*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Bowling Green State||11||14||20||31|
|Projected NCAA Teams (1): Kent State.|
|Conference Schedule: 27 games, begins March 23.|
|Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 23-26 at Avon, Ohio.|
|Player of the Year: Tom Murphy, c, Buffalo.|
|Pitcher of the Year: David Starn, lhp, Kent State.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012-13 DRAFTS|
|1. Tom Murphy, c, Buffalo|
|2. Tyler Skulina, rhp, Kent State (2013)|
|3. Seth Streich, rhp/dh, Ohio|
|4. Mike Hamann, rhp, Toledo|
|5. Dietrich Enns, lhp, Central Michigan|
|6. Ryan Bores, rhp, Kent State|
|7. Steve Weber, rhp, Eastern Michigan|
|8. Lincoln Rassi, rhp, Toledo|
|9. Zach Cooper, rhp, Central Michigan|
|10. David Lyon, c, Kent State|
|1. Tyler Skulina, rhp, Kent State (Tr.—Virginia)|
|2. Ryan Bores, rhp, Kent State (Tr.—Cuyahoga, Ohio, CC)|
|3. Alex Johnson, of, Miami (Ohio) (Tr.—Cleveland State)|
|4. Jordan Foley, rhp, Central Michigan (HS—The Colony, Texas)|
|5. Ben Dartnell, lhp, Eastern Michigan (HS—Vauxhall, Alb.)|
• Kent State had its best season ever in 2011, winning its third straight MAC tournament, tying a school record with 45 victories and advancing to the finals of the Austin Regional. Though the Golden Flashes lost three arms in the first 10 rounds of the 2011 draft—Diamondbacks sandwich-rounder Andrew Chafin, MAC saves leader Kyle McMillen and league pitcher of the year Kyle Hallock—pitching again should be the strength of their club. Sr. LHP David Starn (9-3, 2.18, 107 IP/117 SO) will anchor the staff after topping the MAC in strikeouts a year ago. Kent State also has a pair of talented newcomers in 6-foot-6, 235-pound Fr. RHP Tyler Skulina, who has a 92-95 mph fastball and sat out last season after transferring from Virginia, and Jr. RHP Ryan Bores, who pitched one season each at Ohio and Cuyahoga (Ohio) CC. The Athletics drafted Skulina in the 46th round in 2010, while the Rangers tabbed Bores in the 28th round last June.
• Pitching also figures to determine the MAC Western Division race between frontrunners Central Michigan and Toledo. Sr. RHP Zach Cooper (6-3, 3.26, 91 IP/88 SO) gives the Chippewas a quality veteran at the front of their rotation after he turned down the Marlins as a 46th-round pick last summer. The other weekend starters, Jr. LHP Rick Dodridge (injured in 2011) and Sr. RHP Jon Weaver (2-1, 5.18, 24 IP/15 SO), also have been drafted. Central Michigan also has the league’s best closer in Jr. LHP Dietrich Enns (6-1, 2.83, 41 IP/48 SO), who earned all-star honors and recorded a 0.65 ERA in the Cape Cod League last summer. As for the Rockets, their rotation will be fronted by Jr. RHP Mike Hamann (2-3, 1.96, 60 IP/51 SO), who’s throwing low-90s heat again after missing his final seven starts last spring with bone chips in his elbow. Jr. RHP Jared Locke (3-2, 4.67, 52 IP/18 SO) was named pitcher of the year in the summer Great Lakes League, while Sr. RHP Lincoln Rassi (3-7, 5.38, 80 IP/67 SO) saw his fastball jump to 91-94 mph when he moved to the bullpen in summer ball.
• Buffalo is coming off its third last-place MAC finish in the last four seasons, but the Bulls do boast the league’s top prospect and returning batting champion and player of the year in Jr. C Tom Murphy (.384/.446/.626, 10 HR). Murphy had a cameo with Team USA last summer and ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the New England League. He has a quick bat capable of catching up to quality fastballs, and he’s a good receiver with a solid arm.
• After Akron set a school record with 37 losses in 2011, head coach Pat Bangston resigned after six seasons. The Zips replaced him with Rick Rembielak, who won three MAC regular-season titles and four tournament titles from 1994-2004 at Kent State. He coached Wake Forest from 2005-09 and was a volunteer assistant at Georgia Tech last season.