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Broncos Road to Defending MAC Tournament Title Opens with EMU
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Baseball Sean Daniels, Graduate Assistant for Marketing, Communications & Engagement

Broncos Road to Defending MAC Tournament Title Opens with EMU

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- The No. 6 seeded Western Michigan baseball team will look to defend its 2016 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament title as the MAC Tournament begins this week. The Broncos will face No. 3 Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, May 24 at 9:30 a.m. at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio in the first game of the tournament. Earlier this season, WMU took two of three games against Eastern Michigan at home in Kalamazoo. 

WMU finished the 2017 regular season by winning four of their last five, including a three-game sweep of Buffalo in the final weekend series, the program's first since sweeping Buffalo during the 2015 season. Earlier in the season, WMU showed promise down in the Florida over Spring Break, where the team went 5-1 including a sweep of the Stetson Tournament. The Broncos finished 12-12 in the MAC, earning series wins over Miami, Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Buffalo on their way to earning the No. 6 seed and making the trip to the MAC Tournament for the fourth straight season.

The Broncos have consistently been among the best offenses in the nation, where the team finished with a .309 batting average, good for 18th in NCAA Division I. WMU also finished seventh in sacrifice bunts and 31st in on-base percentage. Tanner Allison led the offensive charge this season, as the junior hit .368 with a team-leading 17 doubles, nine home runs and 66 RBI. Allison, who broke the WMU Single Season RBI record, finished fourth in the nation in RBI per game (1.32) and ninth in total RBI (66). Connor Smith, a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American last season, hit .348 with 11 doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 34 RBI as he was sixth in the nation in triples. Five other everyday starters boast batting averages over .300 in Tyler Frank, Nick Vogelmeier, Alex Goodwin and Grant Miller. The Broncos tied for the MAC-lead in batting average during league play at .313. 

The Broncos have three pitchers that have thrown at least 50.0 innings this season in Kyle Mallwitz, Jacob Pietchota and Jimmy Townsend-Chase, WMU's likely weekend rotation over the season. Mallwitz is 5-3 with a 3.80 ERA and leads the team with 87.2 innings and 73 strikeouts while Piechota is 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA and Townsend-Chase is 3-2 with a 4.61 ERA. Out of the bullpen, WMU will look to Gabe Berman (29.2 IP, 4.25 ERA), Nic Laio (41.2 IP, 4.32 ERA) and Andrew Reisinger (30.0 IP, 9.60 ERA) among others.

Tanner Allison had a historic season for WMU, setting a new WMU single season RBI mark with at least two more games to play. Allison passed Frank Alferi's record of 63 RBI in 1999 and is also currently sixth in single season hits (75) and T-10th in single season doubles (17). Grant Miller is currently fourth in career hits (223), T-fifth in career walks (101) and is the all-time leader in hit by pitch (52). Connor Smith's seven triples this season are tied for third all-time while Gabe Berman is WMU's all-time saves leader (24) and is tied for second in career appearances (81). 

The Broncos are 13-27 all-time in the MAC Tournament but have won at least one game in their last five trips (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), including the school's first ever MAC Tournament Championship in 2016. Under head coach Billy Gernon, the Broncos have made the MAC Tournament field in six of his seven years and only two other teams have made it more times in that span. In 2014, the Broncos knocked out No. 1 seeded Ball State in a 4-1 ball game. Last season, WMU went 4-1 with wins over No. 2 Ball State, No. 3 Miami, No. 6 Central Michigan and No. 1 Kent State in the Championship game. After the Broncos were crowned champions, Keegan Akin was named WMU's first ever MAC Tournament MVP while Akin, Grant Miller, Connor Smith and Jacob Piechota were named to the All-MAC Tournament team.
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