Irish On Deck

The Western Michigan University baseball team (11-14 overall, 5-3 MAC) will encounter 2002 College World Series participant Notre Dame, and battle division foe Northern Illinois as part of a five-game docket this week. WMU begins with a Wednesday evening (April 9) contest at 16th-ranked Notre Dame.

First pitch from Frank E. Eck Stadium (2,500) is 5:05 p.m./6:05 p.m. EDT. WMU then plays host to Northern Illinois in a Mid-American Conference series, starting Friday (April 11) at 3:00 p.m. from Hyames Field (4,000). Saturday's doubleheader (April 12) begins at 1:00 p.m. and Sunday's tilt (April 13) at 1:00 p.m. as well. Admission into Hyames Field is free.

PITCHING ROTATION (subject to change)

Notre Dame
RHP Keith Perez (2-2, 5.52 ERA, 30 Ks, 29.1 IP)

NIU series:
Game #1 — LHP Pat Misch (2-1, 3.68 ERA, 28 Ks, 36.2 IP)
Game #2 — LHP Brad Mumma (4-2, 3.48 ERA, 34 Ks, 41.1 IP)
Game #3 — RHP Keith Perez
Game #4 — LHP Clark Sterley (1-3, 4.38 ERA, 15 Ks, 24.2 IP)

LAST ACTION

Western Michigan is off to its best start in MAC play in 11 years, having posted a 5-3 record after two weeks of action. The 1992 Broncos started their MAC campaign 6-2. Fred Decker's squad went 3-3 last week, splitting a pair of games at Illinois (5-2 L, 13-11 W), snapping a five-game losing streak against the Fighting Illini. WMU then split a four-game series against Akron in the Broncos' home opener, which was delayed by a day because of rain. The Brown & Gold won the first game of doubleheaders played on Saturday (2-0 W, 8-7 L) and Sunday (4-1 W, 5-3 L). Saturday's games were played among 30-degree temperatures and snow flurries. Entering this weekend's series, Western Michigan resides in third place in the MAC West. The top two teams in each division will qualify for the MAC Tournament (held at the highest seed) along with the two teams with the next best conference winning percentages, regardless of division.

THE HUNT FOR 600

Western Michigan needs one win to become the first MAC school to record 600 league victories. The Broncos are 599-391-2 in 56 MAC seasons and are tied with Ohio for the most regular season league titles (14). WMU will play in its 1,000th league game May 17 against Ball State.

CHALLENGING SCHEDULE

WMU squares off against its fourth nationally-ranked opponent this Wednesday at Notre Dame. The Irish are ranked 16th by the Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America. During its season-opening spring break trip, WMU took on #25 Mississippi, #28 Arkansas and #17 Kansas. WMU's last victory against a ranked squad occurred against #1 Notre Dame — a 7-6 win on May 2, 2001 in Eck Stadium.

SCOUTING REPORTS

*Notre Dame (20-6) takes an 11-game winning streak into Tuesday's home game against Bowling Green. The Irish have outscored their opponents, 102-45, during the streak, which has included six straight wins by seven or more runs. Head Coach Paul Mainieri, who led ND to a school-record 50 wins last year, has seen his club score 10 or more runs on 10 occasions this season. As a team, the Irish are batting .315.

* Northern Illinois (15-9, 3-1 MAC) has won 11 of 13 games after starting the year with a 4-7 mark. NIU holds down second place in the MAC West with a .750 conference winning percentage. The Huskies' MAC series at Buffalo last weekend was cancelled due to weather. NIU encounters Eastern Illinois Tuesday and Western Illinois Wednesday before traveling to Kalamazoo.

SERIES HISTORY

WMU has won two of its last three encounters against Notre Dame. Last year, the Irish rallied for a 5-4 win in their last at-bat. WMU holds a slim 63-57-1 advantage in 121 prior meetings. NIU took three of four games from WMU last year in DeKalb. The Broncos are 29-13-1 versus the Huskies.

COACH FRED DECKER

Fred Decker is in his 28th season at Western Michigan, having compiled a career record of 756-666-6. His 756 wins are the most in WMU Athletics history while his 383 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 need to get some right-handed hitters in our lineup swinging their bats. We're leaving too many men on base. Our pitching and fielding continue to be solid." We always enjoy going up against Notre Dame. The games the last few years have been close. Northern (Illinois) has two left-handed pitchers who are really tough."

BRONCO NOTEBOOK

Western Michigan was recently listed among "The Top 50 Collegiate Baseball Programs" by USA Baseball in producing national team players ... WMU's 13-11 win over Illinois marked the second triumph over a Big Ten team this season. In March, WMU defeated Michigan at the Butler Classic … senior LHP Brad Mumma tossed his fourth straight complete game in a three-hit shutout of Akron Saturday. Mumma leads the Broncos with four wins, after starting the year 0-2, and earned the team's first save at Illinois … LHP Pat Misch did not pitch last week in order to heal a leg bruise caused by a line drive at Marshall … OF Tom Fabrizio leads WMU with a .391 batting average … this week marks the mid-way point of WMU's season.

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