MAC Baseball Weekly Notebook

Updated 5/8/2001

May 8, 2001

*ONE WEEK LEFT, PLENTY AT STAKE:
This coming weekend marks the final week of the Mid-American Conference regular season, and most of the spots in next week's tournament are still up in the air. The only team that has clinched a spot in the tourney is Ball State, which captured the West Division title last weekend.

The Cardinals (19-3) have a two and a half game lead over Bowling Green (17-6) for the right to host the tournament. The Falcons, meanwhile, have a three-game over Kent State (14-9) in the race for the East Division crown. The Falcons' magic number is two.

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. The top two teams from each division automatically qualify for the tourney, with the final two participants having the fifth and sixth best records, regardless of division. The two division winners will also occupy the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the four-day tournament.

*NIU WINS 1,000TH ON SUNDAY:
Northern Illinois won its 1,000th game in school history on Sunday with a 10-0 win at Buffalo. Senior Brad Gavelek struck out a career-high 12 batters and allowed only three hits in the complete game victory. In addition to capturing the record victory, the Huskies also broke two school records. NIU surpassed the school marks for runs scored and hits in a season, while the program's 27 victories are the second most in school annals.

*PAIR VYING FOR HOME RUN RECORD:
Kent State's John VanBenschoten and Marshall's Jason Brooks both have a shot of breaking the MAC's single season home run mark of 25, which was set by Central Michigan's Toby Kominek in 1995. Entering play this week, VanBenschoten has 24 while Brooks is one behind the KSU junior with 23. Brooks, meanwhile, set a MAC mark last weekend for RBIs in a season with 73, bettering the 71 driven in by current Ball State player Matt Wood (1999).

*MORE RECORDS CLOSE TO FALLING:
Miami's Jason Knoedler is also nearing a number of MAC records in his first season in a RedHawk uniform. This week's MAC East Division Co-Player of the Week has 90 hits after a pair on Monday against Dayton, and is five short of breaking Thomas Howard's 94 hits accumulated in 1986 for Ball State. Knoedler, who is only the second player in league history to register 90 or more hits in a season, is also tied for second with 72 runs scored. The junior is four shy of bettering Central Michigan's Greg Lotzar, who scored 75 times in 1985. So far this year, Knoedler has set Miami records for hits in a season (90), runs scored (72) and total bases (156).

*FINAL GAMES AT THEUNISSEN STADIUM:
Central Michigan has a gala celebration planned for this Saturday (May 12) to honor the final season of baseball in the current Theunissen Stadium. The Chippewas host Michigan on Tuesday, then close out the regular season with a four-game series with Toledo. Four former Chippewa coaches (Bill Theunissen, Waldo Sauter, Dave Keilitz and Dean Kreiner) will join current skipper Judd Folske to throw out opening pitches. Formerly known as Alumni Field, the facility was originally built in 1949 and had its named changed in 1986.

*MANFREDONIA ONE OF FEW TO GO DEEP:
Akron's Sean Manfredonia last Wednesday (May 2) became only the third collegiate player in seven years to hit a home run at Cleveland's Jacobs Field. Manfredonia, who is second on the Zips with six home runs, hit the homer off his former team, Cleveland State.

*TWO WINS FOR BG ARE A MILESTONE:
Bowling Green moved a step closer to a couple of school milestones following a 5-2 record last week. With two more victories, the Falcons can set a single season mark for wins with 37, while head coach Danny Schmitz is two victories shy of 300 for his career.

*TOMEY FINDS SUCCESS IN SHORT TIME:
Eastern Michigan sophomore Anthony Tomey had a hand in two of the Eagles' three wins last week, and did it while spending very little time on the mound. Tomey faced two batters and struck out both in notching a save against No. 24 Ohio State. He then faced one batter in the ninth in an 11-11 tie on Friday against Grand Valley State, striking that batter out. Tomey then was credited with the win after EMU plated a run in the bottom half of the inning.

