Thursday, March 24, 2011

Team meeting in Missouri propels Chippewas

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || March 24, 2011

The Central Michigan baseball team lost a few games.

Then they won a few games. Then last Saturday evening, after dropping the first two games of a weekend series to Missouri, the rains came.

The Chippewas were just doubled up by the Tigers, 14-7, a day after falling a run short, and head coach Steve Jaksa wanted to talk to his team.

So he summoned them to the bus after dinner and, exactly a third of the way through the 2011 season, held a team meeting.

“We had a really good meeting with the guys,” Jaksa said. “It wasn’t about any one particular thing but collectively, as a team, what we wanted to do.”

And the next day, the Chippewas did what they wanted to do.

After losing the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, CMU responded with an 8-1 drubbing of the Tigers on getaway day.

“I thought we played extremely well that day,” Jaksa said. “I was very pleased with where we were as a team and liked our attitude.

“Now we’re going to build on it.”

The meeting, Jaksa said on Thursday from his office, “Was just a meeting” and to not read too much into it.

But the meeting, he also said, concentrated on consistency, having toughness together and competing one game at a time.

“We’ve been kind of up and down,” said junior outfielder Andrew Thomas. “It was about toughness, playing consistent and not letting ourselves get into bad situations.

“Hopefully that meeting really gets us to turn things around heading into conference play.”

The Chippewas are 9-12 heading into Mid-American Conference play, which begins today at Miami University, as hopes of defending last year’s regular season championship get underway.

“Can we do it?” Jaksa asked. “If, as we move forward, we’re a little bit more passionate about what we’re trying to get at as a group.”

But Jaksa doesn’t confuse passion with hard play.

“The bottom line is that we’ve played hard,” he said. “And it’s going to be very important to continue to play like that and play that style.

“It’s the only chance we have to be good is to play as hard as we can.”

And despite the losing record, the team’s hustle has not gone unnoticed in the box score where, routinely this early season, the Chippewas have battled back from early deficits, big deficits, and on more than one occasion, erased deficits.

“We can’t ever get those games back,” Jaksa said.

And don’t count on the team looking at the past, with the heart of the conference schedule approaching fast.

“We have to find our identity and accept responsibility,” Jaksa said. “It’s not always how you play, but how you get ready to play.”

In the two games that followed on Sunday after the team meeting, the Chippewas didn’t record an error, a stark contrast from the handful of errors in the first two games of the series.

“We can do it,” Jaksa said. “Now they know that. No errors in 18 innings on foreign soil showed it.”

Now they have to build on it.

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