Broncos Prepare for Butler Classic

The Western Michigan University baseball team (3-9 overall) travels to Indianapolis this weekend to take part in the Butler Classic, to be held March 21-23 at Bulldog Park. The Broncos will encounter familiar rivals in Central Michigan and Michigan, along with host Butler.

Fri., March 21 — WMU vs. Central Michigan, 11:30 a.m.
Sat., March 22 — WMU vs. Michigan, 11:30 a.m.
Sun., March 23 — WMU vs. Butler, 3:00 p.m.

Butler Classic:
Game #1 — Pat Misch (0-1, 5.95 ERA, 15 Ks, 19.2 IP)
Game #2 — Brad Mumma (1-2, 5.50 ERA, 16 Ks, 18.0 IP)
Game #3 — Keith Perez (1-1, 4.26 ERA, 14 Ks, 12.2 IP)

Western Michigan took three of four games from Xavier in a non-conference series played in Cincinnati (March 15-16). Fred Decker's squad snapped an eight-game losing streak with a sweep on Friday (4-3, 2-0) for its first wins of the year. WMU split the next day (10-3, 2-3), posting season-highs for runs and hits in the opener. The 10-3 victory marked the 1,600th win in WMU's history.

Bowling Green and Kent State are the favorites to capture the West and East Division titles respectively, according to the Mid-American Conference preseason poll. Voting was conducted by the league's head coaches. Western Michigan was picked to finish fifth in the seven-team West Division behind Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Ball State. The Broncos received one first place vote. Kent State received all 13 first place votes as the favorite in the East. The defending league champions were also chosen as the team to most likely win the MAC tournament, receiving 10 of 12 votes. Ohio and Miami each had a vote. Listed below is the complete poll with first place points in parenthesis, followed by total number of points.

West Division 1. Bowling Green (4) — 78 2. Eastern Michigan (6) — 73 3. Central Michigan (2) — 57 4. Ball State — 56 5. Western Michigan (1) — 53 6. Northern Illinois — 24 7. Toledo — 22

East Division 1. Kent State (13) — 78 2. Miami — 60 3. Ohio — 57 4. Akron — 31 5. Marshall — 30 6. Buffalo — 17

Central Michigan:
The Chippewas (3-7 overall) are scheduled to play at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne on Thursday in a prelude to the Butler Classic. Steve Jaksa's club snapped a five-game skid Sunday with a 9-2 win over Southern Illinois. CMU has been a terror on the base paths, stealing 18 bases in 22 attempts. Friday's tilt will be the first of five meetings between CMU-WMU this season.
Former WMU assistant Rich Maloney has taken over the reigns at Michigan (6-7 overall) after spending seven successful seasons as head coach at Ball State. The Wolverines earned a share of the Winthrop Tournament title with an 8-5 win over Winthrop Sunday. C Jake Fox is off to a fast start, having already amassed seven home runs, 21 RBI and a .377 batting average in 13 games. Michigan's team batting average is an impressive .327.
The host Bulldogs (5-9 overall) entertain crosstown rival Marian College on Wednesday and will have the most games played of any team at the tournament. Head Coach Steve Farley has three pitchers with ERAs under 3.00 in Randy Miles (0.00, 1.2 IP), Josh Rudolfi (1.00, 18 IP) and Luke Behning (2.92, 12.1 IP).

Fred Decker is in his 28th season at Western Michigan, having compiled a career record of 748-661-6. His 748 wins are the most in WMU Athletics history while his 378 conference wins tops the all-time list among MAC coaches. Decker led WMU to the 1989 MAC Championship and West Division titles in 1982 and 1983. He was inducted into WMU's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993. A total of 85 former players have been drafted by MLB.

On the Xavier series:
"It's a step up when you're disappointed you didn't sweep. We still have some things to do on offense. We're trying to put together, piece by piece, a lineup that works for us. Our pitching is starting to fall in order and our defense has been solid."
The Butler Tournament:
"It will be fun to play these teams. There won't be any problem getting our guys up for the games."

Western Michigan received several outstanding performances at Xavier … in the series opener, LHP Pat Misch pitched 6.1 innings before giving way to Zach Straayer, who earned his first Bronco victory … LHP Brad Mumma tossed a complete game, one-hitter while fanning nine in WMU's 2-0 win on Friday … redshirt freshman 3B Mark Abro compiled 5 RBI along with three hits in the 10-3 victory Saturday. His three home runs paces the team. Keith Perez, making his second start, went the distance, striking out seven and allowing just one earned run. In that same game, Mike Demetral went 3-for-4 at the plate in his season debut at the designated hitter spot … 1B Chad Tarpley homered in back-to-back games against the Musketeers, moving into a ninth-place tie with Mark Gerard (1980-82) on the school's career list (20) … SS Adam Rosales saw his seven-game hitting streak halted in the series finale. Meanwhile senior OF Tom Fabrizio has safely hit in seven contests, raising his team-leading average to .357 and his career average to .312 … the Broncos have gone errorless in six games … WMU begins MAC play next week (March 28-30), traveling to Marshall for a four-game set.

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