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2017 MAC Baseball Tournament: CMU, WMU Lead Off With Wins

The Chippewas and Broncos took a big first step towards a potential title on Wednesday

WMU Pitching (WMU Media File/GS Photo)
WMU Pitching
(WMU Media File/GS Photo)

The 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament began on Wednesday morning with a pair of contests involving the MAC’s three Michigan schools and Northern Illinois. The party at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio got underway with a fantastic opener followed by a solid performance from the number two seed, which sets up a potentially great winner’s bracket game between Central Michigan and Western Michigan. Thursday’s slate of games will start with an elimination tilt between Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois.

#6 Western Michigan Broncos 6, #3 Eastern Michigan Eagles 5 (10 inn.)

The Broncos took two out of three games from the Eagles during the regular season and continued their good fortune into the MAC Tournament. WMU began the scoring in the second when Nate Grys and Grant Miller led off the inning with back-to-back home runs. They added a third run in the next inning. With two outs, EMU third baseman Nick Jones could not handle a grounder from Miller, and Tanner Allison scored from second.

The Broncos gave up a run in the third but held their 3-1 edge into the sixth. Eagles’ starter Sam Delaplane walked Miller on four pitches to begin the inning. After a sacrifice, Alex Goodwin worked an eight pitch at-bat before sending a double into the left-center gap. That scored Miller, and Goodwin also crossed the plate when Tyler Frank followed with a single. Meanwhile, Mallwitz kept EMU at bay through 5 2/3 innings by striking out six and allowing just one run on four hits.

Nic Laio relieved Mallwitz and put out a sixth inning fire when he struck out Jordan Peterson with the bases full of Eagles and two out. However, his luck did not carry to the seventh. Mike Mioduszewski started with a double. On the next pitch, Jeremy Stidham crushed his sixth homer of the year to cut the deficit to 5-3.

Gabe Berman relieved with a 5-3 lead and needed six outs for a save. He got the first four, but that was not enough. With one out in the ninth, he walked Owings after an eight pitch at-bat and Marquise Gill on four pitches. Jones followed by atoning for his run-causing error by hitting a two-run double that tied the game 5-5 and sent the contest to extra innings.

In the tenth, the Broncos loaded the bases with nobody out, but Frank grounded into a 5-2-3 double play that prevented the go-ahead run from scoring. That reprieve lasted one batter, as Nick Vogelmeier singled home Goodwin for a 6-5 lead. In the bottom half, the Eagles loaded the bases with one out against Andrew Reisinger, but Reisinger induced a ground ball from Owings that led to a game-ending double play and a 6-5 win for WMU.

Reisinger (2-6) picked up the win for WMU, while Davis Feldman (1-5) earned the loss despite giving up just one run in three innings. Grys went 3-for-5 with a run and RBI to lead WMU’s offense, while EMU was paced by Jones and Stidham, who each posted three hits and two RBI. WMU now moves on to the winner’s bracket, while EMU must win out to take the MAC championship.

#2 Central Michigan Chippewas 6, #7 Northern Illinois Huskies 2

The Chippewas began their quest for the program’s first MAC Tournament title in 22 years with a solid win over the Huskies, who have never won the tournament.

The game began inauspiciously for Central Michigan. Roderick Bynum tripled into the right field corner on the fourth pitch of the game for Northern Illinois, and he scored three pitches later on a ground out by Samuel Vega. Unfortunately for the Huskies, that’s all the luck they would have against CMU starter Pat Leatherman. Another 26 NIU batters would come to the plate against Leatherman through seven innings, and he dominated them with 11 strikeouts and only two more hits allowed. CMU’s offense made Leatherman’s effort with a six-run outburst.

The Chippewas began by scoring two runs on the backs of two NIU errors in the third inning. Zach Gilles led off with a walk. Alex Borglin followed with a grounder to second that could have resulted in a double play. However, Vega booted it for an error and allowed Gilles to reach third. Gilles scored on a bunt, and Borglin made it to third with two out. Third baseman Brad Wood mishandled a grounder from Daniel Jipping that would have ended the inning, and Borglin scored a second unearned run for a 2-0 lead.

CMU continued with four more runs in the fourth. They loaded the bases with nobody out against starter Joe Hawks on a single, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk. Hawks induced a harmless fly ball for the first out but was then relieved by George Faue. Gilles took Faue’s first four pitches for balls to walk in a run before Borglin singled home another. Jason Sullivan closed the scoring with a two-run single to right field.

The Huskies scored an unearned run with a walk and an error by reliever Jordan Grosjean, which closed the gap to 6-2. However, they could must no more as Colton Bradley retired three of the four batters he faced in the ninth to end the game. In total, the three CMU pitchers held NIU bats to one run and four hits.

Leatherman earned his team-best seventh win for the Chippewas. Jason Sullivan posted three RBI and now has 46 for the season. For NIU, Hawks falls to 4-6. Bynum recorded his sixth triple of the season, one off the MAC lead. CMU will now play in the winners’ bracket against Western Michigan, while the Huskies face Eastern Michigan in an elimination game.

MAC Tournament Schedule

Game 1 #6 W. Michigan 6 #3 E. Michigan 5 (10 inn.)
Game 1 #6 W. Michigan 6 #3 E. Michigan 5 (10 inn.)
Game 2 #2 C. Michigan 6 #7 N. Illinois 2
Game 3 #1 Kent State #8 Toledo
Game 4 #4 Ball State #5 Ohio
Game 5 #3 E. Michigan #7 N. Illinois (elimination game)
Game 6 Game 3 loser Game 4 loser (elimination game)
Game 7 #2 C. Michigan #6 W. Michigan
Game 8 Game 3 winner Game 4 winner
Game 9 Game 5 winner Game 7 loser (elimination game)
Game 10 Game 6 winner Game 8 loser (elimination game)
Game 11 Game 7 winner Game 9 winner
Game 12 Game 8 winner Game 10 winner
Game 13 Repeat of Game 11, if won by Game 9 winner
Game 14 Repeat of Game 12, if won by Game 10 winner
Game 15 Game 11/13 winner Game 12/14 winner
Game 16 Repeat of Game 15, if both teams have 1 loss after Game 15