Finally the weather has started warming up so that it seems almost like baseball weather. Here in Mt. Pleasant, the temps are expected to be in the high 40s and low 50s for the weekend series against Bowling Green and at the end of March, that's about all you can ask for. But enough with the weather, onto a look at this weekends match-ups, including one that could put an early season favorite in a deep hole in their division.
Bowling Green (0-3 MAC) at Central Michigan (1-2 MAC)
Friday, Game 1: Cody Apthorpe (0-2, 4.03 ERA) vs Jordan Foley (4-0, 0.86 ERA)
Saturday, Game 2: Mike Frank (0-4, 3.34 ERA) vs Pat Kaminska (2-3, 5.71 ERA)
Sunday, Game 3: Trevor Blaylock (0-5, 4.21) vs Rick Dodridge (1-3, 2.60 ERA)
This, at least in my opinion, is the most intriguing match-up of the weekend. We have two teams who were picked to finish at the top, or near the top in their divisions, but both teams stumbled last week, with BGSU getting swept aside rather easily by Western Michigan and CMU dropping two of three, including a heartbreaking loss in the opener to Buffalo. You can't win the MAC in the first weeks of the conference schedule, but you sure can lose it, and after this weekend at least one of these teams will find itself in a big hole early in the conference season. For BGSU, they almost need to take two of three to keep up in the MAC East chase. This series should feature some great pitching, so runs may be at a premium, particularly in Friday's game. One interesting note, none of the Falcons scheduled to start this weekend have picked up a win.
Ball State (1-2 MAC) at Kent State (2-1 MAC)
Friday, Game 1: Chris Marangon (1-0, 2.29 ERA) vs Taylor Williams (4-1, 2.09 ERA)
Saturday, Game 2: Jon Cisna (1-1, 3.70 ERA) vs Tyler Skulina (0-3, 6.48 ERA)
Sunday, Game 3: Scott Baker (5-0, 1.88 ERA) vs Casey Wilson (2-2, 4.54 ERA)
The Flashes come in with their pitching coming off a great series against Northern Illinois, giving up only six runs in the three games, and taking two of the three games. Ball State dropped two of three at home against Akron last week, scoring only eight runs in the series. Game one of the series looks like it could be a great match-up between two pitchers with ERA's under 2.30. But the key will be the bats of Kent State, which pounded out 13 runs in the series finale against NIU. Ball State was picked as one of the bottom two teams in the West, and this could be a great chance for Kent State to try and make up the one game deficit it currently sits in. With the series being played at Kent State, I think anything but a sweep would be a disappointment for Kent State fans.
Northern Illinois (1-2 MAC) at Akron (2-1 MAC)
Friday, Game 1: Jordan Ruckman (0-4, 3.44 ERA), vs J.T. Brubaker (0-5, 5.90 ERA)
Saturday, Game 2: Eli Anderson (2-3, 3.20 ERA) vs John Valek (2-3, 5.46 ERA)
Sunday, Game 3: Alex Klonowski (2-4, 4.05 ERA) vs Pat Dyer (0-2, 6.41)
Despite the high ERA that each of the three Zips starting pitcher has, they threw well last weekend, combing for 18 innings, just four earned runs, and four combined walks. For NIU, Ruckman and Anderson well superb in their opening series against Kent State, combining for 16.1 innings, just one earned run, and 18 combined strikeouts. Northern Illinois was picked to finish last in the preseason coaches poll, which could Akron a chance to get out to a very strong start strong start in the conference. For NIU, the bats must improve after getting shutdown over their opening series. But Eli Anderson is the reigning MAC West pitcher of the week, coming off a complete game, six hit shutout, featuring eight strikeouts.
Miami (3-0 MAC) at Toledo (2-1 MAC)
Friday, Game 1: Brooks Fiala (3-2, 2.51 ERA) vs Kyle Shaw (2-3, 4.00 ERA)
Saturday, Game 2: Mac Thoreson (1-3, 7.36 ERA) vs Kyle Slack (1.2, 5.01 ERA)
Sunday, Game 3: Nathan Williams (2-1, 4.23 ERA) vs Ryan Wilkinson (2-1, 3.96 ERA)
Probably the series with the best match-up in terms of early MAC records and one that could see plenty of runs, with Toledo hitting .296 as a team. The Red Hawks woke up in an opening series sweep of Eastern Michigan, knocking out 41 hits and hitting .387 as a team during the series. Ryan Elble is the reigning MAC East player of the week for Miami after hitting .550 last week. In the opening weekend at Ohio, Matt Delewski and James Miglin both went 6-for-14 at the plate. The winner of the series will almost certainly find itself at or near the top of its respective division. The series will be a good test for both teams, who were each selected to finish second in their divisions.
Ohio (1-2 MAC) at Eastern Michigan (0-3)
Friday, Game 1: Jake Miller (1-4, 5.92 ERA) vs Neil Butara (2-2, 3.94 ERA)
Saturday, Game 2: Marck Paliotto (1-4, 5.01 ERA) vs Brian Hill (1-0, 5.09 ERA)
Sunday, Game 3: Connor Sitz (0-3, 7.01 ERA) vs Paul Schaak (1-1, 3.92 ERA)
These two teams struggled mightily in the opening series, Eastern Michigan was swept on the road at Miami, giving up 23 runs in the two game series. Ohio dropped two of three at home to Toledo and is 1-9 in its last 10 games. This series looks like it could be one that features plenty of runs scored, with both teams coming in featuring team ERA's over 5.00. Eastern Michigan comes in second in the MAC in home runs and triples. Ohio has struggled mainly on the mound and as a result has just four wins on the year. The loser of this series will find itself in a deep hole very early in the conference schedule. This series is almost considered a must win for Eastern Michigan, who was picked to finish second in the preseason coaches poll.
Buffalo (2-1 MAC) at Western Michigan (3-0)
Friday, Game 1: Mike McGee (1-3, 4.60 ERA) vs Mike Moyer (3-2, 2.57 ERA)
Saturday, Game 2: Anthony Magovney (3-1, 4.25 ERA) vs Steve Laudicina (1-5, 4.15 ERA)
Sunday, Game 3: Mike Burke (3-1, 3.83 ERA) vs Patrick Borlick (2-1, 1.97 ERA)
This is my favorite match-up of the weekend; two teams who were picked to finish in the bottom half of their divisions, but came out on fire on opening weekend. Western Michigan dominated every aspect of their meeting with BGSU, taking all three games. But more importantly their bats came alive scoring 21 runs in the three games. Buffalo was helped out by a ninth inning rally in its conference opener against CMU and got a tremendous pitching effort from Mike Burke in game three. He tossed a complete game three-hitter, walking just one and racking up 10 strikeouts to take home MAC East Pitcher of the Week honors. Game three of this series is the one to watch, with two great arms in Burke, and Patrick Borlick of Western going, runs will be at a premium. In a series that is sure to be closely contested, Sunday's game could be the difference.
Photos courtesy of cmuchippewas.com and wmubroncos.com