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2017 MAC Baseball Tournament: Kent State and Ohio Carry the East’s Flag

Kent State and Ohio, the MAC East’s only tournament teams, advanced to the winner’s bracket on Wednesday.

Jensen-Clagg (Dylan Buell)
(Dylan Buell)

The first day of the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament concluded on Wednesday night with the Eastern Division in the spotlight. The East sent just two of its five teams to the tournament, while the West sent all six. Both of the East’s entrants, Kent State and Ohio, won on Wednesday to advance to the winner’s bracket, and the winner of their game on Thursday will be just one more win away from the championship game. Meanwhile, Toledo was thrashed in a shutout by the top-seeded Flashes, and Ball State gave up a go-ahead run in the ninth as they lost to Ohio.

Recaps of the two evening games and the entire tournament schedule are below.

#1 Kent State Golden Flashes 7, #8 Toledo Rockets 0

Eli Kraus dominated from start to finish as Kent State began the MAC Tournament with a convincing shutout of Toledo. The Golden Flashes needed only the single run they scored in the third inning but added a five-run exclamation point in the seventh to seal the win.

Kraus allowed a double to Matt Hansen, the game’s first batter. He made his way to third on a ground out but was left there when Dalton Bollinger struck out swinging. Michael Ryan led off the third inning with a single off Kraus and went to second on a sacrifice. However, he was caught stealing third to end the frame. Toledo had only two baserunners against Kraus for the remainder of the contest; neither of them reached scoring position. Kraus finished with a complete game shutout that included eight strikeouts to go with just three hits and one walk allowed. He lowered his ERA to 2.69.

Kent State scored the only run they would require off Toledo starter Steven Calhoun in the third. Josh Hollander started the inning with a single. A hit batter and a walk loaded the bases, and then Calhoun walked Dylan Rosa to send home Hollander. In the fifth, Hollander again led off with a base hit and scored on a double play.

Up 2-0, the Flashes put the game away with five runs in the seventh. Once again, Hollander got the rally started with a base hit, this time with two out. Three more singles pushed Hollander across for his third run scored and loaded the bases for Rosa, who promptly delivered a one-strike pitch over the left field fence for a grand slam. The dinger was Rosa’s 13th of the season and tied him for the MAC lead. It also gave him a team-best 45 RBI.

Kraus’ complete game effort earned his eighth win of the season. Calhoun drops to 3-7 after going all eight innings and giving up seven earned runs on eight hits. Kent State moves into the winner’s bracket, while Toledo will play an elimination game on Thursday afternoon.

#5 Ohio Bobcats 4, #4 Ball State Cardinals 3

The Ohio Bobcats continued their recent hot streak by capturing a back-and-forth affair against the Ball State Cardinals in the final game of the MAC Baseball Tournament’s first day. The Bobcats’ 4-3 win is their sixth in seven games and comes on the heels of their series victory over Kent State last weekend.

Ball State held Ohio scoreless in the first inning, then wasted no time in taking the lead against Bobcats’ starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury. On Salisbury’s third pitch of the game, leadoff batter Alex Maloney blasted his seventh home run of the season over the left field fence for a 1-0 lead. Salisbury quickly settled down, but the Cardinals kept that lead into the middle of the contest.

Ohio finally threatened Colin Brockhouse in the fifth inning. Making just his eighth start of the season, Brockhouse allowed a leadoff double to Anthony Mrosla, only his second of 2017. Spencer Ibarra singled Mrosla to third with one out. Then, with two down, Brockhouse walked back-to-back batters to force home a game-tying run.

The Cardinals found trouble again in the following inning. Brockhouse walked Mrosla with two out. He followed that by hitting Tyler Finkler with a pitch and allowing a single to right-center by Ibarra. Ibarra’s hit scored Mrosla for a 2-1 Ohio lead.

Ball State fought back with a run in the seventh. They chased Salisbury with a leadoff ground rule double and a one-out walk. Jake Rudnicki came in to face Maloney and Matt Eppers but walked both. The Eppers walk forced home Griffin Hulecki with the tying run. However, Ohio answered in the eighth with another run. Reliever Evan Marquardt allowed a single to Ibarra and intentionally walked Rudy Rott after a sacrifice bunt. Marquardt then uncorked two wild pitches that brought home Ibarra.

Once again in the eighth, the Cardinals used free passes to tie the game. Rudnicki gave up his third walk of the game in just five batters faced before giving way to closer Jake Roehn. With an opportunity for his 14th save, Roehn walked Seth Freed. Hulecki sacrificed the runners into scoring position, then Roman Baisa tied the game with an infield hit.

More walks finally spelled Ball State’s doom in the ninth inning. With one out, Marquardt gave up his fourth and fifth walks of the game to Evan Bourn and Mrosla. T.J. Baker attempted to rescue the game and got a second out before giving up a go-ahead two-out single to Ibarra. Roehn redeemed himself by pitching a scoreless ninth for the win.

Roehn (4-4) picked up the victory by throwing two innings with three strikeouts and just one hit allowed. Salisbury gave up two runs and five hits (all extra base hits) in 6 1/3 innings. Marquardt (3-5) took the loss after throwing 2 1/3 innings with two runs allowed, two hits, five walks and just one strikeout. Ibarra finished the game with five of Ohio’s seven hits and went 5-for-6 with two RBI and a run scored. Ohio moves on to face top-seed Kent State in the winner’s bracket, while Ball State will face Toledo in an elimination game on Thursday.

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 7 #8 Toledo 0
Game 4 #5 Ohio 4 #4 Ball State 3
Game 5 #3 E. Michigan #7 N. Illinois (elimination game)
Game 6 #4 Ball State #8 Toledo (elimination game)
Game 7 #2 C. Michigan #6 W. Michigan
Game 8 #1 Kent State #5 Ohio
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