After the Eastern Michigan University baseball team defeated Wayne State University in extra innings, 10-8, on Tuesday, EMU coach Jay Alexander probably had some mixed feelings celebrating a win on the WSU diamond.
After all, it wasn’t that long ago when he was helping WSU (9-10) win games.
Alexander was a shortstop and center fielder for the Warriors from 1993-96, earning All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first-team honors his seniors season, while leading Wayne State in hits, runs scored, stolen bases and batting average.
Accomplished as the Detroit native was as a player for WSU, he might have been more successful as its coach.
Before taking over for Jake Boss in 2008, Alexander was the coach for Wayne State between 2002-08, a tenure that included two GLIAC Coach of the Year honors in ‘05 and ‘06.
“Well, it was tough,” Alexander said of the game. “I had all my players there, all the alumni guys that I recruited were there. They were actually rooting against me for the first time. But after the game there was a lot of hugs and good lucks.
“But, you know, it was tough – tough to go back there in another capacity and sit on the opposite side of the dugout. But, it was also good to see those guys move on and continue to get better.”
The Eagles (8-13) managed to come away with the victory when Zack Leonard hit a two-run double off the wall in the 10th inning.
“It was pretty much all my seniors from when I recruited them,” Alexander said. “So, we knew they were going to play very hard and very well. And we didn’t get pitching down the stretch till the end, so it was a struggle.”
The Eagles traveled to Avon, Ohio, yesterday to play Cleveland State (3-13) and came out with an 8-0 win behind the strong pitching of Steve Weber (1-0). The freshman’s 10 strikeouts and two hits in 7 2/3 innings helped make it two straight victories for EMU, both coming on the road, something with which the team is all too familiar.
Eastern has played 20 of its 21 games in venues other than Oestrike Stadium.
“At first I was just like, ‘No big deal. We do it all the time, other teams do it all the time,’ ” Alexander said. “But, we’ve been on the road so much that we’ve barely been home. It is extremely tough. Guy’s are tired, guys get sick. So, that’s one of the issues when you’re on the road all the time.
“It’s been tough, but it builds character. We’ve gotta go out and play these teams. Our goal, obviously is to win the MAC, but our ultimate goal is to get to the College World Series, and in order to do that we need to go on the road and play these good teams, because every series to get to the World Series is going to be on the road.”
The coach knows how valuable home games are, which made losing to Michigan State last week in a makeup game all the more troubling. EMU lost to MSU, 9-6, at Oestrike Stadium.
“It’s extremely important, and I was extremely disappointed that we let that game against Michigan State at home get away,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate, and I don’t take lightly to losing at home. I think it’s one of those things where you’ve got to have the pride in your place, in your home and protect it. And you’ve got to play the best you’ve ever played at home.”
Luckily for Alexander and the Eagles, after a three-game set with Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y., to open up the Mid-American Conference season, the team plays Michigan in Ann Arbor, then seven straight home games.
“It’s going to be important to play at home and sleep in our own beds, and wake up and just take our time and not travel on the road, but just play,” Alexander said.
“We’re very talented, but we just need to get mentally tougher. I keep telling them, ‘No matter what we wanted to win more games in the preseason, but we didn’t.’ So, now our focus is 100 percent, as it always has been, is on the MAC, and we’re going to put all our efforts and all our energy into winning the MAC and everything else will fall in place after that.”