BGSU baseball opens season in Tennessee

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Bowling Green State University baseball program will kick off the 2023 season this weekend with a trip to Tennessee, playing a three-game series against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.

The Falcons will head into the new campaign with a roster of 35 players, consisting of 17 pitchers, seven infielders, seven outfielders and four catchers.

The Falcons are coming off an 18-34 season in 2022 during coach Kyle Hallock’s second season.

Now in the program’s third year under Hallock, the Falcons will begin with Tennessee Tech, Louisville and Evansville on the road before beginning Mid-American Conference play on March 10 in Athens, Ohio against the Ohio Bobcats.

The home opener for the Falcons is slated for March 15 with a 3 p.m. first pitch against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

“Our players and coaches are looking forward to the start of the 2023 season,” Hallock said. “This preseason has been filled with consistent tests for our players and they have responded by showing positive growth.

“The competitive drive has been consistent and welcomed by everyone in our program day in and day out. This group has a warrior mentality that starts with our older guys and we expect to get after our opponent every time out.

“Our team has the athleticism to match up with anyone on our schedule. The skill we have developed in the practice setting will be put to the test early on with some good teams in our non-conference schedule,” Hallock continued.

“Our ability to play off one another’s skill set as a unit will be a point of emphasis as we move throughout the season. We look forward to seeing the challenges we present our opponent with our style of play offensively, defensively and on the mound.”

Tennessee Tech is coming off a 30-27 record during the 2022 season, going 11-13 within the Ohio Valley Conference. The Golden Eagles won five of their final seven games to close out the 2022 season, averaging over nine runs a game during the stretch.

During their 2022 campaign, Tennessee Tech played just one MAC team, Eastern Michigan, and picked up a series sweep with scores of 13-4, 13-5 and 11-2. Tennessee Tech will be entering their 17th season across two stints under Matt Bragga, a four-time OVC Coach of the Year.

The Falcons and Golden Eagles have met just four times previously in program history with the series even at 2-2 and all four games played in Cookeville. The first meeting came in 1962 with an 18-9 Falcons win in eight innings.

The second meeting was played 40 years later in 2002 with another Bowling Green win, this time in a 10-8 final. Tennessee Tech then won a pair of games during the 2013 season, capturing 10-4 and 8-5 scores.

With a series win, the Falcons would take the lead in the all-time series against Tennessee Tech.

After starting 2022 with a 22-8 win over St. Louis, the Falcons have the opportunity to start back-to-back seasons with a win for the first time since 2015-16.

BGSU won two of three against St. Louis to start the 2022 season. A series win against Tennessee Tech would give Bowling Green a series win to start back-to-back seasons for the first time 2006 and 2007. The Falcons swept Murray State in 2006 before taking two of three from Middle Tennessee State to kick off 2007.

Bowling Green senior catcher Kyle Gurney was listed on the NCAA Division I Baseball Top 50 Catchers Preseason list, coming in at No. 25 and the top ranked backstop in the Mid-American Conference.

Gurney is coming off a 2022 season where he was named Second Team All-MAC and First Team Academic All-America. Gurney played in 51 of BGSU’s 52 games last season and started in all 51.

He led the team in OPS and finished 13th in the conference with a mark of .966 while tying for the team lead, and finishing tied for 15th in the MAC, for home runs with nine.

Bowling Green sophomore outfielder Nathan Archer was also named to a D-I Baseball list, being rated as the No. 70 outfielder, and No. 1 in the MAC, on their Top 150 Outfielders list.

As a freshman, Archer started 50 games for the Falcons and appeared in 51 of the team’s 52 games. Archer finished the season atop the team stats for triples and tied for fourth in the MAC with five.

He also finished fourth in the conference for steals, swiping 20 bases for the Falcons. Over the course of the season, Archer registered two games with three steals, tying for second in the MAC for steals in a single game, doing it against both Akron and Western Michigan.

During the 2022 season, the Falcons put together one of the program’s best offensive seasons during the BBCOR Era, which began in 2011.

During the 2022 season, the team recorded the most RBIs (284), doubles (95), triples (17), home runs (46) and stolen bases (89) over the course of a single season since 2011. The Falcons added their best slugging percentage (.442) and on-base percentage (.367) during the new era as well.

The Falcons also recorded the second-most runs scored (304) and the second-best batting average (.281) since 2011 for the program.

Of the players that helped produce those numbers, BGSU will return their top four hitters, all who hit above .300 on the season. Gurney posted a team-best batting average of .330 with a .542 slugging percentage, followed by Adam Fallon (.325), Nathan Rose (.322) and Archer (.317).

Of the 17 pitchers on the roster for the Falcons, 11 will return with experience. Across the BGSU pitching corps, the combined unit has 194 appearances and 592 innings of work in a Bowling Green uniform.

That includes the return of 2022’s Friday starter Gage Schenk. A year ago, Schenk led all BGSU pitchers in ERA and finished second in strikeouts, just one off of the team lead.

The Falcons will also return Tyler Hays with over 110 innings pitched for BGSU under his belt. Hays made just one appearance last season, but has started all 24 of his outings as a Falcon, including setting the BGSU freshman record for strikeouts with 72 during the 2019 campaign.

The Falcons also add six freshmen to the mix on the mound this season.

The MAC preseason polls were announced Wednesday morning by the conference. The Falcons were picked to finish ninth out of the 11 MAC teams.

Ball State received the most points with 115, followed by Central Michigan (107) and Kent State (96) to round out of the top three. Ball State also received the most votes to win the MAC Tournament.