Eastern Michigan baseball will begin its spring thaw a little earlier than the rest of us, getting its season under way Feb 19.
“It can’t come any sooner?” said starting pitcher Kendall Lewis, who finished off last season 5-4 in nine starts and 16 appearances. “I wish next week was right now.”
Returning with Lewis on the mound as the Eagles’ 1-2 punch is Corey Chaffins who was second-team All-Mid-American Conference and two-time MAC player of the week in 2009.
Looking to make his first impression on the mound is Brett Cisper, a freshman from Loveland, Ohio. Cisper could fill the role as a starter, or closer.
In Cisper’s senior high school season, he went 8-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 56 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings and held his opponents to a .198 batting average.
“He’s a good pitcher with good stuff,” Lewis said. “He throws hard and has good control.”
The Eagles’ biggest strength is their offense.
“Our lineup 1-9 can hit the ball. We have guys on the bench right now who could start for other teams,” junior Matt Skirving said.
Skirving was named first-team all-MAC last year, with a .348 average and 16 home runs.
“He could be a premier player in the Midwest,” assistant coach Andrew Maki said.
Skirving, among the 15 letter winners from last year’s team, gives the Eagles plenty of reason to believe they can improve on last year’s 25-35 record.
Letter winner and fifth-year senior Andrew Marshall, a catcher, hit 18 homers last season.
“I’m excited for my fifth year,” Marshall said. “I’d like to hit for average, improve on all my stats and push myself to the limits.”
With the core of its lineup returning, Eastern Michigan, 13-14 in the MAC last season, isn’t concerned with the preseason predictions by its coaches. Picked to finish fourth in the West, the team is hardly flattered.
“I don’t put a whole lot of weight on those things,” Skirving said. “We let our play do the talking.”
Coach Jay Alexander, in his second season, and his staff have hammered in some much higher expectations for this veteran group, and the players seem to have bought into them.
“We believe we are in it to win the MAC West,” Maki said.
Eastern will be tested immediately on the road, with its first series against Kansas (ranked No. 33 in the preseason National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division I poll).
“We’re excited to go in and play a solid team right away, and we’re going in expecting to win games right away,” Maki said.