THE TOURNEY FIELD IS SET:
Kent State, which won the MAC overall regular season title and the East Division title with a 20-6 mark, will serve as the host to the league tournament, which runs May 17-20 at Gene Michael Field. Central Michigan, which shared the West Division crown with Ball State, is the second seed based on a better record against Ohio in the tiebreaker formula. The Cardinals are the third seed, while Ohio is fourth and Miami is the number five seed. Making its first-ever appearance in the MAC Baseball Championship is sixth-seed Northern Illinois.
All tournament passes for adults is $16 and $10 for children and senior citizens. Per day tickets for adults is $6 and $4 for children and senior citizens. The league's web site provider, Total Sports, will have a cybercast of all of the action at www.midamconf.com.
TWO-TIME CHAMPION ABSENT:
Two-time defending MAC Tournament champion Bowling Green was not among the six teams to qualify for this year's tournament. The Falcons, who finished 14-12 in league action, dropped 11 of their last 15 MAC contests. Seven of Bowling Green's 12 conference losses came on the oppositions last at-bat.
ANOTHER TITLE FOR KENT STATE:
Kent State won its sixth MAC regular season title on Sunday, and the schools first since 1996. The Golden Flashes, who claimed their first-ever East Division crown, will host the league's postseason tournament for the fifth time, and the first since 1996. Also, Central Michigan won a share of a regular season title for the first time since 1993, sharing it with Ball State, which has had a part of the West Division title since divisions were formed in 1998.
HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST?:
In the 10 previous MAC Baseball Tournaments (11, if one counts a neutral site in 1982), the home team has claimed the tournament title only four times. In 1997 and 1998, Ohio and Bowling Green each won the title on its home field, while Kent State won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993. In fact, the host has failed to make it to the title game in four out of the last five years, including the last two seasons.
BECHARD REACHES ANOTHER MARK:
Kent State senior Jess Bechard added yet another record to his growing list on Sunday. Bechard became the first player in league history to register 300 career hits when he belted a solo home run in Kent State's 6-4 come-from-behind win on Sunday. The second baseman, who has accumulated 302 career safeties, already holds school and conference records for runs scored, doubles, total bases and at-bats.
WHAT A TURNAROUND FOR NIU:
Northern Illinois head coach Dave Schrage orchestrated one of the most incredible turnarounds in league history. The Huskies, who were picked to finish sixth in the West Division, placed third in the regular season with an 11-15 mark, 10 more league wins than last year. Overall, NIU has won 24 games, compared to four in 1999. That represents a 600 percent increase in wins.
MORE TOURNEY BITS:
Kent State is making its league-high eighth MAC Tournament appearance, and its seventh straight. Central Michigan is in the tournament after a two-year hiatus, while Ohio is in for the first time since winning the 1997 championship.
MILESTONE FOR SMITH AND MIAMI:
Miami, the runner-up in each of the last two MAC Tournaments, has posted 35 wins this season, the most since it won 37 games in 1988. The win output is also the most under head coach Tracy Smith's direction as skipper of the RedHawks.
THE NUMBERS GAME AT CMU:
On Saturday, Central Michigan posted its 40th win of the season, marking the first time the program has netted 40 or victories since a 41-19 ledger in 1995. Earlier in the week, CMU head coach Judd Folske won his 300th career game, a 6-2 triumph over Detroit last Tuesday.
FOUR MAC PLAYERS HONORED:
Four MAC baseball players were among 11 student-athletes named to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-District IV Team last Thursday. Capturing the academic honors were Miami's Nate Tekavec (3.29 GPA), Western Michigan's Joe Seestadt (3.25) and Central Michigan's Scott Pieratt (3.50) and Jake Sanborn (3.52). The four players are now eligible to garner GTE Academic All-America status, which will be announced on June 6.
GETTING THE JOB DONE IN MAC PLAY:
While it's hard to overlook the fact that Marshall has three of the league's top home run hitters in Marty Rini (20), Jason Brooks (16) and Eric Pinkerton (12), many probably couldn't answer the following question. Who led the Thundering Herd in batting in league only games? The answer: junior Jason Ricceri at .414, which is tied for third in the league. Ricceri hit six home runs during the season, all of them coming in MAC play. When Marshall began league action, Ricceri was hitting .167, and he used his league play to elevate his overall average at .305.
THE KYES TO OHIO'S SUCCESS:
Ohio junior Ryan Kyes has already equaled or broken all of his previous single season offensive marks, and is one of the reasons the Bobcats are back in the MAC Tournament for the first time since 1997. Kyes is tied for second in the league in hits (78), is third in batting (.400) and tied for third in runs scored (55). He has also tied his career best with 43 RBIs. His runs scored total this season is second all-time in one season at Ohio, while his hits output is third.
BULLISH IN HIS FIRST YEAR:
Ball State's Bryan Bullington, in only his first year as a collegiate pitcher, has quickly become one of the league's future stars. The freshman leads the league in win (9) and is second in strikeouts (90), both of which lead all freshman hurlers. In addition, Bullington is fifth in ERA (3.68) and hitters are batting .206 off of him. In league only contests, he is 5-2 with a 3.35 ERA and has fanned 49 batters in 45.2 innings.
PRESEASON POLL REVISITED:
Below is a comparison of the league's preseason poll, which was released back in February, in relation to where the teams finished at the end of the regular season.
East Division Pick +/-
Kent 3rd +2
Ohio 4th +2
Miami 1st -2
Bowling Green 2nd -2
Akron 5th even
Marshall 6th even
West Division Pick +/-
Central Michigan 3rd +2
Ball State 1st even
Northern Illinois 6th +3
Western Michigan 2nd -2
Eastern Michigan 5th even
Toledo 4th -2
THE NUMBERS GAME, PART II:
Western Michigan head coach Fred Decker will have to wait another season for his next coaching mark. Decker, who completed his 24th season as head coach of WMU, is three wins shy of 700 for his career.