It should be a very good year in the MAC with two teams at the top in Kent State and Central Michigan that could compete for an at-large spot if everything goes their way. Behind them are a bunch of solid teams that could help boost the conference status.
Ball State (2017 Record: 30-28, 14-10)
Ball State started the 2017 season with a big win over Maryland, but were just average through most of the regular season. Then they fell flat in the MAC Baseball Tournament going two-and-out.
Middle infielder Seth Freed hit .280 last year with 39 runs scored, 16 doubles, 3 home runs, and 31 RBI. Outfielder Jeff Riedel hit .284 a year ago with 37 runs scored, 15 doubles, 30 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Colin Brockhouse will now be a full-time outfielder after splitting time as a starting pitcher in the past. Head Coach Rich Maloney is expecting big things from him in the lineup this year after a strong fall. Junior college transfer John Ricotta is expected to see time at first base and be an impact bat in the lineup. Drey Jameson is a freshman two-way player that could time in the outfield and on the mound.
Evan Marquardt has all the tools to be a frontline starter on the weekend, but he’s yet to put it all together at the collegiate level. Last year he had a 5.46 ERA in 59.1 innings pitched with 64 strikeouts, but coach Maloney is hoping we see him reach his potential in 2018. John Baker had a 4.28 ERA last year in 61 innings pitched with 62 strikeouts. Nick Floyd posted a 2.81 ERA in 48 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts last year. T.J. Baker was the team’s primary closer last year with a 3.70 ERA in 41.1 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts and 6 saves. Kyle Nicolas was the PBR Player of the Year in Ohio last year and could have an immediate impact on the pitching staff as a freshman.
“Our pitching should be vastly improved, and our speed will be better. (There is an) interesting mix of veteran players and young talent.” – Head Coach Rich Maloney
Bowling Green State (2017 Record: 15-34, 9-15)
It was not a banner year in 2017 for Bowling Green as they won just 15 games overall and missed out on the MAC Baseball Tournament.
First baseman Randy Righter is back after hitting .301 last year with 30 runs scored, 17 doubles, 6 home runs and 29 RBI. He’ll be a middle of the order bat for the Falcons in 2018. Jake Wilson should be back in the outfield after leading the team with a .305 average last year as a freshman, while scoring 19 runs and driving in 31 with 8 stolen bases. He was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox. Jeff Scott and Justin Mott should split time behind the plate. Mott hit .291 a year ago with 22 runs scored in just 110 at-bats. Scott hit four home runs last year and will also see time in the outfield. Neil Lambert and Gama Martinez are both junior college transfers that will compete for time at shortstop. Nick Neibauer and Dylan Dohanos are also newcomers that could have an immediate impact on the lineup.
Tyler Anderson and Zac Carey both started 14 games last year and should return to the weekend rotation. Anderson had a 4.54 ERA in 75.1 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts, while Carey posted a 5.92 ERA in 79 innings pitched with 37 strikeouts. Ben Beutel is a newcomer that is also projected to be a weekend starter in 2018. Kody Brown was solid out of the bullpen last year with a 3.40 ERA in 39.2 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts. Nate Lohmeier was also good out of the bullpen last year leading the team with a 2.51 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts. Brad Croy will be another arm out of the bullpen Bowling Green will be counting on.
“Offensively we will be much better with the additions of Lambert and Martinez. We will be much improved defensively, bringing in two junior college shortstops with plus gloves, which in turn will help our ‘pitch-to-contact’ staff mentality. Our numbers on the mound will improve with the defensive improvement.” – Associate Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Rick Blanc
Central Michigan (2017 Record: 31-28, 12-7)
Central Michigan had a so-so regular season last year, but then won the first two games of the MAC Tournament setting themselves up for a chance to win the championship. However, they dropped two straight to Eastern Michigan and saw their season come to a heart-breaking end.
Outfielder Daniel Robinson started all 59 games last year and was second on the team with a .305 average, 54 runs scored and 22 stolen bases, while also racking up 7 doubles, 1 home run and 39 RBI. First baseman Evan Kratt hit .302 a year ago with 30 runs scored and 30 RBI. Second baseman Jason Sullivan hit .288 last year with 45 runs scored, 14 doubles, 3 home runs and 47 RBI.
Tyler Hankins should be back to lead the starting rotation after posting a 3.83 ERA in 91.2 innings pitched with 51 strikeouts. Pat Leatherman should be back as well after posting a 3.86 ERA in 86.1 innings pitched with 83 strikeouts. Dazon Cole led the team with 16 starts last year, posting a 5.92 ERA in 79 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts. Colton Bradley was the team’s closer last year with a 4.10 ERA in 48.1 innings pitched with 39 strikeouts and 10 saves.
