Baseball is a funny sport. Football and basketball dominate the college scene, and while they both have a technical aspect, victories tend to go to those blessed with size, speed and power. In baseball, precision and execution determines winners, and these performances fluctuate over time, even in the big leagues. In college, where 20-year-olds never perform consistently, results are even more volatile. And that's how a team with a losing record wins the MAC championship.
Bowling Green didn't exactly dominate the MAC tournament. They entered as a 6-seed, really needing a good last week just to qualify for the thing. After a wild 11-inning win over 3-seed NIU, they beat 7-seed Toledo twice to catapult into the final against 4-seed Ball State. They didn't have to face regular season champs Kent State or dangerous upstart Buffalo, and they were a combined 1-5 against those teams. They didn't dominate; they survived.
|Bowling Green Falcons||0||0||0||0||7||0||0||0||0||7||13||1|
|Ball State Cardinals||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||X||0||4||2|
|WP: Nick Bruns (6 - 2)
LP: Scott Baker (12 - 2)
Well, the pitching dominated. Nick Bruns went the distance, throwing a four-hitter for his second career complete game shutout, but it was just his second start of the season. He had mostly been used in the bullpen, but the senior righthander had also earned the win in the MAC tournament opener against NIU and earned the save in the semifinal 1-0 win against Toledo without allowing a run. It was masterful.
As for the runs, I happened to watch that crazy fifth inning. Ball State's Scott Baker, who won the MAC's Pitcher of the Year with a 11-1 record and 1.63 ERA, had everything go wrong. Apart from a few solid hits, Baker gave up mostly bleeders through the infield and made some mistakes on fielding bunts. Indecision on which base to throw to turned sacrifices into base hits. At one point Ball State had a Falcon baserunner caught in a rundown between first and second, but the fielder tried to make another out at third base and everybody was safe. It took a good relay from the outfield to throw the runner out at home to end the inning, which shows you how much worse it could've been.
But even if they just scrapped together one or two runs in that inning, Bruns was dominant enough to win either way. He was rightly named the tournament MVP and despite being the team's official closer, don't be surprised if he gets the call again to start in the NCAA tournament against whoever they draw, which will be made known on Monday afternoon.
They will finish — barring a miracle run through the NCAA tournament — with three straight sub-.500 seasons, but they did win MAC regular season titles in 2008 and '09. I have no expectations for how they'll do, but considering they began the season 4-15 and 0-3 in the MAC, this is pretty darn cool.
It's no secret around the MAC that Bowling Green just doesn't win that many championships — at least not in the last 15 years. Last year was a bit of a flop across the board, save for perhaps a nice run by hockey to reach the CCHA Final Four, but they ended a few nasty droughts by winning championships in baseball and volleyball this season. Football was also one game, one quarter, one freaking Dri Archer touchdown away from the MAC Championship. Not bad at all.