For the Eastern Michigan University baseball team, the 2013 season saw the Eagles miss out on the Mid-American Conference Tournament after losing to the University of Toledo on the last day of the season.
A new year is around the corner and the goal is to get back into the conference tournament and do better than a 26-28 record and 12-15 in the MAC.
The Eagles look solid on defense with nine returning position players and only losing two players.
EMU returns eight pitchers but lost six hurlers. No matter what happened last year and who has returned or graduated, the goals remain the same for the Eagles nine.
“[We hope] to get better every day, put 100 percent effort, and win the MAC championship,” Sophomore left-handed pitcher Devon Bronson said.
Redshirt senior Sam Ott played all 54 games in the outfield last year and led the team in four different offensive categories. Ott was tops in batting average (.327), hits (69), slugging percentage (.469) and tied for first with Lee Longo in RBI (44).
Senior catcher Adam Sonabend made his presence known in the Eagles lineup last year and is looking to do the same this year. Sonabend batted .325 and drove in 38 runs and was solid behind home plate by throwing out 14 potential base stealers in 55 attempts and committing only one error.
Longo and Sonabend were named to the College Sports Madness preseason All-MAC list.
Ott, Sonabend and righties Kristian Calibuso and Steve Weber will be the team captains for the upcoming season.
Weber will come out of the bullpen to start the year after missing all of 2013 to recover from Tommy John surgery.
A new season also means there are some new faces on the roster and also some new coaches.
This year’s Eagles squad features 12 newcomers for 2013.
Incoming freshman right-handed pitcher Sterling Sharp was picked in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves in the 30th round, but elected to attend Eastern Michigan. Other freshman pitchers hoping to take the mound are Sam Delaplane, Layne Gusler, Tyler Russell and Matthew Beaton.
Junior infielder Ty Gilmore transfers to EMU from Central Arizona College. A native of Billings, Mont., Gilmore started his college career at Montana State University and has batted above .300 in his two seasons. Juniors Jake Andrews and Charlie Land are a pair of right-handed hurlers that transferred from Mesa Community College and look to get some innings under their belts this year.
Eric Peterson will serve as the pitching coach for the Eagles after leaving his position as director of baseball operations at Kansas University. Jerry Brown joins the Eagles as a volunteer assistant coach and will work with the catchers and coach first base.
The Eagles will start the 2014 campaign in Clemson, S.C., against Clemson University Feb. 14-16.
The Tigers went 40-22 and expect to rebound after losing out in the Columbia Regional after getting one win against Saint Louis University and a pair of losses versus Liberty University.
Clemson enters the season ranked 16th in the NCBWA preseason poll. Clemson also had the 16th best recruiting class according to Baseball America with two freshmen that were picked in the 2013 MLB draft.
The Tigers will return eight starting position players and five starting pitchers from last year along with three players that were named All-ACC in 2013. Junior right-handed pitcher Daniel Gossett led the team in wins (10), strikeouts (91) and innings pitched (98.1). Senior Shane Kennedy played all of Clemson’s 62 games to lead the Tigers in batting average (.317), runs (47), and stolen bases (22).
“We expect that we’re the same as Clemson if not better,” Bronson said. “I think [the Tigers] will be surprised when we take the field against them.”
Baseball returns to Oestrike Stadium for 2014 Mar. 14-16 as Eastern Michigan faces the Norse of Northern Kentucky University.
The MAC schedule begins Mar. 21-23 with the Eagles hitting the road to the University of Akron.