The curtain raises on Manchester University's 2017 baseball season Saturday and Sunday, March 4 and 5.
Game details: First pitch between the Spartans and Denison University of Granville, Ohio, is 2 p.m. Saturday for a single nine-game inning and 12 p.m. Sunday for a doubleheader at Veterans Administration Memorial Stadium, the home of the Prospect League Chillicothe Paints, in Chillicothe, Ohio … Live audio, statistics and video can be accessed via links at www.muspartans.com, the Internet home of Manchester University athletics.
Spartan Shorts: It's the second straight year Coach Rick Espeset's program has opened its slate at the south central Ohio location. A year ago, the Black and Gold defeated Heidelberg University and was swept by Case Western Reserve at the venue … Manchester University returns three of its top four hitters among the regular starting nine and all 22 of its pitching decisions this spring in an attempt to extend an impressive run of eight straight seasons with 20-or-more victories. Senior first baseman Tailur Szarenski (Bluffton, Ind.) spotlights the offensive arsenal for Espeset's crew, as he hit .360 with 18 extra base hits and 34 RBI a year ago in route to his third all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic award. The outfield duo of senior Chad Schultz (Fair Oaks, Ind.) and sophomore Tyler LaFollette (Warsaw, Ind.) also finished 2016 above .300, as Schultz turned in a .331 average that featured 22 extra base hits and 35 RBI, while LaFollette, starting 32 of 34 outings as a freshman, tallied a .325 average that included 26 RBI. Schultz earned first team all-HCAC honors along with Szarenski, and the pair was also noted on the College Baseball News' Division III preseason watch list. LaFollette was a second team all-league selection a year ago. On the mound, senior Corey Ferguson (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and juniors Taylor Kopplin (Westport, Ind.) and Brandon Eck (Fort Wayne, Ind.) were listed on the league's honorable mention slots, while Eck was recognized along with Schultz and Szarenski on the preseason watch list. Eck wound up 5-4 with three complete games and shared one of the staff's two shutouts while compiling 44 strikeouts; Kopplin was the team earned run average low man last spring (3.22) as part of a 5-7 record and team-leading 51 strikeouts; Ferguson, who like Eck and Kopplin had a hand in a 2016 shutout, ended his junior slate with a 3-3 record. Juniors Mitch McDonald (Waterloo, Ind.) and Stephen Pinarski (Goshen, Ind.) also landed with multiple victories last season, as Pinarski registered three, and McDonald had two … The Spartans, members of the HCAC's tournament final four in 18 of the last 20 seasons, were picked to return to that territory on the recent coaches' preseason poll. MU earned 84 points, as a quintet of upperclassmen was noted in the Players to Watch section. They were Ferguson; Szarenski; Schultz; Eck; and Kopplin.
Busy Second Week: The Spartans are scheduled to travel to National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' Crossroad League power Taylor University Tuesday, March 7, and then take on in-state NCAA Division III non-league rival DePauw University Saturday and Sunday, March 11 and 12, at Indianapolis' Bishop Chatard High School.