May 22, 2008


Leonard drives in four as Eastern Michigan advances


By Phil Stanton Co-Founder


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Western Michigan got done in by a Zack attack.


Freshman Zack Leonard had a two-run double in a four-run first and a two-run homer in a three-run seventh as second-seeded Eastern Michigan got by No. 7 Western Michigan 8-5 in the first round of the 2008 Mid-American Conference Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium.


The Eagles (22-32) advance to meet Bowling Green on Thursday, while the Broncos (29-22-1) will face Ohio in an elimination game.


Josh Ivan had an RBI single for EMU with two outs in the bottom of the first before Leonard’s two-bagger pushed the lead to 3-0. Leonard came home on Andrew Marshall’s base hit for a 4-0 advantage.


“In the first inning,” Leonard said, “we always like to come out and score first to set the tone for the whole game and for the tournament. The big thing Coach likes to do is have us hitters be aggressive on fastballs with runners in scoring position. The first pitch was a fastball and I let it go. Then he came back with another fastball and that’s the one I hit.”


WMU answered immediately with four in the top of the second as Pedro Dager had an RBI double and scored. The Broncos took the lead in the third on Dager’s second RBI double.


The Eagles evened the score at 5-5 in the fourth on Aaron Powell’s eighth homer. EMU snapped the tie in the seventh on an RBI single by Jeff Davis. After a sacrifice, Leonard blasted a homer to dead center, his eighth, to give the Eagles an 8-5 lead.


“Western’s a great team,” Leonard said, “so I knew that one run wasn’t going to be enough. So I tried to swing at another fastball in the zone, which Coach likes, and luckily it went over the wall.”


Sean Hoffman (4-2) went the distance for EMU with six hits, three earned runs, three walks and four strikeouts. He retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.


“That was huge for us,” said EMU head coach Jake Boss. “He’s a tough kid and he seems to get better as the game goes on. He struggled a little bit in the second inning, but after that really settled into it and did a heck of a job for us. In Game 1, if you can get a complete game, that really helps out your staff for the rest of the tournament, so we’re really proud of Sean’s effort.”


Boss, in his first season as skipper of the Eagles, was named MAC Coach of the Year.


The Broncos committed three errors in the contest and WMU pitchers walked five.


“We didn’t play well,” said WMU head coach Randy Ford. “We didn’t take care of the baseball very good. We got off to a rough start. I don’t know if our focus was there at the beginning of the game, but we missed a coverage at first base and then we gave up a couple of hits, gave up a four-spot, so it was a tough way to start the game. Then I thought we bounced back and got it going, played pretty well. We just didn’t play clean enough baseball. I take my hat off to Eastern Michigan, they played well. Hoffman was a bulldog out there. He stayed out there and he’s put them in a good position for the next game or two because he stayed out there and sucked it up, so I tip my hat to him. They hit a couple balls out, we didn’t. It’s a tough loss.”