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EARLY RESPECT: Jimmies tabbed No. 1 in preseason poll

University of Jamestown's coaches and players, including head coach Tom Hager (fourth from left) take in the action facing Valley City State on Sept. 19, 2018, at Jack Brown Stadium. John M. Steiner / The Sun

University of Jamestown baseball coach Tom Hager has more than enough coaching equity to be putting much stock into preseason polls.

Be that as it may, Jimmie baseball earned some major respect Thursday, Jan. 10. Jamestown has been selected by conference coaches to win the Great Plains Athletic Conference baseball championship in 2019, its first season as members of the Sioux City-based GPAC.

The Jimmies garnered four first-place votes and 91 points in the GPAC baseball preseason coaches' poll to earn the poll's No. 1 ranking.

"It means that you've done some things in previous seasons and earned the respect of the coaches that are in your league," Hager said. "We appreciate the fact that other coaches think we have a good program. But at the end of the season, and where you stand then, that's what really counts."

Jamestown is coming off a 45-win campaign in 2018, finishing one win shy of what would have been just the third NAIA World Series appearance in program history. The Jimmies got off to a bit of a rocky start this past fall, playing to a record of 2-3 with a pair losses to Mayville State and a third to Viterbo University (Wisc.).

Both the Jimmies and Mayville State received votes in the preseason NAIA top 25 coaches' poll released Nov. 6. Jamestown is the only GPAC team represented in the national preseason poll.

Northwestern College (Iowa) is the defending GPAC regular-season and tournament champion. Northwestern (19-7), Midland University (16-10), Doane University (15-11), Hastings College (15-11), Morningside College (14-12), Mount Marty College (13-13) and Concordia University (13-13) all played at least .500 baseball in the now 11-team GPAC last season.

"We began practice this week, and we know that we've got to iron some things out from the fall and improve on things throughout the course of the entire spring," Hager said. "We've always said this is a marathon, it's not a sprint, so we are going to try and get better day by day and week by week so we are playing our best baseball at the end of the season."

Jamestown will be returning plenty of experience and depth this spring, led by the program's 14 seniors. Senior center fielder Tanner Roundy had a solid fall, leading the team with eight hits in 18 plate appearances (.444). Senior right fielder/pitcher Kaleb Binstock and senior catcher Zach Zurbrugg each belted a pair of home runs during fall ball, helping the Jimmies slash .304/.398/.475 over the five games.

Binstock and senior Dakota Nelson earned Jamestown's two wins on the pitching mound. Binstock, who spent last summer playing for the Badlands Big Sticks of the Expedition League over in Dickinson, batted .404 and slugged .772 with 12 homers for the Jimmies in 2018.

Jamestown will commence play this spring with five games in Joplin, Mo., in late February, followed with an 11-game road trip to Tucson, Ariz., in early March. The Jimmies have won at least 40 games over each of the previous three seasons, including a program-record 52 victories in 2016.

"It's a credit to our alums and former coaches who have helped get our program to this point," Hager said. "Now we have to continue to get better to take the program to the next level. It's certainly going to be a challenge in the GPAC, but we are excited to see how things go when we begin conference play in mid-March."

Jimmie softball second

University of Jamestown was picked second in the GPAC softball preseason coaches' poll released Thursday. The Jimmies received two first-place votes and 104 total points, 15 fewer than Midland (Neb.).

The Jimmies reached the 2018 NAIA National Championship Opening Round in 2018 and played to a record of 44-10—a new program record for victories in a season. Jamestown is scheduled to begin the 2019 season Feb. 8-9 with games at the Presentation College Dome in Aberdeen, S.D.

2019 GPAC Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

School Pts.

1. Jamestown (4) 91

2. Midland, Neb. (2) 83

3. Northwestern, Iowa (4) 77

4. Doane, Neb. 68

5. Concordia, Neb. (1) 64

6. Morningside, Iowa 61

7. Mount Marty, S.D. 61

8. Hastings, Neb. 41

9. Briar Cliff, Iowa 34

10. Dakota Wesleyan, S.D. 17

11. Dordt, Iowa 12

2019 GPAC Softball Preseason Coaches' Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

School Pts.

1. Midland, Neb. (9) 119

2. Jamestown (2) 104

3. Morningside, Iowa (1) 97

4. Northwestern, Iowa 88

5. Concordia, Neb. 71

6. Doane, Neb. 66

6. Dordt, Iowa 66

8. Dakota Wesleyan, S.D. 57

9. Mount Marty, S.D. 47

10. Hastings, Neb. 37

11. Saint Mary, Neb. 27

12. Briar Cliff, Iowa 13

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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