Eastern Michigan baseball is one month removed from the last time they played, finishing out the 2019 season against Kent State. The Eagles had a 6-21 conference record in a season that featured the young talent that this Eagles team had on the field. Here is a look at the freshman season of Eastern Michigan pitcher Justin Meis.
The stat line for his freshman campaign showed his availability and delivery of consistent innings for the Eagles. He led the team with 58 innings pitched and had three wins on the mound, tied for the lead with Scott Granzotto. Meis also started the most games for EMU with 12.
The profile out of high school was set for Meis to commit and play for the Eagles. He played four years of varsity baseball at Bethel Park High School just outside of Pittsburgh, Penn. Meis has 58 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched in his senior year, including a school record 16 strikeouts in one game.
Meis had the spot in the starting pitching rotation after a week into the season. He came in the game for relief on February 16 against NJIT and started his first game on February 24 against University of Incarnate Word. He pitched five innings in both games with six earned runs and six strikeouts in total.
After his first year at Eastern Michigan, Meis appears to have a bright future.
“Freshman season is a learning experience. You have to have a good attitude, be a good teammate. When your number is called, be ready,“ high school assistant coach John Smolinski said. "There’s ups and downs, it’s a grind, but it’s all worth it in the end."
March had many games out of conference and two conference series against Northern Illinois and Miami. Meis pitched 19 innings and let up 20 runs during the month. He settled in at the start of April with his best performance all season. He closed out the series win against Bowling Green by pitching seven scoreless innings and earning the shutout with Holden Cook in relief. His family from Pennsylvania traveled to see him that weekend and it was where he earned his first collegiate win.
“I thought Justin was outstanding all day,“ head coach Eric Roof said on April 7. “He handled the adversity tremendously.”
Meis won two of the next three games, one at Ball State on April 13 and then a win against Toledo at home on April 28. His April stat line was a 3-1 record on 24.2 innings pitched, 19 strikeouts and 11 earned runs. Meis and the starting rotation had the third best defense around them in the MAC for 2019. EMU had a 0.970 fielding percentage and the third fewest errors with 58.
Smolinski sees the defense as a big part of a pitcher’s success.
“I want a pitcher who isn’t scared to pitch to contact and let the people behind him make the plays. I do think starting pitching is important, but really good defense is better,“ he said. "That being said, you want a staff that’s reliable. Someone that can go out there and set the tone. Can handle tough situations. Those are the characteristics of a good starter.”
Going forward, the Eagles will have returners like Meis, Granzotto and Cook to anchor the rotation. EMU had a young roster with only five seniors leaving. Zachary Owings was drafted to the MLB, so there is opportunity in 2020 for players to step up on both sides of the ball.
Smolinski, who played college baseball in Manchester, Indiana, explained his keys to the game.
“Play the game the right way, do the little things, and you’ll be successful,“ he said. "It comes down to preparation.”