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Junior Jeff Campbell is coming off a second half last season that saw him hit .347 in the final 24 games.
Baseball season preview: Lineup
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Updated: Saturday 02/27/2014 17:51:22 (ET)
by Mitch Wigness, UND Media Relations
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UNDsports.com takes a look at the 2014 baseball team with a three-part installment leading into North Dakota's season opener on Friday.
Preseason prospectus    |    2014 schedule

As the University of North Dakota baseball team prepares to take the field for the first time this season, we preview the lineup and defensive battles taking place in preseason. UND returns all but two starters in its lineup and has all the makings of having the offense be a strength of the ball club.

"We could really surprise some people with our offense this year," sixth-year UND head coach Jeff Dodson admits. "We have a little bit better team speed. We've had some years in the past where we've had a couple guys in the batting order that had to contruibute in other ways than offense, but this year we're one through nine solid."

The meat of the order remains intact with the corner infield providing a lot of the punch. Junior first-sacker Jeff Campbell, after a Freshman All-America campaign two years ago, got off to a slow start but carried the team down the stretch. He got the batting average up to .271 by season's end and led the team in RBI (43) and tied for the team-lead in dingers (4). He was named to the All-Great West Conference Tournament team after he slugged .625 at the tourney, reaching base 11 times and ending his solid second-half run that saw him up his average 104 points in just the final 24 games.

Manning the hot corner will be junior Ryan Reese. His .313 batting average is highest among returning starters for UND and he slugged .444 last season. He's also solid with the glove, committing just two errors all season while playing both corner positions.

Behind the plate is senior leader Taylor Petersen. He started all 48 games for North Dakota last year, all but just a handful manning the backstop. Petersen whacked a team-high-tying four homers last season while leading the squad in hit-by-pitch and drawing a school-record-tying 38 walks. He finished the season hitting .295 while scoring 38 runs, most on the team.

Elsewhere in the infield, shortstop Tyler Follis enters his junior season after a .303 performance last year. Already the holder of the school's single-season hit record as a freshman, Follis returns to shore up the middle infield. Joining him up the middle will be Daniel Lockhert, who burst onto the scene last year.

Making just 22 starts as a rookie, Lockhert's highlight was a school-record 10 RBI day against NJIT. He clubbed his only homer of the season and added a pair of doubles in that game to help him end the season at .276 with 19 RBI.

Other returners looking to contribute in the infield are Zack Trygstad and Luis Calvo. Trygstad, now in his senior season, has provided versatility by playing first base, catching, playing the designated hitter spot and even a little outfield for UND. He is a solid lefty at the plate, hittting .309 last year with 13 extra-base hits. He sprays the ball well allowing him to rack up a team-best five triples while striking out just 16 times in 152 at bats.

Calvo played in just 11 games, but made four starts down the stretch for UND. He mounted an impressive .438 batting average in his limited time and did not commit an error.

Freshmen Justus Nelson and T.J. Pigeon will provide depth behind the plate for North Dakota behind Petersen and Trygstad.

In the outfield, patrolling center is Jacob Threlkeld. The speedy senior led the club in steals (17) and also had 52 hits to pace the offense. He was an All-Great West Conference Tournament team selection after he generated hits in all four games and tied for the team lead with seven hits.

The corner infield spots will be covered by returners Patrick Riewer, Sam Alt and Matt Wehrli. Riewer made 27 starts, most of the group, and hit .282 last season. Alt hit .255 in his 17 starts while Wehrli smacked a pair of homers and hit .224 in his 22 starts.

Add to the mix some junior-college transfers in Dalton Leuschke and Dalton Parrott along with freshmen Cooper Maas and Axel Twenge ready to find their way into what looks to be a stacked linuep.

"We have a lot of positons that are close to being locked down," Dodson said. "The biggest thing for our guys is just getting as many reps as we can and getting themselves ready to go outside."

They'll finally make that last step Friday when they head to Central Arkansas for four games. They'll play a pair against both host UCA and neutral site opponent Illinois State as they become the final WAC team to open its 2014 campaign.

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