First-place Chippewas Face Key Week

MOUNT PLEASANT - Buoyed by outstanding pitching, the Central Michigan University baseball team stormed into first place in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference last week with a three-game sweep at the University of Toledo.

The Chippewas will have little time to enjoy it, though, as they have two big midweek games and three weekend home encounters with perennial MAC power Ball State University.

Central Michigan plays at Oakland University (6-19) on Tuesday (3 p.m.) before hosting the University of Michigan (15-12) on Wednesday (3 p.m.). Ball State plays a three-game set at Theunissen Stadium on Friday-Sunday.

"We had an excellent weekend," said CMU head coach Steve Jaksa of the Toledo series. "We needed more consistency on the mound and we got it. We continued to hit and field the ball well.

"The big key is for us to stay hungry and I can see no reason why we wouldn't. We just have to prepare each week to be ready for the MAC games on Friday."

The Chippewas were prepared last week, winning by scores of 16-2, 3-2 and 8-3 over the Rockets.

Central Michigan has now won five straight and eight of its last nine games to post a 5-1 record in the MAC and a 16-13 overall standard.

Ball State (16-13) is one of two teams tied for second in the MAC West. The Cardinals are 6-3 (.667), the same percentage as Eastern Michigan with a 4-2 mark.

Chippewa hurlers gave up just five earned runs in 36 innings last week for an impressive ERA of 1.25, lowering the team ERA for the season to 5.61.

"We had great pitching at Toledo," said Jaksa. " We had solid outings from all three starters and the guys out of the bullpen threw well, too."

All three CMU starters went at least six innings and none allowed more than three earned runs. T.J. Johnson (3-1) went eight innings and didn't allow an earned run in the 16-2 win while Ty Dunham (1-2) went six and one-third innings and gave up two earned runs in the 3-2 win. Ryan Cremeans (3-1) hurled six frames and gave up three earned runs in the 8-3 triumph.

The Chippewas are also home for MAC action the following week with MAC West foe, Northern Illinois, coming to town.



Pitching Rotation

The Chippewas will throw senior right-hander Jeff Opalewski (2-1, 14.92) on Tuesday at Oakland.

CMU will use as many as four-to-six pitchers against Michigan on Wednesday. The weekend starters against Ball State figure to be T.J. Johnson on Friday, Ty Dunham on Saturday and Ryan Cremeans on Sunday.



Scouting Ball State

The Cardinals are second in pitching (3.93), third in fielding (.968) and sixth in the MAC in hitting (.287).

Mike Sullivan is ninth in the MAC in batting at .393, Marc Franz is 10th at .389 and Brad Miller 15th at .361.

Ryan DeGreeter (3-0) has the top ERA in the MAC at 1.45 while Joe Ness (5-1, 3.52), Mike Johnston (2-3, 3.52) and Andrew Anderson (3-2, 3.92) are among the top 20 pitchers in the MAC.



Series Look

CMU holds a 22-0 lead in the series with Oakland, winning both games at home last year by the scores of 8-6 and 4-3.

Michigan holds a 32-27 lead over the Chippewas. The teams split last season, CMU winning 12-8 and UM claiming a 15-6 victory.

CMU holds a 69-36 lead in the series with Ball State. The Cardinals won three-of-four played in Muncie last season.



CMU Ticket Policy

Tickets for Chippewa home games are $5 for adults and $4 for seniors (55 and over) and youth. Season tickets are $50 for adults and $40 for seniors, youth and CMU staff members.



Used to Winning

Central Michigan University has the winningest program in the Midwest since 1970. The Chippewas have a record of 1,160-615 (.654) in the past 34 seasons while Minnesota is second (.643), Notre Dame third (.635), Michigan fourth (.608) and Ohio State fifth (.606).



MAC's Best

CMU enters 2004 with the best all-time baseball record in the MAC at 475-289-1 (.622). The Chippewas have won 11 titles and two tourney crowns.


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