2014 MAC Baseball Preview: Akron Zips

Coach Rick Rembielak will look to turn things around in 2014 - Jeff Harwell

The Zips haven't had a winning season in MAC play since 2005. Will this be the year they turn things around?

The Zips had yet another disappointing season in 2013, finishing the season with a 15-37 record, winning only four games at home. It's actually been a woeful program in northeastern Ohio, but there's plenty to build off of.

Entering his third season as the Zips' head coach, there's a lot of continuity throughout his roster. As far as pitching is concerned, the main Friday and Saturday starting pitchers are JT Brubaker and southpaw John Valek III. In their combined 27 starts and 130.1 innings pitched, they had a 6.28 ERA and a 1.757 WHIP. While it's hard to get get much worse than that, it's good for the Zips fans out there to keep in mind that these two are now entering their sophomore years. Besides, everybody is "allowed" to have a down year, just as long as that year is while they're freshmen, right?

But pitching wasn't the only other hurdle that this team will have to overcome. The bats were very silent last year for the Zips.

Second to Central Michigan, Akron had one of the highest strikeout rates in the Mid-American Conference of 18.6%. Collaboratively, the team's final batting slash line was .245/.319/.316 (average/on-base/slugging). On top of that, they are losing one of their best bats in Jared Turocy. Appearing in 38 games as a senior, he posed a .477 SLG% with 13 stolen bases, it'll be interesting to see who the Zips use as their primary 5-hitter.

Others that weren't able to join the Zips in 2014 include Tyler Begun, Bryan White, Austin Mooney and Sam Trecaso. With not a lot of players leaving, there are some noteworthy players that still remain.

Devan Ahart is a pure hitter that hits from the left-handed side. Leading the team in total bases with 78, he started and played in all but one game for the Zips last year. From 2012-2013, his slash line went from .251/.310/.305 to .295/.351/.377 and reduced his strikeout rate by six percent. More often than not, Ahart batted third in the lineup, and rightfully so. Fans can expect more of the same.

A pair of bullpen pitchers could be looked at to take on a bigger role than they had last year. Closer Trecaso ended his final year as a Zip on a very high note with a 0.74 ERA and four saves in 23 appearances. Zach Beaver and Andrew Fanning are two of the better arms coming back to the bullpen this season, posting 3.09 and 4.60 ERAs, respectively. Combined, they averaged 4.36 K/9 with a WHIP of 1.338. It wouldn't be surprising to see either of them be the go-to arms in the eighth and ninth innings.

Exactly two weeks until the Zips finally see some action and will start off with a road trip to Rock Hill, SC to take on the Winthrop Eagles for a three-game series. After that, the Zips will go to Durham, NC to participate in the Blue Devil Classic, playing against Saint Louis, La Salle and Duke Universities. Before their first home series in mid-March, the Zips will have three-game series on the road against Delaware State, Austin Peay and Cincinnati, and will wrap up their road tour with a Tuesday night matchup against Ohio State.

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