Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baseball to play four-game series against Missouri

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || March 17, 2011

It took a month, but Steve Jaksa is starting to see consistency in the play of his Central Michigan baseball team.

“It’s the biggest thing we’ve improved in,” he said on Thursday, as the team traveled by bus to Columbia, Mo., for a weekend series against Missouri.

“I know we’re going to play hard,” Jaksa continued. “We’ll continue to do that and keep improving on our consistency from an everyday standpoint.”

The improvements have been visible on the scoreboard during a three-game winning streak in which the Chippewas have limited their errors and, perhaps most importantly, their opponents offensively.

“Two of the things you can control the most are defense and pitching,” Jaksa said, “and we’re coming around in those areas.”

CMU (8-9) opens its four-game set against the Tigers tonight at Simmons Field.

Starting on the mound for the Chippewas will be left-hander Trent Howard, who was recently named Mid-American Conference West Division Pitcher of the Week.

Howard ignited the Chippewas win streak with a two-hit, 10-strikeout shutout of Indiana last week.

It was the junior’s second consecutive outing with double-digit strikeout totals and the team’s second consecutive week with a pitcher earning conference honors.

“We have pitched well,” said Jaksa. “That’s what we’re looking for: everyone throwing well each game over a period of games.”

Howard leads the team with a 2.16 ERA and 29 strikeouts.

He will be followed in the rotation by Bryce Morrow and Ryan Longstreth in a Saturday doubleheader and junior Zach Cooper on Sunday.

Both teams enter the series winners of three out of the last four games.

Missouri (7-9) recently took three out of four from LeMoyne College and Jaksa said the Big 12 Conference consistently ranks amongst the best in the country.

The Chippewas finished strong in the second half of an eight-game Florida trip over spring break, winning its final two games before defeating Madonna, 3-1, at Theunissen Stadium on Tuesday.

Through a month of play, junior infielder Tyler Hall leads the team with a .356 batting average and junior outfielder Sam Russell is setting the pace with two home runs and 12 RBI.

As a team, CMU is hitting .251 with a 4.30 ERA in 17 games.

“We’re playing good,” said Jaksa. “But this team will be a tough test.”

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