From seventh seed to MAC champs. For the first time ever. Western Michigan defeated Kent State to win its very first MAC baseball tournament championship with a 12-7 victory over the one-seed.
The Bronco bats were hot early. The Broncos plated a run in the first off a Hunter Prince sacrifice fly and three in the second off of a Nick Vogelmeier RBI-single and a Grant Miller two-RBI single. Western put up another run in the fourth and five more in the sixth to bust things wide open.
Keegan Akin pitched one helluva game for the Broncos. He went six innings strong with nine strikeouts. He surrendered a single hit in the victory. Not that the Kent State bats didn't make things interesting later on. After WMU had extended its lead to 12, the Flashes came roaring back in the eighth and ninth. A three-RBI triple from Luke Burch and a three-RBI dinger from Brad Hamilton plated six of those seven runs in the eighth inning. It just wasn't enough.
It's kind of amazing that WMU got here in the first place. The Broncos had never been to a MAC championship.
To steal a bit from our preview for this game:
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.
Coach Jeff Duncan chose to rest Eric Lauer, the highly-regarded stud hurler after he had pitched one game in the tournament against EMU. After posting a sub-1.00 E.R.A. over the season (0.69), it's easy to argue that Duncan should have started Lauer even on little rest unless he feared health repercussions (which is a distinct possibility). A couple errors from the Golden Flash infield didn't help much either with Connor Wollersheim on the mound. KSU had four errors on the day. It's not like Wollersheim was a slouch either. His 2.65 E.R.A. speaks largely to that. But WMU came in playing some of its best ball of the year, and took advantage of the opportunity to face anyone not named Lauer.
WMU now awaits its fate for regional tournament play. Maybe we'll see an even more magical run than the Flashes trip to the 2012 College World Series. We can dream right?