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February 22, 2024

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Bowling Green baseball season preview: Falcons ready to take a step forward

Keira Ellenberger
BGSU baseball players celebrating their win.

After 265 days of waiting, there is just one week left until the Bowling Green baseball team steps onto the field and begins the 2024 season. 

Last season did not go according to plan. The Falcons went 20-30 overall and 13-17 in Mid-American Conference (MAC) play, finishing seventh in the conference standings.  

While the Orange and Brown held a 5.88 team ERA last season, the third-best in the MAC, they struggled on offense, finishing with a .243 batting average, .386 slugging percentage and .363 on-base percentage, the worst, second and third-worst marks in the conference, respectively.  

Inconsistency was a major issue for the team last season.  

“We were very inconsistent. We would beat a pretty darn good team, and then the next week, we’d lose to someone we should have easily beaten,” sophomore pitcher and outfielder DJ Newman said. “We knew we were a good team; we knocked off Louisville, and we took a few good series against Central Michigan and teams like that, and then we would just have the lows.” 

While last season did not garner the results the Falcons wanted, there were some positives.  

“I think we closed the gap on the league in terms of what the scores looked like compared to the first year or two, and we were in a bunch of games with the teams that ended up finishing at the top,” head coach Kyle Hallock said. “Now, we’re just learning from those and how to get over the hump to get on the right side of those scores.”  

Bowling Green’s goal this season is clear: win.  

“Our goal is to win a MAC Championship,” junior outfielder Nathan Archer said. “We’ve been getting consistently better every year, and I think that we’ve taken that next step as a program, and I think we’re going to compete for a championship.”  

This year, the tournament is expanding from four to six teams, improving BG’s odds to compete for conference championship at the end of the season. 

“With the new six-team tournament, we want to make the MAC Tournament. That’s our main goal; you have to make it to win it,” Newman said. “All eyes on making it and seeing where that takes us.”  

The Falcons lost 12 contributors from last season, including nine seniors. 

Some of the key losses for BG include catcher Kyle Gurney, a second-team All-MAC selection last season; infielder Ryan Johnston, an All-MAC Defensive Team selection last season; infielder Nathan Rose, the first freshman in program history to earn First-Team All-MAC honors; pitchers Owen Recker, the team leader in saves last season and Gage Schenk, who is tied for the fifth-most strikeouts in program history, along with outfielder Adam Fallon, who is tied for the 10th most stolen bases in program history.  

However, Hallock believes there is depth across the entire roster.  

“I think there’s just depth at every position, so there’s competition every single day where you can’t get comfortable,” he said. “The depth of competition of another recruiting class being here has pushed the older guys to reach their potential, and as they push back against the younger guys a little bit, the younger guys are getting better.”  

Hallock also believes some incoming players can make an immediate impact this season.  

“We have a couple of transfers in Landon Roque, Caden Parker and David Silva. So, those will provide depth at each spot, two on the infield and one in the outfield. Our freshman class, TJ Takats on the corner infield and Garrett Wright behind the plate, have pushed both their position groups. Alex Laird on the other side of the infield; they all have come in and made our practices better, which is all we ask them to do in the preseason,” he said. “Make our practices better, and our team will get better as a result. We’ll put them in successful positions to succeed early on, and if they produce, they play.”  

Along with incoming transfers and freshmen, the Falcons also have some key players returning from last season, headlined by Archer, Newman and junior pitcher Connar Penrod 

Archer garnered Second-Team All-MAC and All-MAC Defensive Team honors last season, finishing with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on 137 chances, the best among non-pitchers in the MAC.  

Newman dominated as a two-way freshman player last season, being named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-America First Team while earning First-Team All-MAC and MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors last season.  

Meanwhile, Penrod led the team with four wins and struck out 40 batters while allowing just three multiple-base hits in 30 innings pitched last season. His 3.00 ERA was the lowest among BG pitchers who threw at least 10 innings.  

Along with improved depth across the roster, Archer believes they are better at handling adversity than last season.  

“There were some good things [last season], beating ranked teams and things like that are cool, but I think it taught us how to deal with adversity and how to come out better on the other side,” he said. “I think our ability to bounce back from failure. I think that was something we struggled with last year, and I think that’s something we’ve progressed in majorly this year. I think that’s a big change.”  

From all accounts, the team has gotten closer going into this season.  

A major factor in that improvement is the alumni support the team has received throughout the offseason.  

“I think this year they’ve become more of a team. It’s to their credit; they are here for one goal. They’ve been fortunate this preseason to get a lot of time and opportunity with our alumni, some that’s been very publicized,” Hallock said. “You’re filling a room with a World Series MVP, game seven winner of the 1986 World Series, a current Triple-A manager and a host of other great players and businessmen with very successful stories. I’d challenge anyone to stack that room up against us because it’s been done here before, it’ll be done here again, and these guys are the next ones to do it.”  

However, there will obviously be challenges for the team this season, starting with an extended stretch of road games to start the season.  

“The schedule is always going to be interesting, but it’s our league, that’s our whole league. We’ll start off with 17 straight road games, true road games, not neutral sites or not neutral sites where you’re playing a road team that’s coming out a fieldhouse like we will be. We’ll play 17 straight road games with people who are outside today, like Middle Tennessee State. They’ll be outside today; we won’t be, but that won’t be an excuse; we’ll find a way,” Hallock said. “We’ll play Tennessee; they will be the best collection of talent we’ve seen on a field. But we wouldn’t put them on the schedule if we didn’t think we were ready to take that next step and go find out more about ourselves.”  

Although they have not finished with a winning record since 2010 and have not won a MAC Championship since 2013, Hallock is excited for the program to take a step forward this season and bring success back to the program.  

“They’re working hard, and they’re going to take a step forward this year,” he said. “How big will be determined by them every single day, and I can’t wait to see it, be a part of it and do my part to help this program get back to where it needs to get back to.”  

The Falcons will begin the season with a three-game series against Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, starting on Friday, Feb. 16. However, fans will have to wait until Friday, March 22, to see the Orange and Brown play at Stellar Field when they host Akron for a three-game series. 

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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