Baseball to start Friday; team hopes for turnaround

The Eastern Michigan University baseball team is looking to make a big turnaround after finishing their 2012 campaign with a 25-31 overall record and 14-13 against Mid-American Conference opponents.

Coach Jay Alexander was very succinct when it came to describing how he plans to look at 2013.

“We’ve got 56 championship games: Game one is a championship game, game two is a championship game … we’re as excited to play Concordia this year as we are to play against Washington State,” Alexander said.

The season starts Friday when they head to Buies Creek, N.C., for a two-day, three-game series against the Campbell University Fighting Camels.

EMU will be playing in games at Washington State University as well as Kansas, Missouri, Cincinnati and Morehead State universities until they have their first set of home games in mid-March, where they will host Northern Kentucky and Butler University in the Oestrike Classic March 15-17.

Other games against teams not in the MAC include Michigan, Concordia, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Purdue.

MAC play begins March 22 when the Eagles will head to Oxford, Ohio
and face off against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks. Other MAC series on the schedule include Ohio, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Kent State, Ball State, Northern Illinois and Toledo.

The MAC tournament starts May 22 in Avon, Ohio.

This EMU roster includes some talented returning players baseball fans should start to recognize.

“I would say that Sam Ott is our best at bat,” Alexander said.

Ott is a junior redshirt outfielder who started and played in all 56 games last season. With a batting line of .293 BA, .399 OBP and .429 SLG, Alexander said Ott is their most “consistent bat.”

Lee Longo is another player who should turn heads for the Eagles.

“Longo’s got game-changing ability,” Alexander said. “I believe we should see 10 plus home runs from him and over .350 or .360 [batting average] for the year, driving in runs [and] leading the team in RBI.”

Longo will be the Eagles’ primary designated hitter for the year, coming off a season where he hit three home runs, 30 RBIs and was third on the team with 57 hits.

“We’ve got a lot of freshmen this year that are going to see a lot of time this year,” Alexander said.

This Eagles roster features nine true freshmen coming from five different states, as well as two from Canada. One notable freshman with a lot of potential is shortstop Nick Rotola.

Rotola, who comes to EMU from the Word of Life Traditional School in Wichita, Kan., set high school records for career extra-base hits, single season stolen base percentage and single-season RBI total.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until March 15 to catch a home game at Oestrike Stadium, but the excitement this team will bring to the fans in the stands, or the hill behind center field, should be worth the wait.

“[Oestrike] is just a fun, family atmosphere,” Alexander said. “You’ll see players diving, you’ll see players running hard … we’re going be doing a lot of stuff this year to wreak havoc; we’re going to be stealing a lot of bases, we’re going to be moving runners over … it’s going to be a lot faster than the slow-paced baseball you’ll see on TV.

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