For fans of MACtion, your opportunities for viewing engagements are growing limited as time goes on this spring. Track and Field wraps up on a national stage next week, and college baseball regionals begin this week. Today's Mid-American Conference baseball championship from Avon, Ohio between Kent State and Western Michigan is likely the last all-MAC event until the fall, so if you're a fan of the Conference that Could, today is your day.
The Kent State Golden Flashes, from all measures, is the baseball standard-bearer in the MAC. The top-seeded Golden Flashes were 2012 NCAA College World Series Qualifiers, are 13-Time NCAA Regional Qualifiers, and 13-Time MAC Regular Season Champions. They have put together a MAC tournament run this year that featured strong pitching and timely hitting and unlike some of their conference brethren, their stars stepped up when the spotlight shone. The concern from some has been Kent State's razor thin margins in the tourney, like their opening one-run win over 8-seed EMU, a second round one-run win over 5-seed Toledo, and their 4-2 win last night over EMU. The Golden Flashes' lone loss was at the hands of EMU, a 10-5 drubbing that was the most shocking result of the tournament.
The Western Michigan Broncos, the seventh-seed in the tournament, opened their run with the event's biggest opening round upset, knocking off 2-seed Ball State. Following that was an upset of 3-seed Miami. Their loss was at the hands of 6-seeded Central Michigan, who the Broncos dispatched in a rematch 4-0 on Saturday night. They, like Kent State, have built a championship appearance on timely hitting and solid pitching, and it is a guarantee that the tradition and low seed for the Golden Flashes will not bother the Broncos given their list of triumphs so far. They might as well add a one-seed to their already accumulated two-seed and three-seed wins.
Broncos fans should hang their hats on the fact that Kent State, though solid, has not been dominant offensively. The opportunity is there to put runs on the board and force Kent State to keep up. Conversely, for Kent State fans, in a one-game situation with MAC Pitcher of the Year Eric Lauer on the mound, you have to like your chances. Only one run was needed the last time he got the start and considering his dominance all season, that might be all that's needed this time out as well. The true Kent State homer would say their only loss is one that saw the Golden Flashes commit five errors, so it was less about losing and more about beating themselves.
It's sure to be an exciting Sabbath Day in Avon, as one of these two will hoist a MAC title and await their fate on their NCAA Regional placement. Whether it's the plucky upstart Western Michigan Broncos or the top-seeded blue blood Kent State Golden Flashes can be seen today at 1:30pm on ESPN3.