College Preview

2006 Mid-American Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH




Conference

Overall

EAST
W
L
W
L
1. +Miami (Ohio)
17
4
45
18
2. Kent
9
10
33
20
3. Bowling Green State
12
8
33
18
4. Ohio
9
10
25
25
5. Akron
11
8
25
29
6. Buffalo
5
14
19
30

WEST
W
L
W
L
1. Central Michigan
18
6
42
18
2. Ball State
17
5
38
18
3. Western Michigan
13
9
26
24
4. Eastern Michigan
8
14
22
34
5. Northern Illinois
6
18
16
36
6. Toledo
5
17
15
39
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (1): Miami (Ohio).
Conference Schedule: 27 games. Schedule begins March 24.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 24-27 at team with best conference winning percentage.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C--Josh Stewart, Jr., Bowling Green (.343-6-33). 1B—Brad Miller, Sr., Ball State (.357-8-49). 2B—Geoff Orr, Sr., Miami (.332-9-59). 3B—Troy Moratti, Sr., Central Michigan (.357-3-40). SS—Emmanuel Burriss, Jr., Kent State (.319-1-16, 30 SB). OF—Anthony Gressick, Sr., Ohio (.308-7-49); Ryne Robinson, Jr., Miami (.293-1-34, 34 SB); Joe Tucker, Sr., Kent State (.345-1-33). DH—Kurt Eichorn, Sr., Kent State (.307-9-50). P—Ty Dunham, Sr., Central Michigan (9-4, 2.85); John Ely, So., Miami (10-2, 2.87, 103 IP/108 SO); Keith Weiser, Jr., Miami (10-0, 2,73). RP—Connor Graham, So., Miami (5-5, 4.50, 4 SV).

Player of the Year: Brad Miller, 1b, Ball State.
Pitcher of the Year: Keith Weiser, lhp, Miami.
Freshman of the Year: Kurt Smith, rhp, Ohio (Fr., HS—Cincinnati). Top Newcomers: 1. Jeff Carroll, 1b, Miami (Jr., .188-0-2 at Ohio State). 2. Kurt Smith, rhp, Ohio. 3. Cody Allen, of, Central Michigan (Fr., 49th round/Reds ’05).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS

1. Keith Weiser, lhp, Miami.
2. Ben Snyder, lhp, Ball State
3. Emmanuel Burriss, ss, Kent State.
4. #Chris Carpenter, rhp, Kent State.
5. #John Ely, rhp, Miami.

# Not eligible for 2006 draft

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter—Geoff Orr, Miami. Best Raw Power--Brad Miller, Ball State. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Eric Lawson, Bowling Green. Best Athlete--Ryne Robinson, Miami. Fastest Runner--Ryne Robinson, Miami. Best Baserunner—Emmanuel Burriss, Kent State. Best Defensive Catcher--Matt Singleton, Ball State. Catcher/Best Arm--Matt Singleton, Ball State. Best Defensive First Baseman--Brad Miller, Ball State. Best Defensive Second Baseman--Kyle Dygert, Ball State. Best Defensive Third Baseman—Troy Moratti, Central Michigan. Best Defensive Shortstop—Emmanuel Burriss, Kent State. Infielder/Best Arm—Troy Moratti, Central Michigan. Best Defensive Outfielder--Mike Sullivan, Ball State. Outfielder/Best Arm—Anthony Gressick, Ohio. Best Fastball—John Ely, Miami. Best Breaking Ball--Keith Weiser, Miami. Best Control—Keith Weiser, Miami.

SHORT HOPS

• With the departure of Marshall to Conference USA and the expansion of the Atlantic-10 Conference to 14 teams, the Mid-American Conference is no longer the largest in Division I. The league will be conveniently split into two six-team divisions, with Bowling Green State moving from the West to East.

• The conference introduces two new head coaches this season, though neither is unfamiliar with his surroundings. Miami named Dan Simonds to replace the departed Tracy Smith, who became the coach at Indiana. Simonds previously served as an assistant to Smith from 2000-04 before becoming the head coach at Xavier in 2005. New Akron coach Pat Bangston, a native of Akron, spent the last 13 years as the pitching coach at Ohio State.

• The MAC should be a pitching-dominated league this year as seven of the eight starting pitchers that were selected to the first- and second all-conference teams in 2005 have returned. Miami LHP Keith Weiser (10-0, 2.73) should attract the most attention from scouts this year, though the 2007 draft crop may end up becoming even stronger. “Keith has the ability to throw three quality pitches for strikes, including an 88-91 mph fastball,” Simonds said. “He’s a strong competitor, a solid major league prospect.”

• Miami is favored to repeat as MAC champions with a pitching staff that could yield as many as seven draft picks over the next two years. Weiser will be joined in the RedHawks rotation by senior LHP Graham Taylor (6-1, 2.71) and Freshman All-American John Ely (10-2, 2.87). Senior RHP Matt Long (1-1, 2.73) will anchor the bullpen while sophomore RHP Conner Graham (5-5, 4.50, 4 SV) will be used in a swing role.

• Miami junior OF Ryne Robinson, who earned all-conference honors in 2005 by hitting .293-1-34 with a conference-leading eight triples and 34 stolen bases, has a chance of being drafted in both the baseball and football drafts. Robinson led the Mid-American Conference in average yards per punt return (11.6) this fall and was second in the conference in receiving with a per-game average of 101.7 yards. He caught 75 passes for 1,119 yards and eight touchdowns.

• Kent State, the 2004 conference champion, should challenge Miami for the MAC title as it returns its top seven hitters, led by junior SS Emmanuel Burriss (.319-1-16, 30 SB), the conference’s best everyday prospect and co-MVP of the 2005 Cape Cod League playoffs, and senior RHP Chad Wagler (6-4, 2.47), who was drafted by the Giants in the 18th round last year. The Golden Flashes—along with other legitimate contenders such as Ball State and Central Michigan--are mindful of the stakes in winning a tournament championship because no team from the Mid-American Conference has ever been awarded an NCAA tournament at-large berth.

• It might be a tall order, but Ball State LHP Ben Snyder (8-5, 4.21) will try to duplicate the feat of his older brother Brad, who was a first-round draft pick of the Indians in 2003 out of Ball State. Ben missed his freshman year for academic reasons after being drafted in the 24th round out of high school. “He’s a prototypical lefthander,” Ball State coach Greg Beals said. “He has command of four pitches—a fastball, curve, changeup and cutter. His fastball has excellent movement but his changeup can be his best pitch.”

• Central Michigan has won the most conference games (18) each of the last two years, but failed to win the league’s tournament. The Chippewas lost two key pitchers to the draft in RHP Jason Cairns (8-5, 3.09), an eighth-round pick of the Cardinals, and LHP Jayson Ruhlman (5-4, 4.40), a 23rd-round pick of the White Sox, from a staff that was 14th in the country in ERA. But coach Steve Jaksa thinks his staff may be even stronger this year. The Chippewas return their two top pitchers in senior RHP Ty Dunham (9-4, 2.85) and sophomore RHP Josh Collmenter (7-1, 2.70).