The 2017 Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament is just around the corner. Each team will play its final three-game conference series of the season from Thursday, May 18 to Saturday, May 20, with the exception of Bowling Green, who has already completed its conference schedule. The tournament will then commence on Wednesday, May 24 from Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio.
The top two seeds and Western Division championship are still up for grabs. Kent State has already captured the East title and is in prime position to claim the #1 seed. All they need is one win at Ohio or one Central Michigan loss to Ball State. The only way CMU can capture the #1 seed is if they sweep the Cardinals and Ohio sweeps the Golden Flashes. If KSU and CMU end up tied, KSU wins the tiebreaker due to a 2-1 record versus the Chippewas this season.
CMU will capture the Western Division crown and the #2 seed with one win against the Cardinals. They would also clinch if they get swept and Eastern Michigan sweeps Toledo. Ball State would take the #2 seed if they sweep the Chippewas and Toledo wins at least once at EMU.
According to the MAC, five teams have already sealed spots in the field of eight. Kent State is the MAC leader with a 17-4 mark, and trailing them by just two games is Central Michigan (15-6). Eastern Michigan and Ball State are tied for third place at 12-9, while Ohio’s 11-10 conference record places the Bobcats in fifth place.
That leaves three spots for the bottom six teams, each of whom is still alive. The great part of the final weekend is that four of those six teams play each other in the final series, so the matter will largely be decided on the field. This post will deal with the clinching scenarios for each of the six teams.
Important note: these clinching scenarios presume that all games will be played. If games are cancelled due to weather, the scenarios could change.
Northern Illinois Huskies (9-12, at Miami)
NIU will almost certainly be heading to Avon. If they win at least two games at Miami, they are in. If they win one of the three, they are in unless Buffalo takes two of three from Western Michigan, Toledo takes at least two of three from Eastern Michigan, and EMU finishes ahead of Ball State.
The Huskies could even make the tournament in the event that they are swept by Miami. For that to happen, they would need WMU to win zero, two or three games versus Buffalo, EMU to win two of three from Toledo, and Ball State to finish ahead of EMU.
Western Michigan Broncos (9-12, vs Buffalo)
The Broncos’ position is more precarious than NIU’s, but only slightly so. Like the Huskies, WMU is in the tournament with at least two wins against Buffalo. One win would also do the trick, with a couple of exceptions. With just one win, the Broncos would not make it if NIU wins two or three at Miami and Toledo wins two or three at EMU. They would also be out if NIU wins one, Toledo wins at least two, and Ball State finishes ahead of EMU.
If the Broncos get swept, they only have one way to Avon: they would need a Miami sweep of NIU, at least two Eagles’ wins over Toledo, and an EMU finish ahead of Ball State in the final standings.
Toledo Rockets (8-13, at Eastern Michigan)
The Rockets’ path to Avon is perhaps the simplest of all six teams. If they win two of three or sweep Eastern Michigan, they are in. If they get swept by EMU, they are eliminated. If Toledo wins only one of three at the Eagles, they have only one route: the WMU/Buffalo series must end in a sweep, and NIU must win at least one game at Miami.
Buffalo Bulls (8-13, at Western Michigan)
Like the three teams above in this list, Buffalo needs only two wins this weekend to clinch a tournament berth. Like the Toledo, the Bulls cannot make the tournament if they get swept. That leaves the question of what happens to Buffalo if they win just one game at Western Michigan. It can be confusing.
Here are their “in” scenarios presuming one win at WMU:
Two or three NIU wins at Miami + one Toledo win at EMU
Two or three NIU wins at Miami + zero Toledo wins at EMU + EMU, WMU or Ball State finish ahead of Ohio
One NIU win at Miami + zero or one Toledo wins at EMU
Zero NIU wins at Miami + zero or one Toledo wins at EMU + EMU finishes ahead of Ball State
Miami (7-17, vs Northern Illinois)
Quite frankly, our final two teams have very little hope of making the MAC Tournament. Miami is essentially in must-sweep territory, and even then, they need help. If the RedHawks sweep the Huskies, they go to Avon if the WMU/Buffalo series ends in a sweep or if WMU takes two of three. If Miami sweeps but WMU wins just once, then the RedHawks would also need EMU to win at least two of three against Toledo.
Miami does have one scenario where they only need to win two of three. In that case, they would need both Western and Eastern Michigan to win sweeps in their respective series.
Bowling Green (9-15)
Finally, we come to the Falcons. BGSU’s schedule of MAC games is complete, so their chances to get to Avon are entirely reliant on the generosity of others. The view is not pretty.
For BGSU to make the tournament, Eastern Michigan must win all three games against Toledo. Beyond that, they need WMU to sweep Buffalo and NIU to win zero, two or three games from Miami OR for Buffalo to sweep WMU and NIU to win at least once. They would also get in if NIU and WMU both win at least two games.
Upon final analysis, it seems pretty clear that NIU and WMU will join the party in Avon, scenarios which should eliminate Buffalo and Miami. That leaves the final berth to either Toledo or BGSU. Even one win by the Rockets should be enough to sneak their way into the final eight.