MOUNT PLEASANT - In a season full of high expectations and goals, the Central Michigan baseball program turned around its season over the last 20 games and finished just one win away from winning a Mid-American Conference Tournament title.
The Chippewas won 16 of their last 20 games, including a season-long 10 straight from April 29 to May 13, to finish 34-29 overall and 17-10 in the MAC. Their season came to an end in the MAC Tournament championship versus eventual College World Series qualifier Kent State. The 30-win campaign marked the third-straight for the Maroon and Gold and the seventh in 10 years under head coach Steve Jaksa.
"We had a lot of things fall into place and we started to click on all cylinders down the stretch," Jaksa said. "We made some changes defensively and on the mound which ultimately made us a very solid club. As we pitched better, we played better defensively and finished very strong."
Among those changes was moving junior Dietrich Enns from the closer's role to the starting rotation and replacing him with senior right-hander Jon Weaver. Both players excelled in their new roles, with Enns going 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA in four starts and Weaver finishing the season with a 1.98 ERA and seven saves out of the bullpen.
Adding Enns to a staff that featured First-Team All-MAC selection Zach Cooper and junior Pat Kaminska, the Chippewas' weekend rotation went a combined 9-3 over the last 20 games of the season. The solidified staff combined with an offense that finished 58th in the country by scoring 6.1 runs per game ultimately led the squad to the MAC Tournament title contest versus the Golden Flashes.
After dropping the first contest of the tournament to Eastern Michigan, CMU went on to win four-straight by defeating Toledo, avenging its loss to EMU on a walk-off home run by senior Nate Theunissen and taking down Miami twice to advance to the championship.
The Chippewas' tournament run was due in large part to the players that will key to the success of the program moving forward. Juniors Jordan Adams and Rick Dodridge each earned All-Tournament Team honors as Adams led all players with 18 total bases by racking up three doubles and two home runs and Dodridge tossed his first career complete-game shutout to help CMU defeat Miami, 7-0, and advance to the finals.
"We have a good group of guys coming back next year to accomplish what we want to accomplish within our program," Jaksa said. "Our team is hungry and we have a good relationship with this group. The whole recruiting component of bringing in 14 guys will also be key and it is a credit to my staff and what they do on the road. This is a great place to play baseball and it continues to show."
The Chippewas will have to replace 11 players from the 2012 squad as nine seniors depart and two players - Enns and junior Jordan Dean - were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Dean (15th round - Detroit Tigers) and Enns (19th round - New York Yankees) joined Cooper (15th round - Philadelphia Phillies), Weaver (21st round - Tampa Bay Rays) and senior Ryan Longstreth (40th round - Detroit Tigers) to make up the most student-athletes selected in one draft in program history.
"Players are accomplishing what we told them they would when we recruited them," Jaksa said of his five draftees. "Only one of them was drafted before coming to CMU. We play in a great stadium and against a national schedule, giving our players every opportunity to become a better player. It doesn't happen for everybody, but to have five drafted says a lot about the tradition and state of this program."
The play of senior outfielders Tyler Hall and Sam Russell was also key to the Chippewas' success on both sides of the ball. After missing the first 20 games of the season, Hall returned and finished the season with a .327 batting average and 14 extra-base hits from the top of the lineup to earn second-team All-MAC honors. Russell started every game for the second-straight season, finishing second on the team with 14 doubles and finishing tied for 10th in program history with 39 two-baggers.
CMU will also have to replace the program's all-time hit king in Theunissen, who finished his prestigious career in the maroon and gold ranked first in at-bats (804) and hits (256), second in doubles (53) and games played (219), third in runs batted in (183), extra-base hits (83) and total bases (397) and tied for seventh in home runs (27).
Five position players that started at least 25 games will return in 2013 in Adams, Nick Regnier, Pat MacKenzie, Tyler Huntey and Tom Lally, while the Chippewas also return key pitchers in Kaminska and rising sophomores Sean Renzi, Dylan Rheault, Jordan Foley and Matt Trowbridge.
News and Notes
- Dean finished the season ranked 10th in Division I with 96 hits and 25th with 62 runs scored. His 96 hits were also the second most in program history. The junior also set a new CMU record with 275 at bats.
- Cooper's 98 strikeouts were the seventh most in single-season history and ranked 44th in the country. He also threw the third most innings in CMU single season history with 108.1. The senior finished his career ranked third in strikeouts (270), sixth in decisions (35; 22-13), seventh in innings pitched (281.1) and 10th in wins (22).
- With his departure to Major League Baseball, Enns finished his career with a 2.39 ERA to rank seventh all-time.
- The Chippewas ranked in the top 50 in the country in five offensive categories, including runs scored (32nd - 386), hits (45th - 605), doubles (46th - 112), home runs (48th - 40) and base on balls (14th - 274).
- CMU set a new team record in 2012 with a combined 2,175 at-bats.