Baseball heads to Albuquerque for four-game series with New Mexico

Freshman Infielder Zach Heeke smiles in the dugout after his ejection, April 2 at Theunissen Stadium.

Coming off of a 2-2 start to the season on Opening Weekend, the Central Michigan baseball team has a chance to improve its record with a four-game series this weekend.

The Chippewas (2-2) will take on New Mexico (1-3) from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25 in Albuquerque at Santa Ana Star Field. The game times are 8 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. 

“We are ready to go with what we need to do,” said CMU head coach Steve Jaksa. “We will talk about it when we get there. We are going with the same rotation. We are ready to go.” 

For CMU’s rotation, junior right-hander Michael Brettell (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will throw on Thursday, followed by sophomore left-hander Tyler Hankins (5.40 ERA), junior righty Pat Leatherman (0-1, 4.50 ERA) and sophomore right-handed pitcher Zach Kohn. 

Sophomore infielder Zach Heeke, redshirt freshman catcher Griffin Lockwood-Powell and junior catcher Evan Kratt lead the way for the Chippewas, as all players are hitting .500 or better. 

Heeke is second in the nation with a .788 on-base percentage, behind only freshman infielder Drew Swift from Arizona State, who has an .813 OBP. 

“We had four guys do some outstanding things,” Jaksa said. “Heeke’s on-base percentage was tremendous. As a team, we have to build off each other. We are going to learn what we can do as a team.

“We need to make sure guys don’t get wrapped up in their numbers.”

Last weekend, CMU went 2-2 in the Al Ogletree Classic in Edinburg, Texas, taking down Stephen F. Austin twice and dropping both games to Texas-Rio Grande Valley. 

“We played good defense,” Jaksa said. “There’s some things guys would like to get better. Overall, those are things that other teams aren’t going to try to let you do. We need to execute in every area.”

Scouting Report

The Lobos will go with senior right-hander James Harrington on Thursday against Brettell. New Mexico plans to follow with sophomore righty Justin Slaten (0-1, 9.46 ERA), freshman left-hander Robert Gasser (2.08 ERA) and sophomore right-handed pitcher Cody Dye (0-1, 14.73 ERA) to wrap up the series. 

Throughout the early portion of the 2018 season, New Mexico went 1-3 in the Surprise Tournament in Arizona, topping Cal Poly, but losing twice and once to Oregon State and Gonzaga, respectively. 

The biggest offensive threat for the Lobos through the first four games has been junior outfielder Jeff Deimling. He hit .353, while also adding four RBIs and two runs. 

Another New Mexico top player, junior outfielder Jared Mang, struggled to find success at the plate. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound student-athlete went 3-for-14 at the dish, driving in just one run. 

In the 2017 season, New Mexico won the Mountain West Conference regular-season title. Likewise, the Chippewas took home the Mid-American Conference West Division championship last year. 

Last Meeting

CMU and New Mexico have never met on the diamond. This weekend is the first time the two teams will battle it out. 

“We just need to play, keep playing and stay with the plan,” Jaksa said. “That’s going to be the character of the team, take advantage of what the other team gives you.”