EMU Baseball Battering Bigger Foes

Mar 22 2011 in Athletics, Campus by Tim Adkins (admin)

by Jason Idalski

For most Eastern Michigan sports fans, Feb. 19 was a noteworthy day because the Eagles’ basketball teams swept a doubleheader at the Convocation Center—the women beating Northern Illinois and the men beating Jacksonville State. And with the calendar reading February and the amount of snow on the ground, baseball was probably not in the forefront of people’s minds.

But the bigger win for EMU came about 700 miles to the south, as EMU’s baseball team defeated No. 4 ranked Clemson in South Carolina, 7-6, while an announced crowd of 5,407 watched (four times the amount of people that watched the basketball doubleheader).

Commenting on the game, coach Jay Alexander said it was “a hostile environment” and “one of the best college baseball venues I’ve ever been to.”

“It’s electric, but at the same time nerve-wracking,” he said.

The Eagles looked to make an emphatic statement when they led 6-0 after four innings, but Clemson tied it at six before a wild pitch in the eighth brought home Daniel Russell (who went 4-for-4 with the winning run). Corey Chaffins pitched the last three and a third innings for the win.

With top starter Kendall Lewis out for at least a couple months with a stress fracture in his elbow, Alexander’s decision to put Chaffins in the bullpen and use him if they had a chance to win one of the series’ first two games paid off. Lewis’ injury has thrown the pitching staff in flux, and Alexander admitted he has “no idea” what Chaffins’ role will be moving forward.

Eastern showed that the Clemson loss was no fluke when it took two of three from Kansas of the Big 12 a few weeks afterward, winning the last two games of the series by a combined 18-5.

And so, at a time when smaller Northern schools are taking their lumps, travelling to the South to play powerhouses, as of St. Patrick’s Day, EMU has the best record in the Mid-American Conference at 9-6, thanks in part to a win in the second game of the season that has it believing it can beat anybody.

“Our chest is pumped up […] pretty big right now,” Alexander said. “We’re getting help from people that we haven’t gotten help from in the past, which helps out tremendously.”

Among those players is Adrian junior Brent Ohrman (whose numbers right now are “like video game numbers,” according to Alexander) and Russell, a sophomore from Grandville batting third and playing like he wants to keep that role, hitting almost .400. Shortstop Tucker Rubino, a junior from Scottsdale, Ariz., anchors the defense.

Rubino is “one of the unsung heroes that makes our defense tremendously better,” said Alexander. “He has made phenomenal play after phenomenal play.”

As EMU enters MAC play, it looks to erase the bad memories from its MAC tournament exit last year, in which it blew a five-run ninth-inning lead in a 10-inning loss to Kent State.

“I think what last year did was tell us that we need to play every game, all the time,” Alexander said

That’s especially true at home, where the Eagles begin MAC play March 25-27 against Buffalo. Alexander said winning at Oestrike Stadium is very important to him.

“I value home more than I do anything,” he said. “Losing at home, to me, is not an option.”

If Eastern’s roster can play as well as they have at the start of the season, Alexander should have nothing to worry about.

*EMU finished 2nd in the Inaugural Oestrike Classic, with the University of Michigan taking home first place. Currently the Eagles are 11-7 on the season and this past Sunday’s loss snapped a four game win streak. Here are the post tournament awards:

Ron Oestrike Classic All-Tournament Team

Ken Battiston, EMU
Derek Dennis, MICH

C   - Matt Hitt, EMU
1B - Lee Longo, EMU
2B – Todd Dunham, OAK
3B – John Lorenz, MICH
SS – Derek Dennis, MICH
OF - Ken Battiston, EMU
OF – Dan Gliot, OAK
OF – Kyle Henris, ALMA
DH – Mike Carson, OAK

SP – Bobby Brosnahan, MICH
SP - Robert Wendzicki, EMU
RP – Ben Ballantine, MICH

For more info and to follow every pitch of EMU Baseball, visit www.emueagles.com/baseball

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