*UT PAIR BATTLING FOR HITTING CROWN:
Toledo has two of the league's top-three hitters in Phil Pilewski and Mitch Maier, and both are also chasing the school record for batting average in a season. Pilewski is second in the MAC in hitting with a .447 average, while Maier is third and hitting at a .441 clip. The Rockets' single season mark for hitting is .426, which was set back in 1979 by Jeff Squires. Neither Pilewski nor Maier were born when the mark was set.

*MAC'S TOP PITCHERS NEARING RECORDS:
Ball State's Bryan Bullington and Ohio's Denny McGee became only the 16th and 17th players in MAC history to record 100-plus strikeouts in one year. The duo are also chasing school marks for strikeouts in a single season.

Bullington, who has 204 career strikeouts in 180.1 innings, is two shy of breaking the school mark, while McGee is five away from setting a record that has stood since 1970. In addition, McGee is 10th all-time in MAC history with 248 strikeouts and is seven short of becoming the school's career strikeout leader.

*KEEPING THE STREAK ALIVE:
This season, 46 players have recorded hitting streaks of 10 games or better, including nine players who have an active streak. The longest streak in the MAC this year was Kent State's John VanBenschoten, who hit safely in 22 consecutive games. Listed below are the players that through May 7 have current hitting streaks of 10 games or more:

Name, School -- Streak
Tony Palazzolo, EMU -- 16
Jason Knoedler, MIA  -- 14
Tony Miller, UT -- 13
Phil Pilewski, UT -- 13
Mitch Maier, UT -- 13
David Barkholz, BG -- 11
Three tied with  -- 10

*UB FINALLY PLAYING AT HOME:
Buffalo has played its share of home games this year, but the Bulls have done it at three different sites. They can now add a fourth to the list as Buffalo opened its home facility at Audubon Park, located across the street from the UB campus. Buffalo played home games at Dunn Tire Park (home of the Buffalo Bisons), Dwyer Stadium in Batavia (home of the Batavia Muckdogs) and Canisius' Demske Complex, where UB hosted the Griffs.

*O'BRIEN STEALS HIS WAY TO SUCCESS:
Kent State sophomore Eric O'Brien stole six bases this past week to become the KSU single-season record holder with 28 swipes. He stole all six bases in the Golden Flashes' 13-12 win over Pittsburgh May 2 at home. It was the second time this season that he has stolen six bases in a single game.

*FALCONS EXPLODE FOR RUNS:
Bowling Green exploded for 29 runs last Tuesday (May 1) in a 29-25 win over Xavier, the team's most runs in one game in 12 seasons. The 54 combined runs are tied for the fifth most in one game in NCAA Division I history, while the 49 hits are the ninth most in NCAA Division I annals.

*VANBENSCHOTEN ON HOWSER LIST:
Kent State junior John VanBenschoten was named on Apr. 26 as one of 20 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, given annually to the nation's top college baseball player. The award is presented by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, in conjunction with the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce. Voting on the award is done by more than the 200-person membership of the NCBWA.

VanBenschoten leads the MAC with a .451 batting average and also paces the conference with a school-record 24 home runs.

*BROOKS REWRITING RECORD BOOKS:
Marshall's Jason Brooks has produced some big numbers offensively this year, and those numbers are turning into records for the senior. His four homers and nine RBIs in the series last weekend with Ohio allowed him to set new school records for home runs in a season (23), home runs in a career (39) and RBIs in a season (73). His 73 RBIs this year also establishes a new MAC record. In addition to school records he has already set, Brooks is on the verge of setting a new season mark for total bases (his 155 in one shy of the old mark) and slugging percentage.

*MISCH TO THE RESCUE FOR WMU:
Western Michigan sophomore Pat Misch won his team-leading sixth victory of the season with a 10 strikeout performance against Toledo. Four of his six wins have come following WMU losses.