Bronco Baseball To Begin

Western Michigan University baseball team embarks on its 93rd season of varsity action this week, hitting the road to face the University of Mississippi, the University of Arkansas and Kansas University. WMU's travel schedule (Feb. 28-March 9) coincides with the University's Spring Break period.

Kansas is ranked 21st by Collegiate Baseball while Mississippi is rated 25th by Baseball America.

Fred Decker's squad opens with a three-game series (Feb. 28-March 2) against Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference. Friday's season opener at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field (2,952) begins at 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET.

WMU continues its tour of the SEC when it travels to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas for a pair of games (March 4-5) from Baum Stadium at George Cole Field (3,300). The six-year-old facility with artificial turf was rated as one of the nation's top-three collegiate stadiums by Baseball America.

The Broncos concluded their spring trip with a three-game set against Kansas (March 7-9) at Hoglund Ballpark (2,500) in Lawrence. The Jayhawks recently swept three games against national power LSU on the road.

"We're looking forward to playing two SEC schools and a Big 12 opponent," said Decker, who's entering his 28th season at WMU. "The competition is about as good as it gets to open up the season."

While the Broncos have been practicing indoors the past month, all three opponents have already played competitive games outdoors. By the time the Broncos' season begins Friday, Kansas would have already played 15 games, Mississippi seven games and Arkansas five contests.

Decker says workouts have been going well in preparations for going outside.

"We're about on schedule of where I thought we'd be at this time," he says. "Our pitchers are building their endurance and our hitters are improving with the live pitching they're facing."

Western Michigan returns 14 letterwinners off last year's squad which finished 22-25 overall, and fourth in the MAC West Division with a 12-13 record. This year's team is projected to finish fifth in the MAC West according to the coaches' preseason poll.

Key returnees for WMU include senior lefty hurler Pat Misch (6-2, 95 Ks), a fifth-round draft pick of the Houston Astros last summer. Hard-throwing righty Keith Perez, a Detroit Tigers draft pick who missed last season with injury, along with Brad Mumma (5-4, 4.55 ERA) and J.R. Mathes (39 Ks in 45.2 IP) give the Brown & Gold a formidable pitching staff.

On the field, senior first baseman Chad Tarpley is back after slugging a team-best 15 home runs along with 51 RBI last year to earn All-MAC Second Team honors. Other standouts include senior centerfielder Tom Fabrizio (.314, 48 runs) and shortstop Adam Rosales (.310).

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