With just about everyone coming back, this could be one of the best pitching staffs in the conference. And there is enough coming back in the lineup for Central Michigan to compete for a MAC championship again.
Eastern Michigan (2017 Record: 27-35, 14-10)
After a win over Missouri to start the season, there wasn’t much excitement for Eastern Michigan until the MAC Baseball Tournament. There they came out of the loser’s bracket after losing their first game to advance to the championship game where they ultimately lost to Ohio 7-4.
Nick Jones is back after hitting .274 with 20 runs scored, 8 doubles, and 30 RBI. He’ll split time on the infield and behind the plate. Infielder Zach Owings hit .273 with 27 runs scored, while another infielder, Max Schuemann, hit .246 with 20 runs scored, 2 home runs, 27 RBI and 9 stolen bases. Devin Hager, John Rensel and Drake Peggs are infielders who could have an impact on the lineup in 2018. Nate Jones and Shane Easter are both newcomers that could see some playing time in the outfield. Luke McGuire is a two-way player that could see some immediate playing time as well.
Brad Allen returns after making 16 starts last year and posting a 4.03 ERA in 91.2 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts. Davis Feldman is back after posting a 4.79 ERA in 47 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts. Eastern Michigan is hoping those two form a solid 1-2 punch in the weekend rotation. Newcomers Jackson Shaver, Nick Porretto and Kolby Dewhirst could also help give the pitching staff a boost.
Eastern Michigan loses their top three hitters and their best pitcher from a year ago, so a lot of players will need to make improvements this year. They’re also hoping to find some depth early with all they lost from last year’s squad.
Kent State (2017 Record: 37-18, 18-6)
It was another great regular season for Kent State winning 35 games and 18 conference games, but they couldn’t seal the deal in the MAC Baseball Tournament losing to Ohio twice.
Center fielder Mason Mamarella returns after hitting .330 last year with 43 runs scored, 5 triples, 26 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Tim DalPorto hit .304 last year playing catcher and third base with 26 runs scored, 8 doubles, 2 home runs and 32 RBI. Right fielder Nick Kanavas hit .308 in just 130 at-bats last year with 7 stolen bases. Middle infielder Josh Hollander hit .295 last year with 28 runs scored and 7 stolen bases. Reilly Hawkins should round out the outfield after hitting .283 last year in limited playing time. Pete Schuler and Brad Hamilton are also expected to be a big part of the lineup. Newcomers that could get significant at-bats include: Kian O’Brian (Jr./2B), Pavin Parks (Jr./3B and RHP), Nick Elsen (Fr./OF) and Greg Lewandoski (Fr./INF).
Eli Kraus should return as the Friday night starter after posting a 2.69 ERA in 93.2 innings pitched with 73 strikeouts. Joey Murray also returns to the weekend rotation after posting an ERA of 1.80 last year in 75 innings pitched with 110 strikeouts. Jared Skolnicki should get a shot to start on the weekend after having a 3.71 ERA in 51 innings pitched last year with 42 strikeouts. Robert Zeigler was dominant mostly out of the bullpen last year with a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched with 38 strikeouts and 5 saves. Connor Wollersheim had a 3.91 ERA in 50.2 innings pitched last year with 46 strikeouts. Austin Havekost and Zach Spangler should also have a big impact on the pitching staff in 2018. Freshman Colin Romel, Ryan Lane and Peyton Deats could see some significant innings this year as well.
Head Coach Jeff Duncan pointed out that they have had a lot of success over the past two years, winning 81 games over that span, but need to finish in the MAC Baseball Tournament. He would also like to see the team be more consistent offensively.
Miami, Ohio (2017 Record: 22-34, 8-16)
The RedHawks started the season just 5-19 and never could recover, missing out on the MAC Baseball Tournament.
First baseman Ross Haffey returns after hitting .338 with 35 runs scored, 13 doubles, 13 home runs and 39 RBI. Middle infielder Landon Stephens hit .287 last year with 21 runs scored, 15 doubles, 4 home runs and 26 RBI. Outfielder Cal Elvers hit .279 in 147 at-bats last year and should have a bigger impact on the lineup in 2018. Center fielder Dallas Hall hit .262 last year with 29 runs scored, 11 doubles, 6 home runs, 23 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Newcomers Parker Massman and Jordan Stephens could have an immediate impact on the lineup.
