|BG baseball seeks more success|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON, Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Tuesday, 11 February 2014 10:17|
Bowling Green's baseball team is striving to build on last season.
The Falcons won the Mid-American Conference tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.
They return their entire lineup with one exception - pitcher Nick Bruns, who was 6-2 with six saves and a 2.53 earned-run average in 29 games.
"Last season gave us a lot of confidence and we're doing everything we can to get ready and be even better this season," said BG senior first baseman Jeremy Shay, a second-team All-MAC choice.
But BG is hoping to play well from start to finish after finishing 24-31 overall and 13-13 in the MAC for fourth place in the East Division.
The Falcons, though, went 4-1 in the MAC tournament to earn the championship.
BG beat Buffalo in its final regular-season game just to qualify for the MAC tourney.
"The expectations are even higher," said Shay, who led BG with a .330 average last season. He tied for the team lead in home runs with six and was second in runs batted in with 38.
BG is dominated by seniors and juniors, and only one sophomore starts.
"We know every team is going to be coming after us because we have a target on our back after last year," Shay said. "We have to go out and play our best every day and raise the level of our play."
The Falcons open the season this weekend with a three-game series at Belmont.
BG plays 13 straight road games before its five-game spring trip to Florida. The Falcons' first home game is March 18.
Because of the snow, BG won't practice outside until it arrives in Belmont. The Falcons' last outdoor practice was in October.
"We want to keep moving forward and the players are showing confidence, and they're doing everything we've asked of them," said BG coach Danny Schmitz, who is in his 24th season.
Pitching figures to be BG's strength again this season.
BG had a 3.83 earned-run average last season, the first sub 4.00 ERA of Schmitz's tenure and BG's best since 1979.
Seniors Cody Apthorpe (5-5, 3.86) and Mike Frank (5-8, 3.87), and red-shirt freshman Andrew Lacinak are expected to be BG's MAC starters.
Lacinak missed last season after injuring his elbow in 2012 and then having Tommy John Surgery. He had a 2.77 ERA overall in 2012, allowing just one run on six hits in 11 innings in conference games only.
BG's top relievers are seniors Ethan McKenney (3-1, two saves, 1.99) and Ben Singer (1-2, one save, 2.75), and junior Jason Link (1-2, 5.31).
"Our pitching staff was the rock of our program last season, and we're expecting that to continue," Schmitz said.
Defense is the major concern for the Falcons, who made 107 errors in 55 games overall, and 52 errors in 27 MAC games.
BG returns all of its position players, and it hopes the experience of last season will result in a better defense.
"We have to be able to make plays, make the routine plays," Schmitz said. "We've been stressing that and working hard at it."
BG also is striving for a more consistent offense after they scored just 5.1 runs per game and hit .275 last season.
But power has become less of a factor in college baseball, thanks to bat restrictions imposed by the NCAA.
The Falcons hit just 15 homers last season, including six each by Shay and senior catcher T.J. Losby. A first-team All-MAC choice, Losby batted .327 with a team-best 39 RBI.
"We're not going to be a power hitting team," Schmitz said. "Being able to execute offensively, moving runners and playing small ball is huge."
Schmitz pointed out defending NCAA champion UCLA won its national title with pitching, defense and small ball.
BG returns it top top eight hitters from season. Senior center fielder Patrick Lancaster hit .296 and junior shortstop Brian Bien had a .295 average.
"We want to put pressure on the defense and do the little things well, that's how you're successful," Schmitz said.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 23:08|
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