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2013 Bronco Baseball Preview (Part 3 of 3) - Defense: Wins Championships

Courtesy: Ryan Champine, media relations staff assistant
Release: 02/14/2013
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KALAMAZOO, Mich.- The Western Michigan baseball team is looking to tune up the defense in 2013 and get back to the fundamentals. The Broncos have a number of players who can come in and make a contribution and they're going to have to work hard to earn their spots once the first pitch is thrown.

The Broncos look to maintain a more consistent defense this year. Through the recruiting process the team has improved its depth and many players, including freshmen, could see some quality opportunities.

"We are going to be goal driven," said WMU head coach Billy Gernon. "It's not going to be about one guy and what he's doing. It's about the team.

"Some guys might be in some different positions as far they are concerned or comfortable, but as far as the teams concerned, we need guys to buy into wherever they best help us win is where they need to embrace playing, and I think they will."

With the season opening tomorrow at Pepperdine, WMU may work different variations in the lineup, as well as in the following series at Minnesota. Matchups could play a key factor this season as the Broncos have a nice mix of lefty and righty batters.

"This is the first year since I've been at Western Michigan that we have some left-right matchup possibilities and that will create different defensive opportunities," commented Gernon.

Last season WMU turned 54 double plays to lead the Mid-American Conference, and ranked 29th in the nation in double plays per game. With the infielders that are returning, double plays will be another important part of the Bronco defense.

Some goals that will be a focus for coach Gernon and his team will be to keep improving defensively.

"If our fielding percentage is north of .968-.970, and we are in the top three in the MAC, we will have an opportunity to win," commented Gernon. "In order to do that, we spend a lot of time on the bunt coverage's that we try to execute and on the defensive mindset that we have.

"The defensive mindset comes down to three things: clean execution, the tempo at which the team plays, and the urgency to turn double plays to help out the pitchers.

"The importance of hitting the cut and not allowing the other guys to take extra bases on you and slide up 90 feet is of essence at this level," said Gernon. "You let people have things, and they will have everything. If you are stingy with it, you will have a better chance to win."

A trio of captains will lead the Broncos this season, which includes senior Patrick Duncan, junior Vinnie Booker and sophomore Jared Kujawa. Duncan will see time in the infield and Booker and Kujawa will be mainstays in the outfield. The team will be expected to perform wherever they are needed but personal issues won't be a problem.

"We have become a closer knit group each and every year under Coach Gernon," said Duncan. "We just want to win the Mid-American Conference."