The 2017 MAC Baseball Tournament continued on Thursday morning and afternoon with a pair of elimination games. Third-seed Eastern Michigan got back on their feet with a thrilling 8-7 win over Northern Illinois, while eighth-seed Toledo kept their dream alive. The Rockets have 40 losses and were the last team in, but their offense is capable of winning any game and showed that today.
The Eagles and Huskies played a heart-pounding win-or-die game on Friday morning that came down to the final batter of game. When all was said and done, the Eagles advanced and ended NIU’s season with an 8-7 victory.
Unforced errors hurt Northern Illinois from the very start. EMU’s Mike Mioduszewski reached in the first inning when Brad Wood could not handle a grounder at third base. Mioduszewski moved to third on a double by Jeremy Stidham, then scored the game’s opening run on a 4-3 ground out by John Montgomery. That was the first of three unearned runs against NIU starter Donovin Sims.
The Huskies responded by touching Brad Allen for three straight hits to lead off the second. Jason Gasser’s single up the middle brought home Jesus Tovar and Joe Jumonville, and two outs later, Gasser scored a third run on a triple by Roderick Bynum.
EMU took control of the game in the middle innings. The Eagles moved to within 3-2 when Max Schuemann led off the third with a home run. They took the lead with a pair of unearned runs in the fourth, courtesy of three Huskie errors. John Rensel reached on a fielding error by second baseman Samuel Vega. Marquise Gill attempted to sacrifice pinch runner Drake Lubin to second, but first baseman Tommy Hook could not field Sims’ throw cleanly. Lubin and Gill then attempted a double steal, and Jacob Dunham’s throw went into center field. Lubin scored, while Gill moved to third and later scored on a ground out for a 4-3 lead.
NIU briefly tied the game in the sixth after back-to-back walks by Allen led to a run. However, EMU scored a pair of runs in the sixth and seventh innings to take an 8-4 lead.
The tables turned in favor of the Huskies again in the eighth. After Hook led off with a five-pitch walk, a single by Wood and a walk to Bynum by reliever Kevin Shul loaded the bases with nobody out. Vega ground into a fielder’s choice that scored Hook and retired Wood at third. Justin Thompson entered the game following another walk and induced a line out. However, Jesus Tovar laced a single to right-center that scored Bynum and Vega, cutting the EMU lead to 8-7. A wild pitch put runners at second and third, but Jumonville stranded those runners by flying out to center.
NIU had one last chance in the ninth when Thompson gave up a one-out double to Hook. Luke Devenney (11.57 ERA) entered the game and walked Wood, but he deftly fielded a grounder from Bynum that turned into a game-ending 1-6-3 double play.
The loss ends the Huskies’ season at 17-38. EMU advances to another elimination game on Friday against the loser of the Central Michigan-Western Michigan contest. Justin McMurtrey pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball for the win (5-3), while Sims earned a hard-luck loss, as only three of his six runs allowed were earned. Schuemann went 2-for-3 with a double, home run and three RBI for EMU.
The Toledo Rockets exploded for ten runs in the final two innings and eliminated the Ball State Cardinals from the MAC Tournament with a 15-5 romp on Thursday afternoon. Toledo blew two separate leads in the game, but Ball State was no match for an eight-run outburst in the ninth.
The Rocket offense launched immediately against Ball State starter John Baker. Matt Hansen, who batted .218 in the regular season, led off with a double. After a sacrifice bunt, Brad Boss smashed a ground-rule RBI double that scored Hansen. Toledo scored again in the second when Jake Kruper homered for the first time in 2017, then plated two more runs in the third. Hansen again led off with a hit, this time an infield single to second. He and Boss later scored when Ross Adolph laced a double down the right field line, which handed the Rockets a 4-0 lead.
Rockets’ starter Sam Shutes came into the contest with a 5.79 ERA but shut down the Cardinals offense through the first two frames. That ended in the third. Seth Freed hit a leadoff double, and Roman Baisa followed with an infield hit to second. After a strikeout, Matt Eppers corked his second homer of the season to drive home three runs. Back-to-back walks and a sacrifice bunt led to Jeff Riedel scoring the tying run in the fourth inning on a ground out by Seth Freed.
Toledo reclaimed the lead in the fifth with a two-out based-loaded walk. However, the Rockets left two runners in scoring position in the sixth, and that opened the door for Ball State to tie the game again in the bottom half with a leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly.
Ball State finally gave up the lead for good in the eighth inning. Nick Floyd gave up a one-out single to Hansen and then walked Riley Campbell. Kevin Marnon came in to put out the fire but immediately sent a wild pitch that put two in scoring position. Boss took advantage with a double to right that scored Hansen and Campbell for a 7-5 lead.
Toledo added eight insurance runs in the final inning against three Cardinals relievers, including hits by Boss, Adolph and Ryan that each plated two runs. The Rockets’ Nate Haugh preserved the win with 3 1/3 hitless innings of relief in the 15-5 win.
Haugh picked up the victory for his second win of the season, while Floyd took the loss and dropped to 2-2. Hansen and Boss each reached base five times in six trips to the plate for Toledo. Hansen was 5-for-6 with a double, RBI and four runs scored. Boss was 3-for-3 with two walks, two doubles, two runs and five RBI. Adolph had two hits and four RBI in four at-bats.
Toledo (17-40) moves on and will play on Friday against the loser of the Kent State-Ohio game. Ball State’s season ends with a 30-28 record.
MAC Tournament Schedule
|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||8||#7 N. Illinois||7||(NIU eliminiated)|
|Game 6||#8 Toledo||15||#4 Ball State||5||(BSU eliminated)|
|Game 7||#2 C. Michigan||#6 W. Michigan|
|Game 8||#1 Kent State||#5 Ohio|
|Game 9||#3 E. Michigan||Game 7 loser||(elimination game)|
|Game 10||#8 Toledo||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 have 1 loss|