PLAY BALL! 2017 MAC BASEBALL PREVIEW

When we last left MAC Baseball...

Western Michigan was celebrating its first Tournament title in school history...

Now On to 2017!

ball state cardinals

Ball State Head Coach Rich Maloney
  • Five position starters return from the 2016 squad led by C/1B Caleb Stayton (pictured right). An ABCA/Rawlings All-Mideast Region first team pick last year, Stayton led the MAC in batting average (.377), RBIs (71), walks (42) and on-base percentage (.482).
  • Three other key senior starters are featured in the lineup. OF Matt Eppers is now in his third year starting in the outfield. 3B Sean Kennedy is in his fourth year starting in the infield. He was named to the MAC All-Defensive Team last spring. Finally, SS Alex Maloney is also in his fourth year as a starter. He was among the team leaders in runs scored (48), batting average (.305), doubles (14) and RBIs (32) in 2016.
  • On the mound, RHP BJ Butler is one of the top pitchers in the MAC. He served as the team's closer through much of 2016, but made two key starts at the end of last year. LHP Kevin Marnon was a two-time MAC Pitcher of the Week in 2016. RHP Colin Brockhouse returns after being selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2016 MLB Draft.

BOWLING GREEN FALCONS

Bowling Green Head Coach Danny Schmitz
  • After 12-consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins, Bowling Green finished the 2016 season with a record of 17-37. The Falcons went 7-17 in conference play, which marked the team's lowest win total since 2007. It was an abnormal season for Bowling Green, which missed out on the MAC Tournament for just the second time in the last nine seasons.
  • Riley Minorik (pictured right) returns to second base after a very strong freshman season. Minorik played in 53 games last spring, and was named the MAC's All-Defensive team, recognizing that he was the best defensive second baseman in the conference. The product of Walsh Jesuit High School smacked a team-high four home runs as a freshman, while hitting .245 with 23 runs, 15 RBI and five doubles.
  • Redshirt-junior Tyler Anderson, from Lima, Ohio, will begin the 2017 season as the team's Friday starter. Anderson was a massive bright spot last season, as he stepped into the Friday role for the last three weeks of the season after C.J. Schildt suffered an injury. In those three starts, which were against No. 8 Florida State, MAC champion Kent State, and Buffalo, he combined for 15.2 innings, and allowed just two runs.

BUFFALO BULLS

Buffalo Head Coach Ron Torgalski
  • Buffalo had three pitchers sign pro contracts following the 2016 season, most in program history
  • The Bulls return all three of their weekend starters from a season ago (Alec Tuohy, Charlie Sobeiraski and Shawn Dubin)
  • First Team All-MAC pitcher Alec Tuohy returns for his senior season and will be the Friday starter for UB after going 7-4 with a 2.98 ERA while striking out 69 batters last season.
  • First Team All-MAC performer Vinny Mallaro (pictured) returns for his senior season after tying the UB program record with 13 home runs last season. Finished the season batting .351 with 13 HR, 52 RBI, 42 R, 15 2B and a slugging percentage of .649.
  • Junior Logan Harasta takes over the closer role after leading the team with a 2.33 ERA and three saves while appearing in 25 games and 46.1 innings. Held opponents to .196 batting average against.

central michigan chippewas

Central Michigan Head Coach Steve Jaksa
  • The Chippewas finished 24-27, 12-12 in the MAC last season, going 19-14 in their final 33 games.
  • The Chippewas lost three top-line players to the Major League draft in pitchers Nick Deeg (San Francisco) and Sean Renzi (Chicago White Sox) and shortstop Zach McKinstry (Los Angeles Dodgers), but they return plenty, both on the mound and in the field.
  • Sophomore right-hander Pat Leatherman (pictured right) returns to anchor the rotation after making 15 starts a year ago and finishing 3-4 with a 3.53 ERA. Another hard-throwing right-hander, sophomore Michael Brettell (3-1, 4.50), begins the season as the Saturday starter.
  • CMU will look to junior outfielder Daniel Jipping to provide pop at the plate. Jipping ranked second on the team with a .300 batting average in 2016 and finished with team highs in homers (six) and RBI (42). Steady veteran Alex Borglin (.299, 18 extra-base hits, 27 RBI) also returns.

EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES

Eastern Michigan Head Coach Mark Van Ameyde
  • Coming off a season in which the Eagles made their first Mid-American Conference semifinal appearance since 2011, and came a mere six outs from reaching the championship game, Eastern is ready for a potential breakout 2017 campaign.
  • The Eagles have a solid mix of veterans and newcomers that make up the 2017 squad. Eastern returns six starters from a season ago, as well as eight pitchers, to go along with 11 players in their first season in the Green and White. EMU has nine seniors that will lead the team this season, including three fifth-year players in Marquise Gill, Jordan Peterson, and Mike Mioduszewski.
  • Gill (pictured right), who returns his team-best 58 starts at shortstop a season ago to the lineup. The speedster stole a team-best 35 bags last season, which ranked sixth in the country. He will look to anchor a group that will rely heavily on youngsters.

KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES

Kent State Head Coach Jeff Duncan
  • The Golden Flashes won the regular season title last season after a 20-4 campaign. They finished 44-14 overall, tying the third most wins in program history.
  • Collegiate Baseball ranked Kent State 39th in the nation in its 2017 preseason poll.
  • Despite losing some key faces, veterans Eli Kraus and Zach Willeman will anchor the weekend rotation and will be joined by sophomore Joey Murray who threw a complete game shutout in the MAC Tournament his last time out.
  • In the field, Sam Hurt, Reilly Hawkins, Mason Mamarella, Tim DalPorto, Josh Hollander, Pete Schuler, Dom Iero, Brad Hamilton, Luke Burch and Dylan Rosa all will add in experience. The returners will be aided by a strong contingent of new Flashes.

MIAMI REDHAWKS

Miami Head Coach Danny Hayden
  • Miami brings back three of its four All-MAC performers from a season ago in RHP Cole Gnetz, OF (formerly 2B) Steve Sada and 1B Ross Haffey.
  • The pitching staff returns 96 percent of its innings pitched from last season, including every player who made a start.
  • 21 of the 36 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores.
  • The RedHawks are poised to start three underclassmen on opening weekend at Arkansas (So. RHP Cole Gnetz, So. LHP Zach Spears, Fr. RHP Grant Hartwig).

NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES

NIU Head Coach Mike Kunigonis
  • The Huskies are returning three All-MAC performers in MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year William Anderson (pictured right), All-MAC First Team infielder Brad Wood and All-Defensive first baseman Tommy Hook. Along with Wood and Hook, NIU will have three other position players returning that started over 30 games in Brandon Mallder, Luke Yapp and Carl Russell.
  • -Wood hit .277 in 2016 with 37 runs scored and 17 RBIs with a .958 fielding percentage mainly at second base. Hook finished the season with a .990 fielding percentage at first for the Huskies and also added a .262 batting average with 35 runs scored and 17 RBIs.
  • -Joining Anderson as returners to the NIU starting rotation are senior, Joe Hawks and junior Donovin Sims who combined for 16 starts last season. Anderson finished 2016 with a 5-4 record and a 4.08 ERA, Sims also finished with a 5-4 record and a 4.32 ERA, and Hawks ended last season at 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA.

OHIO BOBCATS

Ohio Head Coach Rob Smith
  • Rob Smith is back for his fifth season as head coach at Ohio and is looking to guide the Bobcats back to the MAC Championship field for the second time in three seasons.
  • Sophomore infielder Rudy Rott is coming off of a freshman campaign in which he batted .319 with 65 hits – including 13 doubles – and drove in 39 runs. He was named to the 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American Team as a first baseman as selected by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
  • Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn (pictured right) has been named to the 2017 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Roehn sported a team-best 2.18 ERA and led the Bobcats with seven saves in 2016, which tied him with Doug Stackhouse (1983) for the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
  • Senior right-handed pitcher Jake Rudnicki moves to the bullpen after tallying a team-high 76 strikeouts in a team-high 14 starts in 2016.

TOLEDO ROCKETS

Toledo Head Coach Cory Mee
  • The Rockets finished last season with a 19-38-1 record and won nine of their last 11 games to make the Mid-American Conference Tournament. UT returns all three of its weekend starting pitchers, its closer and many of the position players from 2016.
  • Leading the Rockets' offense will be junior first baseman Dalton Bollinger and sophomore outfielder Ross Adolph. Bollinger and Adolph return to the lineup after hitting .264 (56-for-212) and .268 (44-for-164), respectively. Adolph was second on the team in runs scored (27) while Bollinger was second on the team in RBIs (29).
  • Junior outfielder AJ Montoya (pictured right) drove in 23 runs and led the team with seven home runs last season and will return to provide a power threat in the middle of the lineup.
  • Senior Steven Calhoun will take the baseball in the season opener. The 6-foot-8 lefty recorded a 6-8 record with a 5.21 earned run average in 15 starts last season.

WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS

Western Michigan Head Coach Billy Gernon
  • The Broncos went 4-1 at the MAC Tournament in 2016, ending in a MAC Tournament Championship and WMU's first NCAA Regional appearance since 1989. WMU became the lowest seed to ever win the MAC Tournament as the No. 7, as the team defeated No. 2 Ball State, No. 3 Miami, No. 6 Central Michigan and No. 1 Kent State in the MAC Tournament Championship.
  • WMU features 12 sophomores this season, headlined by shortstop Connor Smith (pictured right), the first ever MAC Freshman Player of the Year in school history. Smith led team in hits (71), batting average (.336), runs (31) and stolen bases (12) while finishing third in RBI (24) and tied for fourth in doubles (6). He jumped his batting average up to .441 in MAC play, a mark good for second in the conference.
  • LHP Jacob Piechota, a 2016 MAC Tournament team selection, tied for second for most wins in a single season (10) in WMU history last year. Piechota also had three saves and only walked 18 batters in 60.1 innings pitched.

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