Editors Note: Story is first of three-part series which will look at each position of the CMU Baseball team entering the 2012 season.
MOUNT PLEASANT - For the Central Michigan baseball program to earn its second Mid-American Conference championship in the last three seasons, the production of its upperclassmen-led pitching staff must be high.
Cooper, a 46th-round pick of the Florida Marlins in last spring's MLB Draft, was an All-MAC selection last season after going 6-3 with a 3.26 earned run average in 91 innings. More impressively, he went 5-2 with a 2.95 ERA in conference play, helping the Chippewas claim their second-straight MAC West Division title.
Though Cooper, Longstreth, Weaver and Dodridge will be mainstays in the starting rotation throughout the season, junior Dietrich Enns will provide the consistency the pitching staff needs as the anchor of the bullpen.
Enns has been lights out in his first two years as a Chippewa, going 13-1 with a 2.41 ERA, striking out 112 batters in 100.2 innings of work. The junior was named to the 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star and All-League teams last summer and has been ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in the nation. He will continue to close games for CMU in 2012, a year after completing the eighth most saves in single-season history with six.
"The value of Dietrich is his ability to lock down and close the game out," head coach Steve Jaksa said. "Whether it takes one or four innings, he has shown us he will do whatever it takes to help us get a win. He is able to erase guys which allows us to win games."
Joining Enns in the bullpen will be a plethora of new faces this season as CMU's staff will include eight players entering their first season in the maroon and gold, comprised of five freshmen, a redshirt freshman, a sophomore junior college transfer and a junior JUCO transfer.
Freshmen Jordan Foley, a 26th-round draft choice of the New York Yankees last spring, and Matt Trowbridge will provide power and command as well as a righty-lefty combination in the middle innings for Jaksa, while redshirt freshman Dylan Rheault is an imposing figure on the mound standing 6-9.
"Dylan brings a lot to our staff as a redshirt freshman," Jaks said. "His stuff has gotten a lot better and his confidence is high. He has started to develop his ability to hold runners and if he pitches to his game plan we feel really comfortable in him to give us some quality innings.
"Trowbridge and Foley are guys that have good, quality arms, but also very good command," Jaksa continued. "They give us matchup advantages that will help us win games. Eventually we consider them starter types, but they will help solidify our bullpen at the beginning of the season."
Junior college transfers, sophomore Kenton San Miguel and junior Patrick Kaminska, will also be looked upon to make an immediate impact in relief for the Chippewas, providing depth as they make the transition to the Division I level.
The Chippewas will highlight two upperclassmen and a redshirt freshman behind the plate, including returning starter senior William Arnold.
Arnold led the Chippewas with 38 runs batted in at the plate in 2011 and was crucial in managing a CMU pitching staff that saw all three of its weekend starters drafted in last spring's MLB Draft. He will look to continue his maturation as a catcher in his final campaign.
"Will has set the bar very high," Jaksa said. "We feel really comfortable with him calling the game and his throwing, blocking and ability to catch the ball has really improved. He has worked hard at becoming more comfortable behind the plate."