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PLAY BALL! 2018 MAC BASEBALL PREVIEW

Kent State was selected to take home the 2018 MAC Baseball Title, the Mid-American Conference announced Thursday. The Golden Flashes received a total of eight first place votes among the league’s 10 head coaches

2018 TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Kent state

  • With a 81-32 record over the last two seasons, Kent State is aiming to once again break through in the post-season after narrowly missing out in 2016 and 2017. The Flashes last made a NCAA regional in 2014 under now-fifth year head coach Jeff Duncan.
  • The Golden Flashes return three of their top five hitters from 2017 in Mason Mamarella (.330), Nick Kanavas (.308) and Tim DalPorto (.304).
  • Once, again, members of the national media think highly of the Golden Flashes coming into the 2018 season. In December, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper ranked KSU 34th in its Pre-season Top 40 poll. The publication also selected pitcher Joey Murray a Second-team Pre-Season All-American.

2. cENTRAL MICHIGAN

  • Steve Jaksa enters his 16th season in charge of the program and returns six position-player starters and most of the top-line pitching from a team that won the Mid-American Conference West Division last season, CMU’s second such title in three years.
  • The Chippewas return nearly all of their top arms in starters Pat Leatherman, Michael Brettell and Tyler Hankins, a 6-foot-9 sophomore left-hander who last season was named the MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year.
  • Daniel Robinson returns to start in right field after a breakout year in 2017, when he hit .305, drove in 39 runs and led the MAC with 22 stolen bases. Cole will likely patrol center field when he isn’t on the mound, and diminutive but speedy Zach Gilles, who started in both left and center in 2017, also returns.

3. Ball State

  • Ball State baseball will have lots of new faces in the field this year. Only three projected starters in the field were starters on last year's team. The new-look Cardinals will have to replace 78.8 percent of their home runs (26 of 33), 61.0 percent of their RBIs (188 of 308) and 60.5 of their runs scored (207 of 342) from a year ago. Senior 2B Seth Freed is the top returnee is each of those categories – 3 HR, 31 RBIs and 39 runs scored.
  • Ball State led the Mid-American Conference in doubles last year (110) and also ranked second in runs scored (342) and triples (17).
  • The Cardinals lost its first six league games a year ago. Ball State then won 14 of their final 18 MAC games to finish tied for second in the MAC West.

4. Ohio

  • Ohio finished with 31 wins a year ago -- including 11 in MAC play, which placed Ohio fifth in the overall league standings. No. 5-seeded Ohio capped an improbable league postseason run by defeating No. 3-seeded Eastern Michigan, 7-4, to clinch the 2017 MAC Championship title on May 28 at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio.
  • Head Coach Rob Smith will look to his pitching staff to be the strength of the '18 squad. Under the watchful eye of Smith, Ohio established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats owned a 4.42 team ERA, which ranked second-best in the league.
  • Another strength of the Bobcats in 2017 was their defense, particularly the play of their infield. Ohio finished 2017 ranked 12th in the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. Junior Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) returns to play first base after a sophomore campaign in which he garnered All-MAC Defensive Team selection.

5. Miami

  • Miami returns a wealth of experience in the infield despite losing Adam Yacek and Steve Sada, who combined to play over 300 games in the Red & White. Redshirt senior Ross Haffey, who has led the team in most of the major offensive categories the last two seasons, returns to his familiar first base position. He has started every game over there for Miami the last two years. Last season, he was a Second-Team All-MAC pick for the second straight year.
  • The outfield also returns a lot of veterans to go with a nice mix of newcomers. Coach Hayden is high on the group in terms of their ability to lead and provide energy, spearheaded by seniors Brooks Urich and Charlie Dauch.
  • The pitching staff is an older group despite having just two seniors in Gus Graham and Jacob Banks. The junior class features 10 players, three of which are first-year JUCO transfers (Jack Corbell, Jon Meyerring and Kyle Wade).

6. Western michigan

  • The Broncos offensively were one of the best in the country last year, ranking 20th in the NCAA in batting average (.308) and set a new school record with 591 hits in a season.
  • Junior Connor Smith returns for his junior campaign after ranking third on the team last season in batting average (.339) and RBI's (35). Smith earned Second Team All-MAC honors for the second straight season.
  • WMU registered six games of at least 10 runs or more last season. WMU scored a season-high 15 runs on May 14 for a 15-7 road victory over Bowling Green.

7. eASTERN miCHIGAN

  • With a senior-laden squad last season, EMU saw its fair share of turnover this offseason to the roster. Entering 2018, EMU has more newcomers (15) than returning letterwinners (13), having lost 14 lettermen from a season ago.
  • The newcomers will be expected to fill big roles in a hurry, as EMU lost six primary position starters from a season ago, as well as six go-to pitchers. In total, EMU returns just 37.5 percent of its at-bats from a season ago, as well as 44.1 percent of its innings.
  • This offseason, fourth-year assistant coach Eric Roof took over as interim head coach of the EMU baseball program after spending the last three as an assistant coach on the Eagles' staff. A full biography for coach Roof can be found on page 8 of the notes.

8. Toledo

  • Toledo returns eight starting position players and 19 letterwinners overall from a season ago. Ninety-three percent of its runs from 2017 were driven in by players returning in 2018.
  • In many areas, 2017 saw the best offensive season for Toledo since 2010. The Rockets hit 39 home runs, 19 triples, and 101 doubles, all of which were the most since 2010. UT's slugging percentage was .377, and its 748 total bases were also the most since 2010.
  • A pair of Rockets will be seeing time at new positions in 2018. Michael Jacob, UT's closer the last two seasons, will move into the weekend rotation with the expectation of being the Friday starter. Riley Campbell, Toledo's primary third baseman in 2017, will make the move across the diamond to be the team's starting second baseman.

9. Northern Illinois

  • The Huskies return four starting pitchers, including Academic All-Mid-American Conference selection William Anderson for his junior season and senior George Faue, who will start in Friday's season opener against Central Arkansas.
  • Along with Faue, sophomore Nate Thomas tosses Saturday's matchup and freshman right-hander Michael Lasiewicz will start in the finale Sunday against the Bears.
  • NIU is picked to finish ninth in the preseason Mid-American Conference poll

10. BOWLING GREEN

  • Falcon head coach Danny Schmitz is set to begin his 28th season at the helm of the Orange and Brown. The active leader within the MAC in wins, Schmitz is just six wins away from 700 for his career.
  • The Falcons are expected to begin the season with an all senior rotation. Kody Brown is making the transition into a starter, while mainstays Zac Carey and Tyler Anderson will again have huge roles within the pitching staff.
  • Offensively, Randy Righter is back for his senior year. Righter hit .305 last season while registering 17 doubles. His doubles total on the season ranked sixth-best all-time in program history.

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