Written and Media by Anthony Stephenson.
The Saint Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) was established in 1989. To date, the SLIAC is composed of the following ten teams: Greenville, Webster, Spalding, Westminster (Mo.), Fontbonne, MacMurray, Iowa Wesleyan, Principia, Blackburn, and Eureka. All ten of these teams compete in baseball. The past couple of years, Greenville’s baseball team has proven themselves, making it to three straight championships and winning two of them. The top five teams in conference play last year were Webster (18-4), Greenville (16-6), Spalding (16-6), Westminster (14-8), and Fontbonne (13-9).
Coming into this season, Greenville has a bullseye on their back as they are the returning conference champions. Last season, Greenville had an overall record of 30-17 and a 16-6 conference record. The Panthers expect nothing less than to repeat as conference champions. On top of that, they hope to win the regional. Last year, Greenville got a taste of what postseason NCAA baseball is all about, and they are hungry for more.
As of Tuesday, March 6, there hasn’t been much conference play. When conference play gets underway, the top teams to look out for are Spalding, who currently sits at 9-2, Webster, who is checking in at 3-2, Westminster who has only played 3 games but remains undefeated, Fontbonne, who is 5-5, and Greenville, although they have gotten off to a slower start than what many would have imagined at 1-4. Baseball is an uncanny sport where all it takes is a team getting hot at the right time and riding that streak into the conference tournament and potentially into a regional game.
In the SLIAC, there are two divisions composed of five teams each. Spalding, Principia, MacMurray, Greenville, and Blackburn make up the East Division. The West Division includes Westminster, Iowa Wesleyan, Webster, and Fontbonne. Greenville University, just like last year, has been blessed with the opportunity to host the conference tournament. The conference tournament will begin play on May 10 and conclude with one team hoisting the trophy as 2018 SLIAC Champions on May 12. Check out the highlight video of the 2017 SLIAC tournament below.
Going into the season, Greenville and Webster were voted as the preseason favorites. During the voting process, the Panthers received a total of 45 points and eight first-place votes.
Greenville has many strong pieces returning from the season before as they bring back their top two hitters, Travis Ralls and Jesse Getz, on top of four of their five starting pitchers. Last season, Ralls, who is entering his senior season this year, drove in 45 RBI’s while hitting .384 with 9 home-runs. Ralls was named SLIAC Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Second Team All-American roster. Getz, also a senior, drove in 42 runs on the season while hitting .405 with 9 home-runs. Getz was also picked as the conference tournament MVP as well as being named to All-Conference and All-Region.
On the other end of the stick, Webster received 44 total points and seven first-place votes. Like Greenville, Webster has a strong cast of players returning from last year’s team with eighteen players as well as seven starters all in uniform this year. Included in this group of returning players is Ben Dinter, who was a First Team All-Conference outfielder last year. Last year Dinter hit for a .305 on top of hitting five home runs. Head Coach Bill Kurich will rely on him to headline their offense.
With all of this being said, 2018 SLIAC baseball is officially underway and everyone should definitely keep an eye out for who will come out on top as Conference Champions. As stated by Greenville Panther sophomore Grant Carman, “We have the tools to come out on top again this year and make an even deeper run into the postseason than we did last year, but to do that we have to come out and compete every single day.” Keep an eye out for a regular season SLIAC baseball wrap up and preview into the conference tournament.