Nick Ernst had a solid 2.63 ERA last year in 54.2 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts, and could get a spot in the weekend rotation. Baily Martin made seven starts last year and had a 3.62 ERA in 37.1 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts. Shane Smith led the team with 78 innings pitched last year, while posting a 4.38 ERA with 35 strikeouts. Zach Spears struck out 69 batters in 60 innings last year, but struggled with a 5.85 ERA. Andy Almquist had a 5.05 ERA in 41 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts a year ago. Gus Graham posted a 3.94 ERA in 29.2 innings pitched with 27 strikeouts. Newcomers Jack Corbell and Jon Meyerring could see some significant innings in 2018.
Head Coach Danny Hayden would love to see his team cut down on strike outs and deliver more competitive at-bats. He would also like to see more shutdown innings from the pitching staff.
Northern Illinois (2017 Record: 17-38, 11-13)
It was an up-and-down season for North Illinois as they never could find consistency. And then they went two-and-out in the MAC Baseball Tournament to end their season.
Outfielder Scooter Bynum led the team with a .300 average, 38 runs scored and 14 stolen bases last year. He will be an integral part of the lineup as a senior in 2018. Infielder Sammy Vega hit .297 last year with 33 runs scored, 2 home runs, and 28 RBI, while another infielder, Tommy Szczasny, hit .262 with 3 home runs. Jacob Dunham should be back behind the plate after hitting .275 a year ago with 26 runs scored, 3 home runs and 21 RBI. Junior college transfer Hunter Bross should get a chance to start in the outfield and have a big impact on this lineup.
Alex Frankenreider should be back healthy this year and North Illinois is expecting big things out of him after posting a 4.50 ERA last year in 30 innings pitched with 22 strikeouts. George Faue had a 4.28 ERA last year in 54.2 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts. Jake Delabio is expected to be a big part of the bullpen this season. Several newcomers should have an immediate impact on the pitching staff, starting with junior college transfer Tanner Foster. Freshman Matt McCumber and Mike Lasawiecz could have also log some significant innings.
“We believe we have turned a corner with the program going into year three of being here. We believe our arms are more talented than they ever have been here at NIU, and our position players have a chance to be very, very good. This group has a chance to be special.” – Head Coach Mike Kunigonis
Ohio (2017 Record: 31-28, 13-11)
It was not an overly impressive regular season for Ohio, but they played their best baseball down the stretch winning nine of their last 10 games to win the MAC Baseball Tournament. They advanced to the Lexington Regional where they played Kentucky close in game one but lost, and then were eliminated by Indiana.
Michael Klein returns to the lineup after hitting .300 a year ago with 35 runs scored, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 8 home runs and 38 RBI. First baseman Rudy Rott hit .303 last year with 38 runs scored, 14 doubles, 11 home runs and 50 RBI. Four of their top six hitters from last year were seniors – with Klein and Rott being the other two. They will need some others to step up in the lineup if they are going to win some big games again. Aaron Levy is a freshman infielder who could help out right away.
Garry Salisbury will look to lead the weekend rotation after posting a 4.58 ERA last year in 92.1 innings pitched with 75 strikeouts. Klein also returns to the rotation after posting a 3.48 ERA last year in 67.1 innings pitched with 58 strikeouts. Jake Roehn was dominate as Ohio’s closer last year with a 2.28 ERA in 43.1 innings pitched with 48 strikeouts and 15 saves. Freshman Chace Harris and Eddie Kutt have a chance to make an immediate impact on a veteran pitching staff.
“We have a veteran pitching staff returning all three weekend starters and 3-of-5 main bullpen guys. We also return the 3 and 4 hitters in our lineup. Had to replace three infield spots, which will be where we will need the most development throughout the year.” – Head Coach Rob Smith
Toledo (2017 Record: 17-41, 9-15)
It was a disastrous season for Toledo in 2017 as they managed to lose 41 games, but they did pick up a win in the MAC Baseball Tournament between a couple of losses to one-seeded Kent State.
This will be a very experienced lineup with eight returning position players, six of which played every game last year. Second baseman Riley Campbell led the team with a .284 average last year and 12 stolen bases, while scoring 35 runs as well. Dalton Bollinger is a middle of the order bat who hit .280 last year with 31 runs scored, 7 home runs and 40 RBI. Outfielder Brad Boss hit .274 a year ago with 35 runs scored, 5 home run, 25 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Ross Adolph is an exciting player to watch in center field and can do everything. He hit .272 last year with 30 runs scored, 7 home runs, 30 RBI and 9 stolen bases. Matt Hansen (SS) and A.J. Montoya (RF/C) both return as 4-year starters. Head Coach Cory Mee expects a lot of newcomers to have an impact this year despite the veteran-heavy lineup. Freshman Trace Hatfield and Chris Meyers should both see time a third base.
