Sunday, April 3, 2011

Offensive explosion lifts CMU baseball to series win against Ohio

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 03, 2011

In the week’s time since Central Michigan starting pitcher Jake Sabol was chased in the third inning of last Saturday’s start against Miami, the senior right-hander decided to go back to the drawing board.

“I watched a lot of film trying to rebound from my last outing,” he said. “I wasn’t really getting on top of the ball or throwing a good two-seam fastball and I was trying to blow people away.”

And the tale of the tape was evident on Sunday, in the rubber game of a weekend series against Ohio, as Sabol pitched the Chippewas to a series victory in a 9-0 blanking of the Bobcats at Bob Wren Stadium in Athens, Ohio.

CMU jumped on top of Ohio early, scoring runs in each of its first six innings, while Sabol threw an effective two-seam fastball — limiting the Bobcats to only six hits — and didn’t try to overpower the Ohio lineup, striking out four with a walk.

“I thought the work really paid off,” he said. “I stayed focus, threw a lot of two-seam fastballs and made them put the ball in play a lot.”

The complete game shutout was the first of his collegiate career.

“I’m proud of him,” said Chippewas head coach Steve Jaksa. “He executed the game plan we set up for him and did a great job.”

Offensively, CMU (12-17, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) scored in every inning except the seventh, recorded 16 hits and hit two solo home runs.

After the Chippewas scored a run each in the first two innings, senior outfielder Matt Faiman homered to right field in the fourth, his second of the season, and junior outfielder Scott Phillion homered to left field in the fifth.

The five-run cushion halfway home was more than enough for Sabol, who needed 104 pitches to complete his first game since Feb. 28 of last year.

“It was just a real good baseball game for us today,” Jaksa said.

Sophomore second baseman Jordan Dean had four hits and two stolen bases, and junior outfielder Sam Russell continued his hot hitting, smacking two doubles.

In the series, Russell hit .500 (6-for-12) with five doubles.

“We’re pretty happy with where he’s at,” Jaksa said of Russell, who has emerged as the Chippewas utmost power threat, leading the team in home runs (3), RBI (21) and slugging percentage (.483).

Rest of the series

CMU dropped Saturday’s sandwich game, 6-5, committing four errors behind starting pitcher Zach Cooper.

“The guys didn’t play great defensively,” Jaksa said. “And they’ll tell you as much.”

Cooper struck out six in five-plus innings and Faiman had two hits.

In Friday’s opener, Tom Howard broke an eighth-inning tie with a three-run, pinch-hit home run, propelling the Chippewas to a 9-3 victory.

The senior infielder laid off a first-pitch breaking ball in the dirt before lacing a letter-high fastball over the center field fence for his second home run of the year.

“It was a huge at-bat in a big situation,” Jaksa said. “He was looking for one pitch, got it and kept it going with a big hit.”

Junior left-hander Trent Howard pitched seven innings for the win.

Faiman recorded a pair of hits in each game of the series victory, going 6-for-15 with four runs scored and five driven in.

The Chippewas have won three out of four game and host Michigan on Wednesday at Theunissen Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

“Everybody’s getting in a good place,” Sabol said. “We’re playing well and have to continue to play well so we get back in the hunt.”

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