Broncos Open MAC Season

The Western Michigan University baseball team (5-10 overall) opens Mid-American Conference play this weekend (March 28-30), making the trip to Huntington, W. Va., to take on Marshall in a four-game series. Friday's contest begins at 3:00 p.m., Saturday's doubleheader at 1:00 p.m. and Sunday's matinee at 1:00 p.m. All games will be played at University Heights.

Western Michigan went 2-1 at the Butler Classic (March 21-23) in Indianapolis, to earn a share of the tournament title with the host Bulldogs (2-1). Central Michigan and Michigan finished 1-2. The Broncos opened with a 2-1 victory over Central Michigan, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth. Mike Demetral's pinch-hit single with one out drove in both runs. On Saturday, WMU continued its late inning heroics, scoring three times in the eighth and ninth frames to hand Michigan a 6-2 loss. WMU concluded tournament play with a 5-4 loss as Butler's Jared Lowe hit a two-out homer in the 11th.

Butler Classic:

March 21 — WMU 2, CMU 1 *UM 11, BU 5
March 22 — WMU 6, UM 2 *BU 7, CMU 5
March 23 — CMU 12, UM 8 *BU 5, WMU 4 (11)

MAC PRESEASON POLL

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

SCOUTING REPORTS

Marshall (8-11-1) was 3-0 at home going into its series finale today against the Drexel Dragons. The Thundering Herd are involved in a youth movement of sorts, as coach Dave Piepenbrink has 17 underclassmen and two seniors on his roster. Junior OF Francois Larmore poses the biggest threat in the lineup, having slugged a team-best 7 home runs and 16 RBI, while also hitting .304. On the mound, junior RHP Grant Harper (2-3, 5.35) has already made six starts, compiling a team-high 35.1 innings of work. Chris Koutsavlis is the team's top closer, saving two games in 10 appearances.

SERIES HISTORY

WMU and Marshall have not faced each other the last two years. WMU has won 30 of 37 encounters all-time, with the teams last meeting in April, 2000.

COACH FRED DECKER

Fred Decker is in his 28th season at Western Michigan, having compiled a career record of 750-662-6. His 750 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.

QUOTING DECKER

"We know there are going to be tough games this weekend, Marshall plays hard. I've been pleased with our pitching and defense since returning from the spring trip. If we can get our offense going, I think we will be a contender in the conference. We're about as prepared as we can be, we've played pretty good up to this point."

BRONCO NOTEBOOK

After staring the season 0-9, the Broncos have won five of seven contests … WMU starting pitchers have gone at least seven innings in five of the last six games. Fred Decker received a couple of pitching gems last weekend from Pat Misch and Brad Mumma. Misch tossed a complete game, two-hitter versus CMU, fanning six batters while Mumma threw his second straight complete game, allowing no earned runs in the win against Michigan … Decker recorded his 750th coaching victory on Saturday … freshman OF Royce Dickerson registered three RBI in the loss to Butler … Mike Demetral is 4-for-8 at the plate in his last two games … senior OF Tom Fabrizo continues to pace the Broncos with a .357 batting average. After having his hitting streak halted at seven games on Friday, Fabrizo went 5-for-10 over the next two games … the Broncos are fielding at a .970 clip, having committed only 16 errors in 538 chances this year … the Centennial Celebration Game between WMU-UM on May 6 will now start at 4:00 p.m., instead of 3:00 p.m. … WMU encounters Illinois of the Big Ten next week (April 1-2) before returning to Hyames Field for its season opener against Akron on April 4.

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