YPSILANTI, Mich. —- All aboard!
The Sunshine Express is leaving the cold and snow covered ground and the gray skies of the north behind and getting as fast as they can to the bright golden sun shining bathing the farmland and seashore of the proud state of South Carolina.
With the threat of warmer temperature facing Eastern Michigan University baseball coach Jay Alexander placed his travel bags into the luggage compartment of the team’s bus and then he took one last look around at the gray and dirty of old snow before getting on board the bus that would take his team to Detroit Metropolitan Airport were a jet plane waits to depart for the Palmetto State.
The Eagles will begin the 2011 baseball season with a three game series against the seventh ranked Clemson University Tigers Friday February 18 at David Kingsmore Stadium.
Eastern Michigan University did win one game against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon but dropped the last game of the series.
The southern road trip will last for 15 days and the Eagles will visit the commonwealth of Kentucky, the state of Tennessee twice , two trips into South Carolina and finally the trip ends in the Sunflower state of Kansas with a weekend series against the Jayhawks.
At this time of the season there is a ray of hope and aspiration for the Eagles who finished the season on a relatively good note. Eastern Michigan University finished the season with an overall record 27-32 and a Mid-American Conference record of 13-14 and tied in fourth place in the West Division good enough for a six seed in the conference tournament played in Chillicothe, Ohio.
The Eagles did not play like a sixth seed, they played inspired baseball but the Eagles lost their bid of an upset by losing and finally giving in to the conference winner Kent State University.
The good showing in the tournament as a stepping stone for Alexander and his team but this year will be a challenge because the Eagles need to find some power in the line up but Alexander is also looking for a reliable starting pitching, he would prefer a crafty left hander but if he needs to he will put his trust in a strong right hander he would except his fate.
The Eagles have 19 letter winners coming back to this year squad, seven are returning pitchers and there will be 12 new players wearing the uniform of the Eagles.
Leading the charge from the hill will be senior right hander starting pitcher Corey Chaffins, he threw 104.1 innings and finished with a record of 4-6 with an era of 6.04 but he lead the conference with 96 strikeouts.
The Eagles offense last season on paper looked like it could not hurt anybody, one coach describe the offense as sneaky quick, they had power to hit the long ball, the Eagles hit 50 home runs last season and a team batting average of .282 which was good for 11th in the conference, University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University led the league with a team batting average of .328.
Alexander is going to have to find somebody to fill the shoes of designated hitter and part time catcher Andrew Marshall, he led his team with 10 homers and a batting average of .320.
Stepping up to the plate with another season of experience had could fill that power will be red shirt junior third baseman Ben Magsig and three year letter winner senior outfielder Zack Leonard.
Magsig appeared in 49 games starting 39 times for Alexander, he hit a respectable .331 and drove in 24 runs. Leonard started 59 games for the Eagles and had 70 hits including 13 doubles and six home runs while batting .306 for Eastern Michigan University.
The Eagles were aggressive at the plate and struck out an eye catching 425 times and only able to work the opposition for 229 walks. Miami University struck out a conference leading 452 times.
College baseball is like any other level of baseball there is a lot of importance to the pitching staff and getting the ball over the plate consistently and the Mid-American Conference style of baseball is in the mainstream but in this league your team must play solid on defense able to run down balls hit into the gap but the play of the infielders must be dependable.
Eastern Michigan University will open the home schedule at the coziest and comfortable baseball stadium in the Mid-American Conference and is the home of the Eagles – Oestrike Stadium on Friday afternoon March 18, 2011 against Alma College the opening game of the Ron Oestrike Baseball Classic.
The opening ceremony of the tournament is schedule to conclude and weather permitting the game’s first pitch will be crossing the plate at 2 p.m.
Alexander is beginning his third year as the baseball coach of the Eagles and he is proven that he is not only a good coach, a good teacher but he is a good man for the program. His team reflects his personality – cool with a sense of style and if the Eagles provide the fans with some key wins then there will be a lot of baseball fans catching the Eastern Michigan University baseball express.
The Eagles did not have any success against the University of Kentucky losing to the Wildcats in Lexington, Kentucky 5-2,Wednesday February 23, 2011 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The weekend series the Eagles visited Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee Tech University in Cooksville, Tennessee February 25-28, 2011. The Eagles won two games against the Golden Eagles improving the record for Eastern Michigan University.
Eastern Michigan University will be going back to South Carolina for a two game series against Presbyterian College beginning Tuesday March 1-2, 2011 in Clinton, South Carolina.
The Eagles offense is lead by outfielder Daniel Russell batting a cool .367 and the power is being supplied by Rob Wendzicki, he has delivered hit two home runs and six runs batted in for the Eagles.
The Eagles have bee too aggressive at the plate they have played seven games and as a team the Eagles have struck out 60 times, the teams .226 batting average has room to improve.
The pitching staff era 6.49 is also an area for improvement the Eagles pitching staff in seven games have struck out 34 times but have given up 39 walks.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.