was the Blue Hawks' first Dakota Athletic Conference championship.

The Dickinson State baseball team has began a season in this situation before. The result was the Blue Hawks' first Dakota Athletic Conference championship.

Now, with just two starting pitchers and three defensive players with starting experience returning, DSU is looking to some fresh faces to help them capture a third straight conference championship.

"We hope we can do it again, but we've got a lot of new faces," Blue Hawks coach Duane Monlux said.

Senior right-handed pitcher Luis Avila will provide a stabilizing presence for the Blue Hawks.

The 6-footer was the DAC pitcher of the year in 2007 and was an NAIA All-Region III first-team selection.


"I'm looking forward to another great season and actually see if I can do a little better than I did last year," said Avila, who was 8-2 with 73 strikeouts and a 1.72 earned-run average.

"It won't hurt."

Neither will having all-Region III first-team second baseman Dan Boudreau, catcher Scott Tulloch and right fielder Nolan Bracken back in the mix. The three are DSU's only returning starters from last season.

Monlux said the team plans to have six junior college transfers in its lineup when the Blue Hawks open their season against St. Francis (Ill.) on Saturday at the Florida Jamboree in Sanford, Fla.

"We've got a lot of question marks," Monlux said. "I think we brought in a pretty solid recruiting class, but you never know until you start playing games how that is going to shake out."

Tulloch makes the transition from part-time catcher and designated hitter to a full-time spot behind the plate.

Last year he drove in 28 runs and batted .285.

"I'm looking forward to the season, keeping in shape and looking forward to catching as many innings as I can," Tulloch said.


Boudreau had a .947 fielding percentage at second base last season and was effective at the plate, batting .345 with 33 RBI and a team-high 13 doubles.

However, some new faces could have bats that help replace All-Americans Ed Warren and Adam Hurlbert - now assistant coaches along with three other former Blue Hawks.

Designated hitter Tony Isbell was the clean-up hitter on Miles Community College's (Mont.) national tournament team last spring and is expected to step into the same spot for the Blue Hawks. He could also see time as a relief pitcher.

Isbell was a first-team all-Mon-DAK pick as a sophomore after hitting four home runs, batting .323 and driving in 41 runs.

Mark Wiley, a 6-2 center fielder, is a transfer from Laney College (Calif.) and is expected to bat leadoff. He hit .358 and had 27 stolen bases last season.

Elsewhere, third baseman Efrain Ruiz brings a strong presence at the plate - he batted .327 with two homers at Gavilan College in California last season - and should slide into the No. 5 spot in the lineup.

Monlux expects sophomore first baseman Tury Escobedo, junior shortstop Richie Gonzalez and junior Dan Fernandez to round out DSU's opening-day lineup.

Avila has confidence in the Blue Hawks' new bats.


"Right now, we're looking pretty good," Avila said. "I've got confidence in my infielders. I know they're going to want to get it done."

After Avila, the Blue Hawks will have a mix of returners and transfers taking the mound.

Senior left-hander Cory Neer is coming off a 6-0 season in which he threw 26 strikeouts and had a 3.63 ERA. Junior right-hander Joe Robinson is coming off a 2-2 season and is expected to see a little more time on the mound.

Some right-handed transfers who are projected to move into starting roles are 6-foot-6 junior Ryan Saunders, 6-foot junior Bryan Visser and 6-4 junior Alex Parrott.

"We've got more depth in our staff than we've probably ever had, just by sheer numbers," Monlux said.

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