Chips’ baseball off to best start since 2007

Grand Central sports writer John Schneider takes a look at Central Michigan University's baseball team and what the Chips have accomplished to this point in the season.

The CMU baseball team is off to a hot start in Mid-American Conference play.

With four conference wins in a row, and a 5-1 league mark, the Chippewa’s are off to their best MAC start since 2007 as they enter this weekend’s three game homestand against Akron.

Central (15-11 overall) was 12-15 in MAC action last year and behind strong hitting from the top of the order and a much-improved pitching staff, is on pace to easily surpass that mark this season.

“I just think right now we’re doing some good things,” said Central Head Coach Steve Jaksa. “Offensively I don’t think we’ve reached our peak and I think the guys would tell you that. In other words; We’d like to get one through nine bangin’ it every game.”

At the plate, the chips are led by a trio of seniors and one sophomore who is on his way to a breakout season.

Nate Theunissen, coming off a stellar freshman year in which he led the team in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage, is
again leading the Chips in those catogories. But this year he is also leading Central in hitting with a .409 average. Theunissen was named MAC West player of the week for hisperformance in the Chip’s three-game sweep of Ohio last

Senior centerfielder Billy Anderson is batting .368 and leads the team with 39 hits, 11 stolen bases and 16 walks. He has a .464 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot. Anderson earned MAC West player of the week honors earlier this season.

Seniors Dale Cornstubble and James Teas are also hitting over .300 for the Chips so far this spring.

The Chippewa’s have been equally impressive on the mound.

Led by starters Jesse Hernandez, Rick Dodridge and Jake Sabol and relievers Dietrich Enns, Mike Nixon and Zach Cooper, the Chips pitching staff sports a 4.35 ERA – a notable feat at the college level.

“(Assistant coach Jeff Opalewski) has done a great job with them and has them in a good place,” Jaksa said. “They’re throwing the ball pretty well right now.”

Hernandez leads the team with in wins with a record of 4-1. He presently has a 3.66 ERA and leads the Chips with 39 1/3
innings pitched and 33 strikeouts. Hernandez was last week’s MAC West pitcher of the week.

Dodridge and Sabol have each won three games for the Chips while Dodridge has a miniscule 1.63 ERA.

Dietrich Enns has been solid out of the pen for Central, he is owner of a 1.59 ERA and opponents are hitting just .164 against
him. Jaksa says much of the Chips  success on the mound can be attributed to the hurlers feeding off one another.

“They all want to do well, they don’t want to let down the other guy,” he said. “I mean they’re a pitching staff. And that’s a whole team of guys wanting to do well every time they go out.”

The eighth-year head coach says he is pleased with the Chips’ effort thus far but acknowledges that there is room for improvement.

“I think we’re getting closer,” Jaksa said. “It’s really more of a consistency thing, it’s more of them feeling good about themselves.”

Next weekend the Chips are on the road against Kent St. and on Wednesday, April 21 Central plays Michigan State at Dow
Diamond in Midland.