DIVISION RACES TAKE SHAPE:
With four weeks of the Mid-American Conference season remaining, both the East and West Division races are beginning to take shape. Bowling Green, at 11-4, leads the East Division by two and a half games over Marshall (7-5), three games over Kent State (6-5) and three and a half over Miami (6-6).
In the West, Ball State (12-2) has a two-game advantage over Eastern Michigan (10-4), with the two teams facing one another next weekend in Muncie, Ind. The Cardinals also have a three-game lead over Central Michigan (8-4), and last years co-divisional champions will meet May 4-6 in Muncie.
The six-team MAC Tournament will take place May 16-19 at the top seed, which is the team with the best overall conference winning percentage.
HOMERS AND MORE HOMERS:
After hitting 92 home runs the week prior in league play, the number dipped to 57 this past weekend for MAC teams. Bowling Green, the leagues best hitting team at .348, hit 13 homers at Marshall and have hit 32 home runs in its last eight MAC games. The Falcons, however, trail Ohio for the top spot in the league in home runs, 66-57.
VANBENSCHOTEN ON TOP:
Junior John VanBenschoten has led the offensive charge for Kent State this season. VanBenschoten leads Kent State in virtually every hitting category. He ranks first on the team in batting average (.432), runs (32), hits (48), triples (4), home runs (11), RBIs (34), slugging percentage (.847) and on-base percentage (.533).
VanBenschotens name also appears in Baseball Americas Apr. 30 edition as a midseason All-America among the junior class. In addition, he is also on the watch list for the publications Louisville Slugger College Baseball Player of the Year.
HERD ENDS 31 YEAR DROUGHT:
Marshall ended a 31-year streak without a win over Bowling Green when the Thundering Herd defeated the East Division leaders 12-10 last Friday (Apr. 13). Jason Ricceris three-run home run in the eighth gave Marshall the win. The Herds last win over the Falcons was back in 1970.
BULLISH ON THE MOUND:
Ball States Bryan Bullington has been in control of late on the mound. In his last five appearances which span 37.0 innings, the sophomore has tossed four straight complete games -- three of which were nine inning games -- and has fanned 44 while walking only two. Bullington, who leads the league in strikeouts with 75 and is second in ERA (2.79), also appeared as a midseason All-America pick among sophomores, according to Baseball America.
FRESHMAN HURLERS PACE BG:
Bowling Greens 23-10 overall record to date has surprised some early on, especially on the pitching side. The Falcons lost first-team all-MAC hurler and ERA leader Tony Fontana to the MLB Draft last summer, but BGs first-year pitcher have had a major impact to the early season success. Bowling Greens five freshman pitchers -- Ryan Lindquist, Neil Schmitz, Clayton Booth, Kyle Knoblauch and Keith Laughlin -- have a combined 13-5 record.
UAS STEINECK RAISES AVERAGE:
Akron freshman Brady Steineck has used the month of April to raise his batting average after adjusting to the college game. Steineck is batting .395 (15-for-38) in April to raise his average 84 percentage points to .284, which is third among regulars on the Zips.
BAD LUCK FALLS ON BULLS:
Buffalo has had its share of difficult moments this season, its first as a member of the MAC, and last week the Bulls added to the list of heartbreaks. In their non-conference doubleheader with LeMoyne, the Bulls lost both games on walk-off home runs, including a grand slam in the opening contest. It was the fourth time this season that Buffalo has lost games in the opponents final at-bat, and the third time that games were decided on walk-off homers.
EMU BETTERS LAST YEAR:
Eastern Michigans three-game sweep of Toledo last weekend gave the Eagles 10 MAC wins to date, with four weeks left in the schedule. The win total surpassed last years mark of nine. EMU also equaled the home run output from a year ago with 33, including the teams second grand slam of 2001 from Greg Anglin (versus Toledo).
MIAMI TURNS IT AROUND:
After entering the week four games below .500 for the first time in head coach Tracy Smiths four-plus years at the helm, Miami responded by winning all six of its games. The week began with a 7-6 come-from-behind win over Cincinnati where catcher Justin Knoedler was 2-for-5 at the plate with a home run and two RBIs, and threw out two potential base stealers. He then pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his first collegiate victory.
WIN STREAK FOR NIU HALTED:
Northern Illinois won its sixth straight game last Tuesday (Apr. 10) against Mount St. Clare (7-0). The streak is the longest since the school brought the sport back in 1991, while the win was head coach Dave Schrages 40th at NIU. The Huskies had the streak come to an end three days later when they lost a 14-13 game to Western Michigan.
CMUS PICKENS GOING DEEP:
After not hitting a home run in each of his first two seasons and part of a third, Central Michigan junior Scott Pickens has hit four home runs in his last 16 games. His four homers are fourth on the team.
KEEPING THE STREAK ALIVE:
This season, 31 players have recorded hitting streaks of 10 games or better, including eight players who have an active streak. The longest streak in the MAC this year was Kent States John VanBenschoten, who hit safely in 22 consecutive games. Listed below are the players that through Apr. 16 have current hitting streaks of 10 games or more:
Name, School -- Streak
Bryan Scheurer, CMU -- 14
Andi Scheidt, MIA -- 13
Chuck Lombardy, Ohio -- 12
Paul Henry, BSU -- 11
Len Elias, BGSU -- 10
Eric OBrien, KSU -- 10
J.D. Foust, UT -- 10
Phil Pilewski, UT -- 10