Baseball, softball begin new seasons after barely missing NCAA tournaments
Both the Central Michigan baseball and softball teams return to the field today after coming one game shy of winning two Mid-American Conference championships.
Today, a new journey to the tourney begins when the Chippewas baseball team travels to Louisiana for a season-opening four-game series against Louisiana-Lafayette at “Tigue” Moore Field.
CMU, who will be on the road for their first 16 games, finished last season with a 34-29 record and is the favorite to win the MAC West this season but will need new players to step up in 2013 after the team graduated many and lost the bulk of its pitching staff to the MLB Draft.
"I'm confident that we're going to have guys step up," said head coach Steve Jaksa. "There will be guys with different numbers, different names, but the quality of the players is what will be needed for us to be a championship team. Our ability to play hard every day and work on the little things will be huge."
The Chippewas return senior first baseman Jordan Adams and sophomore second baseman Pat MacKenzie to the lineup, as well as senior ace Pat Kaminska.
Adams is the only returning player who has more than one year of experience. In 53 games last season, he hit .264, drove in 24 runs and hit six home runs.
MacKenzie will also be key. In his freshman season, the second baseman started 43 games, hit .324 and drove in 16 runs.
CMU will start four different pitchers during its series with the Ragin' Cajuns, beginning with sophomore Matt Trowbridge who will get the ball on Friday night. Trowbridge went 3-3 with a 5.45 ERA in 2012.
Kaminska will start the second game of the series. He went 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 2012. Sophomore Jordan Foley (3-3, 8.20) and senior Rick Dodridge (3-6, 5.29) will start the final two games of the series.
"We expect all our guys to pitch well," Jaksa said. "Pat is the most experienced guy we have coming back, but we also have a bit of a different schedule next week so we thought this would be the way to go. We're really happy with how Matt's been throwing. I think he deserves that spot for this week."
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. Saturday features a doubleheader with games scheduled for 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The series concludes on Sunday with the first pitch scheduled for noon.
Softball to New Mexico
CMU softball will start its season with five games this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M., for the New Mexico Lobo Classic.
The Chippewas will begin their schedule today against Bradley. Also attending are the University of New Mexico, Hampton and IPFW. The experienced CMU team is returning to competition hungry to show why it should be considered the best in the Mid-American Conference.
Head coach Margo Jonker said this weekend will be a good chance to play against strong competition and start showing the MAC Chippewas softball.
"No one weekend ever makes or breaks a team," Jonker said. "So,that being said, I think we want to send a message and set a tone for the identity of this year's team. So (this week) is important, but one week doesn’t set the season."
This season, the Chippewas will return a significant number of athletes who have experience winning. The entire pitching and catching staff is returning, including senior standout Kara Dornbos.
The four returning pitchers combined for an ERA of 2.56, ranking third in the MAC and racked up 194 strikeouts. Junior pitchers Chelsea Sundberg and Morgan Yuncker along with sophomore Tricia Graham and junior catcher Cory DeLamielleure will help comprise a tough battery.
In the infield, CMU is fairly young but benefits from the experience of last season. Six starters from last year are headed back to the field, including sophomore shortstop CarolAnn Sexauer, who batted .303 with 14 doubles last season.
"We’re going to be pretty young, but it's an experienced youth," Jonker said. "So, I would say that we are in better shape, and I am very confident in the competitiveness of our infielders and very confident in the ability of our infielders."
The Chippewas have their eyes set on being number one. Last week, they were ranked second in the West in the 2013 MAC preseason poll.
While this might be exciting for some, Jonker said she was not impressed.
"It drives me nuts that we haven’t won the conference in the last few years," Jonker said. "So, I can't stand that aspect. I want to do whatever it takes to win the conference, and I think we have the talent and the ability, but we’re all going to have to kick it in to do that. Everybody is going to have to step up and do their part"