One week into the 2013 baseball season, Western Kentucky is already buried at the bottom of the Sun Belt Conference in nearly every offensive statistical category.
But the good news for the Hilltoppers (1-2) is that Matt Myers’ club has 53 more games to improve on those ugly numbers, starting today when WKU welcomes Central Michigan for a three-game series. First pitch at Nick Denes Field is scheduled for 3 p.m.
“We’re just trying to simplify things,” WKU junior Scott Wilcox said. “We had a little bit of an issue hitting with runners in scoring position last weekend, but if we stick to our approach of hitting balls the other way and battling hard, we’ll get it back.
“It’s still early in the season, so we have a chance to turn it around this weekend.”
Wilcox (4-13, 2 RBIs) was one of the few Tops who had a positive weekend at the plate against Bowling Green State. WKU is last in on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, RBIs, stolen bases and total bases and ninth of 10 SBC teams in batting average, slugging percentage and doubles.
Making matters more frustrating is the Hilltoppers’ pitching numbers. The WKU staff held BGSU to a .155 average and allowed 12 hits in three games, yet lost two of three to start the year.
“Not to disrespect our opponents, but very easily should’ve, could’ve been 3-0,” Myers said. “It was on us. It wasn’t on Bowling Green. Even on Sunday, (leading) 4-0 with two outs, we were still kind of quiet. That’s with a young, inexperienced group. They’ve got to learn how to win. That’s why we’ve been putting the pressure on them the last two days about focusing, staying focused, don’t get too high. I’ve been trying to drive into them that they have to be a little bit better.”
Central Michigan (1-3) started its season with three straight losses at Louisiana-Lafayette before winning the fourth game of the series 10-2.
Thursday, the Fighting Chippewas’ game at Murray State was canceled because of “rain and cold temperatures,” according to Murray State’s athletics website.
“Very well-coached, coach (Steve) Jaksa has done a good job, been there a long time,” Myers said of Central Michigan. “A team that won 34 games last year, will come in here with some really good arms. They’re, I think, a little bit like us in that their strength is on the mound.
“Just a team that has confidence. They’re tough, they were picked to win their league, playing really good. Even though (Louisiana) Lafayette did a nice job with them down there, it’s a prideful program and we’re going to have to play well.”
Central finished 34-29 last season, losing to Kent State in the Mid-American Conference tournament.
Senior Jordan Adams (.444), redshirt freshman Neal Jacobs (.400) and sophomore Nick Regnier (.368) are leading the Chips’ offense early while sophomore Jordan Foley (1.29 ERA, 7 IP) and senior Rick Dodridge (1.50 ERA, 7 IP) will present plenty of problems from the mound.
WKU will be without the pitching services of junior Justin Hageman this weekend, Myers said. Hageman got the opening day start last week, but went one inning, allowing seven earned runs and walking five batters.
Tightness in the Hopkinsville native’s throwing shoulder forced Myers to sit him this weekend for precautionary reasons. Senior Tim Bado (3.18 ERA) will start today, followed by junior Andrew Edwards (no earned runs allowed in 41⁄2 innings of relief) and Tanner Perkins (1-0, 0.00 ERA) on Sunday.
The teams are scheduled to meet again at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
“We win one game, we’re already back at .500,” Wilcox said. “We’re just looking to battle hard and find a way to win games. That’s the biggest thing going forward.”