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April 4, 2012Moments after a dramatic 5-4 walkoff win over Valparaiso on Tuesday afternoon for Western Michigan's seventh straight victory, WMU head baseball coach Billy Gernon did not give off an air of satisfaction.
"Today I thought we were fortunate that the mistakes we made weren't exploited to another level," Gernon remarked.
Gernon also spoke with concern regarding some luck the Broncos have benefited from during the streak, in which six of the seven games have been decided by two runs or fewer.
This marks a change in culture for the WMU baseball program, which went 26-77 with a 14-40 Mid-American Conference mark in the two years prior to Gernon's arrival. While any good news would have been welcome for the Broncos in the past couple of years, Gernon and WMU matched that win total with a 26-31 mark in 2011 and have their sights set on much more this year.
"For me the key thing with these wins is simple: to stay humble, to stay hungry, and remember a quote from Rudyard Kipling that says, 'I've met with great enemies, and I've met with great friends, and to keep them both is to treat them both like impostors," Gernon said. "Whether we've won seven in a row or lost seven in a row, our guys have to come out and play the exact same way."
Western Michigan now sits at 14-10 on the year with a perfect 5-0 mark in the MAC to sit atop the West Division. Gernon believes that the team has not changed their approach significantly this year, but that experience has made all the difference.
"For me, I don't see a big difference, other than it's just year two," Gernon said. "It's like any kind of business where you're trying to figure out how to maximize profits and looking at where the shrinkage is and put an emphasis and a spotlight on where the problems are."
Gernon went on to talk about the changes that he implemented in the program upon taking over.
"I can't speak for what it was, I can only speak for what it is, and what it is is a lot of discipline, a lot of expectation, a lot of accountability, a lot of ownership," Gernon said. "I want them to embrace that they are lucky to wear this jersey."
Almost lost in the shuffle with the winning streak is Ryan McMillin's hitting streak, which now sits at 18 games, just seven short of the WMU school record. McMillin didn't take the superstitious approach of many ballplayers, speaking freely of his accomplishment.
"I like thinking about it, I like talking about it," McMillin said. "The hit streak doesn't come from me thinking about it, it definitely just comes from me playing my game, and good solid preparation."
Gernon, meanwhile, was quick to mention that while the seven game win streak is a big step, the Broncos put together a six game run last year that was canceled out by a seven game losing skid, and there should be no resting on their laurels. The goal this year for WMU is nothing short of a MAC championship.
"There's a quote that says, 'Don't aim too low with your goals, because you might hit it'," Gernon said. "Last year, the goal was to win the division, and get to the MAC tournament. Now at 5-0 and the league lead, we're talking about winning the league. We didn't talk about that last year."
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