Tight Finish in MAC West

Western Michigan (23-23 overall, 15-9 MAC) takes aim at its first division title since 1983 when its play host to Ball State in a four-game Mid-American Conference series this weekend (May 16-18) at Hyames Field. The Broncos control their own destiny as they are in a first-place tie in the West with Eastern Michigan, which plays at Ohio.

Ball State is just percentage points behind in third place. WMU concludes its non-conference schedule this Tuesday (May 13), traveling to Northwestern for a 3:00 p.m. start at Rocky Miller Park.

PITCHING ROTATION (subject to change)
LHP — Clark Sterley (2-3, 4.18 ERA, 26 Ks, 47.1 IP)
Ball State:
Game #1 — LHP Brad Mumma (6-4, 3.36 ERA, 70 Ks, 77.2 IP)
Game #2 — LHP Pat Misch (3-3, 4.17 ERA, 41 Ks, 54.0 IP)
Game #3 — LHP Clark Sterley
Game #4 — RHP Keith Perez (5-3, 3.45 ERA, 67 Ks, 70.1 IP)

Western Michigan took a break from MAC action to take on in-state rival Michigan and a pair of Horizon League opponents in Detroit and Wright State. The Broncos defeated Michigan, 6-5, on Tuesday (May 6) to capture the season series (2-0). The Centennial Celebration Game at Hyames drew the largest home crowd of the season (712). WMU suffered a 5-4 loss to Detroit on Wednesday (May 7) and an 8-2 defeat at Wright State on Friday (May 9) — the first back-to-back losses in nearly a month for the Brown & Gold. The WSU series was shortened from four games to two, with the finale on Saturday cancelled because of rain.

Western Michigan is in position to secure its first MAC West Division title since the league split into divisional play in 1998. Ironically, WMU claimed West Division titles in 1982 and 1983 in the only two seasons the MAC sponsored divisional play prior to 1998. While the Broncos have their eye on the West crown, there is also the matter of qualifying for the postseason MAC Tournament, for which WMU is not yet a lock. The top two teams in each division automatically qualify, along with the two teams with the next best conference winning percentage, regardless of division. The six-team tournament will be held May 21-24 and hosted by the top seed. Kent (.800) and Miami (.667) in the East have the best chance of hosting based on their conference winning percentages.

The Brown & Gold take a 4-1 record against Big Ten schools into its Tuesday contest at Northwestern. WMU swept its two-game season series from Michigan, defeated Michigan State, and split a two-game set at Illinois. MAC schools are 17-14 overall against the Big Ten this season.

*Northwestern (24-20) will host WMU in its home finale, where the Wildcats have sported a 11-4 record this season. Junior OF David Gresky owns the team's triple crown with a .327 average, nine home runs and 42 RBI. Among NU's notable wins this season was a 36-10 triumph of Chicago State.
*Ball State (33-17, 14-9) leads the MAC in overall wins (33) under first-year coach Greg Beals. Seven Cardinals are hitting .300 or better with the team average standing at .331. BSU travels to Indiana State Tuesday before heading north to Kalamazoo.

Western Michigan edged Northwestern, 3-2, at Hyames Field last season and leads the all-time series, 28-14-2. The Broncos dropped three of four at Ball State to close the 2002 regular season, but still own a 78-48 advantage in the all-time series.

Fred Decker is in his 28th season at Western Michigan, having compiled a career record of 768-675-6. His 768 wins are the most in WMU Athletics history while his 393 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.

"Northwestern has a good team and it should be a tough challenge for us going into their place. As far as this weekend is concerned, this is where we wanted to be at the start of the season — playing for a division championship. Ball State has been a perennial power in the MAC and still has a shot at winning the title themselves. I know our guys are excited to be involved in the league race going into the final week."

Chad Tarpley moved into sole possession of fifth place on WMU's career home runs list (24) with his team-leading sixth round tripper Friday at Wright State. Tarpley needs one more HR to tie Matt Mieske for fourth place, and is four shy of the school record shared by Jon Toner, Frank Alfieri and Kris Gundrum … senior hurler Keith Perez leads active MAC players with 278 career strikeouts. He is the school's all-time Ks leader, just 15 ahead of teammate Pat Misch … SS Adam Rosales has been caught stealing just once during his career, going 18-for-19 (.947) in two seasons … Tom Fabrizio's .417 batting average ranks seventh-best all-time in school annals and is third-highest among MAC players this season … seven WMU players will be making their final appearance at Hyames Field Sunday on Seniors' Day: RF Tom Fabrizio, 2B Steve Horn, 1B Chad Tarpley, LHP Pat Misch, LHP Shawn Morrison, LHP Brad Mumma and RHP Keith Perez.

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