Courtesy of Concordia University Chicago
RIVER FOREST, Ill. -- The list of honors has come early this year for the Concordia University Chicago baseball team as they prepare for the 2018 season. Leading the way is an opening top-ten ranking in both the D3Baseball.com and the Collegiate Baseball News national polls with the Cougars, 34-13 and a Division III World Series participant in 2017, coming in at number six. The ranking is the highest ever earned by CUC in the first poll of the season, which included a #15 ranking in the D3Baseball.com 2017 opening poll (Jan. 19).
"With the success we had last year winning another conference title, the Midwest Regional and going to our first-ever World Series, we knew that we would be getting some recognition early. When you combine that with the fact we are bringing back 90 percent of our World Series roster, being ranked high was inevitable," said CUC head coach Mike Stawski. "Any coach that says he does not want to be ranked in the preseason is probably not being totally honest. We like having the target on our back. It makes every game that more meaningful."
Bryan VanDuser and Mitch Wilson have also earned preseason All-American honors from D3Baseball.com after winning postseason honors in 2017. VanDuser, a junior who will move back to third base this season, was tabbed a first-team All-American after hitting .418 with 76 hits, 57 runs, five homers, 19 stolen bases and a .502 on-base percentage. Senior second baseman Wilson was named a third-team All-American after a season in which he hit .370 with 68 hits, 49 runs, six homers, 41 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.
"Mitch and Bryan being recognized as the best players at their positions comes as no surprise to our coaching staff," remarked Stawski. "They both have had unbelievable careers since they stepped on campus, and they are both coming off their best season. They were two of the big reasons we went to the World Series last year, and if we are fortunate enough to go back, they will be a big reason why again!"
If the Cougars return to Appleton, WI in late May, it will be a hard-earned trip as, once again. CUC will test themselves against some of the best teams in Division III. Currently, the Cougars have eight opponents on their schedule that are on the D3Baseball.com poll, either in the top 25 or the "also receiving votes" category. They include Concordia University Texas (ARV) on Feb. 24 and Washington University of St. Louis (ARV) on Feb. 25, both to be played at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. The annual trip to Florida will feature contests against St. John Fisher College (#24) on March 5, Ramapo College (ARV) on March 10 and The College of New Jersey (#23) on March 11. The Cougars will also play two games on March 16-17 against the University of St. Thomas (#19) at Wartburg College in Waverly, IA, and doubleheaders at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse (ARV) on March 24 and at the University of Dubuque (ARV) on April 10.