One word sums up what the Mount Union baseball team wants to do in 2013 ... finish.
The Purple Raiders won a school-record 28 games and finished second in the Ohio Athletic Conference but lost five of its final seven games ending in the semifinals of the OAC Tournament.
All of this was far from bad for a team that had just one senior starter and this year returns eight position players and a group of pitchers that accounted for 20 wins a season ago.
At the top of the list of returners include five all-conference selections including three juniors – Connor Mathis (Akron/Firestone), Zach Carlino (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) and Matt Murzynski (Mentor/Lake Catholic) -- that each earned All-OAC First Team honors a year ago.
Mathis started 40 games in right field and led the OAC in batting average (.450), hits (67) and runs batted in (56). He led the team with 14 stolen bases and had just 10 strikeouts in 149 at-bats.
Carlino started 40 games and played first base, third base, designated hitter and pitcher. On the mound, he had a 6-2 record with a 3.59 earned run average with two complete games, a save and 29 strikeouts. He pitched regular season victories against #1 Marietta, Heidelberg and John Carroll -- each of the teams that made the OAC Tournament. At the plate, he hit .306 with five doubles and was third on the team with 27 RBI.
Murzynski matched the conference lead for pitching victories with nine as he went 9-2 with a save and a team-best 3.03 ERA in 68.1 innings pitched with 29 strikeouts. He got the win on the mound against John Carroll in the OAC Tournament which was the Purple Raiders first post-season victories since 2006.
Two other juniors in outfielder Ricky Olasz and shortstop Lee Grosscup round out the list of top returners. Olasz played in 41 games and was second on the team in batting average and had a team-best eight outfield assists. Grosscup set a new school single-season record by starting all 43 games this season. He was third on the team in hitting with a .324 batting average and led the team with 11 doubles and 15 extra base hits.
Paul Hesse enters his 17th season as head coach and again has put together another competitive schedule for the Raiders that include a season-opening week of games in Winter Haven, Florida, to go along with the competitive slate of OAC games. The home opener is scheduled for Sunday, March 24 at 1 pm against Wittenberg at the 23rd Street Field in Alliance.
NEWS & NOTES
- Fans will be able to listen LIVE AUDIO of eight of the 12 games from Florida while 11 of the 12 will feature a LIVE stats game tracker ... Selected other games throughout the season will feature both LIVE AUDIO and LIVE STATS - for all the links log on to the schedule page at http://athletics.mountunion.edu/sports/bsb/2012-13/schedule
- Mount Union was among other teams receiving votes in the D3Baseball.com Top-25 National Preseason Poll
- A new state-of-the-art scoreboard is being installed at 23rd Street Field in Alliance