Michael Jacob has been the team’s closer the past couple of years, but is expected to move into the Friday night spot in 2018. He had a 4.10 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched last year with 29 strikeouts and 6 saves. Luke Schaefer was very good out of the bullpen last year with a 2.49 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched with 23 strikeouts. Sam Shutes should return to the weekend rotation after posting a 5.94 ERA in 80.1 innings pitched last year with 52 strikeouts. Kyle Bischoff (FR), Axel Bueter (JUCO), Bryce Davis (Fr.), Billy Todorowski (Transfer), Jacob Youngpeter (Fr.) and John Servello (Fr.) are all newcomers who could see time on the mound.
“We can be an explosive offensive team, but must be more consistent. Improved plate discipline will be key to improved consistency. Group of quality newcomers will bolster pitching staff. As a staff, we must limit the free bases, via walks, hit-by-pitches, and wild pitches. Defensively, limiting the unforced errors will be very important to our overall success. This will be an exciting team to watch.” – Head Coach Cory Mee
Western Michigan (2017 Record: 24-29, 12-12)
After a mediocre season, Western Michigan opened up the MAC Baseball Tournament with a win over three seeded Eastern Michigan. But then they lost to second seeded Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan got their revenge by eliminating the Broncos.
Shortstop Connor Smith should be the leader of this lineup in 2018 after hitting .339 a year ago with 46 runs scored, 11 doubles, 2 home runs, 35 RBI and 8 stolen bases. Outfielder Nate Grys returns after hitting 6 home runs last year with a .302 average, 27 runs scored and 39 RBI. He was also the Great Lakes Summer League Player of the Year this past summer. Infielder Andrew Stone hit .355 in just 107 at-bats last year, while catcher Jesse Forestell hit .276 with 31 runs scored. Freshman Blake Dunn and Sean O’Keefe could have an immediate impact. Dunn is a two-way player, while O’Keefe could see time at catcher and first base.
Jacob Piechota had a big year for Western Michigan in 2016, but took a step back in 2017 with a 5.25 ERA in 70.1 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts. Head Coach Billy Gernon is hoping he bounces back in 2018. Nic Laio has a chance to be in the weekend rotation after posting a 5.32 ERA last year in 44 innings pitched with 36 strikeouts. Jack Szott had a 3.51 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched last year with 15 strikeouts. Jimmy Townsend-Chase started 12 games last season to the tune of a 4.76 ERA in 56.2 innings pitched with 34 strikeouts.
Head Coach Billy Gernon said he is looking for the team to issue fewer walks and improve their strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also said that after a solid season defensively in 2016 with a .978 fielding percentage, they slipped to .969 last year. “Better defense and fewer walks will help us contend for an outright title,” said coach Gernon.
2018 All-MAC Preseason Team
C: Jesse Forestell (Western Michigan)
1B: Ross Haffey (Miami Ohio)
2B: Jason Sullivan (Central Michigan)
SS: Connor Smith (Western Michigan)
3B: Tim DalPorto (Kent State)
OF: Mason Mamarella (Kent State)
OF: Daniel Robinson (Central Michigan)
OF: Jake Wilson (Bowling Green)
DH: Rudy Rott (Ohio)
SP: Evan Marquardt (Ball State)
SP: Nick Ernst (Miami Ohio)
SP: Joey Murray (Kent State)
SP: Pat Leatherman (Central Michigan)
SP: Eli Kraus (Kent State)
RP: Nate Lohmeier (Bowling Green)
RP: Robert Zeigler (Kent State)
RP: Jake Roehn (Ohio)
1B: Randy Righter (Bowling Green)
1B: Dalton Bollinger (Toledo)
DH: Michael Klein (Ohio)
INF: Seth Freed (Ball State)
OF: Scooter Bynum (NIU)
OF: Ross Adolph (Toledo)
SP: Tyler Hankins (Central Michigan)
SP: Brad Allen (Eastern Michigan)
SP: Garry Salisbury (Ohio)
RP: T.J. Baker (Ball State)
Predicted Order to Finish:
- Kent State
- Central Michigan
- Ball State
- Western Michigan
- Eastern Michigan
- Northern Illinois
- Bowling Green