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2017 MAC Baseball Tournament: CMU wins big, Kent State in danger

CMU is hunting their first MAC title in 22 years. Kent State is on the precipice of another May failure.

Kansas City Royals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Could this finally be Central Michigan’s year to win the MAC Baseball Tournament? The Chippewas have not won the event in 22 years, but they are now halfway their after advancing to the semifinals with an emphatic win over Western Michigan on Thursday. Thursday’s nightcap provided even better news for CMU, as top-seed Kent State fell to Ohio. The Chippewas and Bobcats are each now just one win away from creating a winner-take-all title game on Sunday.

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

#2 Central Michigan Chippewas 16, #6 Western Michigan Broncos 5

The Chippewas took control early and never looked back as they demolished Western Michigan in the first winner’s bracket game of the MAC Tournament on Thursday night in Avon, Ohio. CMU’s 16-5 victory places them in the semifinals, just one victory away from the championship round.

To be frank, WMU’s pitching was horrible from start to finish. Five Bronco pitchers combined to give up 12 hits and walk 14 batters. CMU scored 16 runs, all but one of them earned, and they managed to leave another ten runners on base. Each of the first four hurlers gave up at least three earned runs, and starter Jacob Piechota retired just four batters. He walked six of the 11 batters he faced and gave up six runs despite allowing only one base hit.

Alex Borglin led off the bottom of the first for CMU and received the first free pass of the game. Three batters later, Daniel Jipping brought him home with a ground-rule double to right field. WMU threatened and failed to score in the top of the first but was able to tie the game in the second. Alex Goodwin tripled with two out and scored on a Tyler Frank single.

The Chippewas came back to the plate in the second and broke the game open with five runs. Piechota walked a pair of batters to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt put those runners in scoring position, and Piechota responded by walking the next three batters. That forced home two runs and ended Piechota’s day. Two more runs crossed the plate courtesy of a ground out and a wild pitch. A third came home on an error by the pitcher when WMU attempted to throw Borglin out at home after the wild pitch.

CMU added another three runs in the fourth inning for a 9-2 lead. They also posted a run in the sixth, two in the seventh and four more in the eighth for their final tally of 16. WMU was able to touch Chippewa starter Tyler Hankins for four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, but Michael Brettell threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as CMU’s offense padded its lead.

Borglin walked and scored three times for CMU. Jipping drove home a game-best four runs and reached base five times on three doubles and two walks. Evan Kratt added a double, a triple, two runs and two RBI. For WMU, Alex Goodwin led the way with a double, a triple, an RBI and a run scored.

WMU (24-28) drops into the losers bracket and will face Eastern Michigan in an elimination game on Friday. CMU advances to the semifinals on Saturday and will face the winner of that WMU-EMU game. They will need only one win to advance to the championship; the WMU-EMU winner will need to beat CMU twice.

#5 Ohio Bobcats 5, #1 Kent State Golden Flashes 3

Ohio outlasted top-seeded Kent State in the finale of Thursday’s action at the MAC Tournament and put themselves one win away from a spot in the MAC championship game. The Bobcats are attempting to win the tournament for the second time in three years. KSU is now just 4-3 in the last two years as the tournament’s #1 seed.

The Golden Flashes held the early advantage. After leaving a pair of runners on base in the first inning, KSU scored in the second. Dom Iero led off by lacing a double to right center. With two outs and Iero at third, Josh Hollander bunted for a single, and Iero scored for a 1-0 lead.

Kent State added another run two innings later. This time, Iero could not get a lead-off hit, but Kelly Hawkins picked him up by rapping a single to center. After a hit-by-pitch and a walk loaded the bases, Nick Kanavas grounded to short. Ohio retired Hollander at second but could not turn the double play, which allowed Hawkins to score.

Through six innings, Ohio’s offense could muster only one unearned run against KSU starter Joey Murray. Murray hit Devon Garcia with a pitch to lead off the third inning. Garcia moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored when first baseman Dylan Rosa booted a Spencer Ibarra ground ball. The Bobcats had more chances to score in the third but ultimately left the bases loaded.

Another unearned run off Murray allowed Ohio to tie the game in the seventh. Nick Bredeson reached second due to an errant throw from third by Hollander. Two batters later, Tyler Finkler doubled home Bredeson to make the score 2-2.

Ohio took advantage of Kent State’s bullpen to win the game in the last two innings. Ty Black doubled off reliever Patrick Dayton to lead off the eighth. Following a one-out walk, Connor Callery tapped a grounder to Dayton, who attempted to start a double play at second base. Black scored on the play, but the poor throw allowed the other runners to reach. A wild pitch sent Michael Klein to third, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Bredeson for a 4-2 lead. The Bobcats scored an insurance run in the ninth when Black hit an RBI double off Zach Spangler.

Kent State attempted to rally in the ninth against closer Jake Roehn. Luke Burch started the inning with a single. Roehn then struck out Rosa looking. Pinch-hitter Pete Schuler cracked a double to the right-center gap that scored Burch, which cut the lead to 5-3. However, Roehn recovered and struck out Iero and pinch hitter Patrick Ferguson swinging to end the game.

Kenny Ogg (2-1) picked up the win with two scoreless and hitless innings of relief for Ohio, and Roehn earned his 14th save. Dayton (2-2) earned the loss by giving up two runs (one earned) in 1 1/3 innings. Kent State is now sent to the loser’s bracket, where they will face #8 seed Toledo on Friday in an elimination game. The winner of that contest will take on Ohio on Saturday in a semifinal and will need to beat the Bobcats twice to earn a spot in the championship game. Ohio will need to win only once on Saturday.

MAC Tournament Schedule

-- Team Score Team Score --
-- Team Score Team Score --
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 16 #6 W. Michigan 5
Game 8 #5 Ohio 5 #1 Kent State 3
Game 9 #3 E. Michigan 12 #6 W. Michigan 6 (WMU eliminated)
Game 10 #1 Kent State 6 #8 Toledo 3 (Toledo eliminated)
Game 11 #3 E. Michigan 9 #2 C. Michigan 1
Game 12 #5 Ohio 7 #1 Kent State 2 (KSU eliminated)
Game 13 #3 E. Michigan 4 #2 C. Michigan 2 (10 inn.; CMU eliminated)
Game 15 #5 Ohio #3 E. Michigan 5/28 @ 12:00 pm
Game 16 Repeat of Game 15* *if EMU wins Game 15 40 min. after