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2021 Mid-American Conference Baseball Weekly Recap: Joe Rock’s no-hitter highlights Week 2’s action

Joe Rock tosses a no-hitter, Ball State continues to roll, and Miami piles up the runs in the second week of action on the diamond.

Mid-American Conference

Ball State @ Bradley

  • Game one: Ball State 4, Bradley 3 (10 innings)
  • Game two: Ball State 5, Bradley 0 (7 innings)
  • Game three: Ball State 0, Bradley 6

The Cardinals nearly had their weekend wiped out due to COVID concerns with the Charleston Southern program, but Ball State was able to find a three-game series in Norman, Illinois against Bradley. It was another successful weekend as the Cardinals improved to 4-3 on the year with a series win, backed by the dominant, veteran pitching expected to carry this team far in 2021.

Veteran Jon Baker nearly went the distance in game one on Friday night, striking out 12 and allowing just one earned run across 8.2 innings. Junior RHP Chayce McDermott followed up in game two with five shutout innings of one-hit baseball. He struck out seven and walked one in a solid rebound outing after struggling in his 2021 debut at Arizona.

Offensively, senior OF Ross Messina was the only Cardinal to record a hit in all three games. After seven games, he ranks second on the team with a .310 average and .375 on-base percentage and leads the way with five RBI.

Ball State will stay on the road for two more weeks, taking on the Kentucky Wildcats this weekend and Old Dominion next before opening MAC play on March 19 at home against Western Michigan.

Miami @ Florida International

  • Game one: Miami 1, FIU 3
  • Game two: Miami 21, FIU 4
  • Game three: Miami 4, FIU 8
  • Game four: Miami 15, FIU 6

If those final scores from this series don’t scream college baseball, I don’t know what will. The RedHawks scored 41 runs last weekend, but only managed a split of their weekend series, sending them to 5-3 after sweeping Jacksonville last weekend (a midweek loss to Kentucky was sandwiched in there as well).

Friday night starter and top MLB draft prospect Sam Bachman joined the 100 mph club in game one of the series, topping out at a career-high 100.8 mph according to Miami’s radar gun. He struck out 10 across six shutout innings, but his offense mustered just one hit in support as RedHawk hitters struck out a total of 19 times. Bachman has enjoyed beginning the season in Florida, striking out 16 and allowing just one run across his first 11 innings of work as he draws more and more draft hype with each passing inning.

As for the bats, it was the weekend of the Nate. Freshman Nate Stone notched eight hits with seven RBI, seven runs scored, and his first career home run. Senior backstop Nate Stolze recorded seven hits with six runs, six RBI, and a home run of his own. Miami’s seven team home runs currently lead the MAC, a pleasant surprise for a lineup that has struggled with strikeouts but owns a .390 OBP and .256 team average entering week three.

Miami will travel to Coastal Carolina this weekend to face the Chanticleers, the University of Connecticut, and Davidson in an early-season tournament.

Ohio @ Morehead State

  • Game one: Ohio 6, Morehead State 0
  • Game two: Ohio 1, Morehead State 3

The biggest story to come out of the MAC this weekend was LHP Joe Rock’s seven-inning no-hitter on Friday night. Rock continues to check all the boxes this season as he skyrockets up MLB draft boards after two dominant outings for the Bobcats. He struck out six, walked two, and was backed by six runs on six hits from his offense as Ohio improved to 2-2.

With a dozen scouts reportedly in attendance to watch Rock, he picked quite the perfect time to throw a no-hitter, using his 91-93 mph fastball with impressive arm-side run to keep hitters uncomfortable. He now has 18 strikeouts across his first 12 innings and hasn’t even started to warm up on the mound (literally).

The Bobcats dropped to 2-3 on the year with a loss in game two of the doubleheader but leadoff hitter Isaiah Peterson continued his torrid start to the year, collecting four hits. Through five games, Peterson is 9-20 (.450 average) with three doubles, and more walks (4) than strikeouts (3).

The two teams tried for another DH on Sunday and Monday, but weather forced the cancellation of both. They will return to the field next weekend with a four-game series at home against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Kent State vs Tennessee Tech

  • Game one: Kent State 6, Tennessee Tech 1
  • Game two: Kent State 17, Tennessee Tech 5
  • Game three: Kent State 8, Tennessee Tech 1

Kent State wasn’t supposed to play at home this weekend, but weather pushed the weekend series to Ohio, where the Golden Flashes played their first home games in more than 650 days. Kent State found their stride after dropping two-straight to Virginia Tech last weekend, outscoring Tennessee Tech 31-7 in three games and improving to 3-2 ahead of a huge series at West Virginia next weekend.

RHP Luke Albright put up his second quality start in as many outings, fanning 10 across five innings of one-run baseball and senior LHP Collin Romel rebounded well with nine strikeouts and no walks across four relief innings on Saturday. Overall, Kent State pitchers surrendered just three earned runs while striking out 37 over the weekend in a dominant performance that should give the Golden Flashes a big shot of confidence going into this upcoming weekend.

One of the most consistent hitters in the MAC, Ben Carew paced the way with seven hits and swiped his first three bags of the year. Fellow senior and former First-Team All-MAC performer Michael Turner chipped in four hits with a home run and three walks on the weekend. The Golden Flashes are not hitting .291 as a team as their high-powered offense looks to make them a favorite for a MAC title in 2021.

Bowling Green @Middle Tennesee State

Game one: Bowling Green 4, MTSU 5 (10 innings)

Game two: Bowling Green 3, MTSU 5

Game three: Bowling Green 0, MTSU 7

It wasn’t the weekend that Bowling Green may have wanted, but seeing as this program wasn’t supposed to be around in 2021, it didn’t take much to be excited about BGSU baseball again. The Falcons piled on 11 hits on Opening Night and Friday night starter Andrew Abrahamowicz put together a solid line of 5 IP, 2 ER, 6 K, but a walk-off home run for MTSU in the bottom of the 10th put an end to the first game of the season.

Bowling Green managed just 10 hits over the next two nights as they dropped all three games, but baseball is back and as this team puts their offseason behind them and gets back into the routine and grind of an NCAA baseball season, there’s little doubt that the Falcons won’t be able to settle in and put together a string of big wins this season. They will travel to Harrisonburg, VA to take on James Madison University this weekend (where yours truly will be in attendance for the first time in 2021).

Eastern Michigan @ Alabama State

Game one: Eastern Michigan 2, Alabama State 1

Game two: Eastern Michigan 4, Alabama State 3

The wait was worth it for Eastern Michigan players and fans as the Eagles took both games of their season-opening series. RHP Davis Feldman showcased his healthy arm with five shutout innings to kick off the year, allowing just two hits and striking out five in the process. Junior Justin Meis and sophomore Cameron Wagoner combined for nine strikeouts and no walks in game two of the series as Eastern Michigan pitching settled in nicely to begin 2021.

The Eagles hit just .175 as a team over the weekend, but freshman infielder Mark Kattula accounted for nearly 50 percent of the total hits, wracking up four (three doubles) with an RBI and a walk. Eastern Michigan will attempt a four-game set at Bellarmine this weekend, who had to cancel their series against Central Michigan last weekend due to COVID-19.

Western Michigan @ Kansas State

  • Game one: Western Michigan 8, Kansas State 9
  • Game two: Western Michigan 3, Kansas State 11
  • Game three: Western Michigan 1, Kansas State 2

Western Michigan may have dropped all three games against the Wildcats, but it was still a solid weekend for the Broncos. The action started on Friday night as Western Michigan piled on six runs and 10 hits against one of the top arms in the country in Jordan Wicks. Easton Sikorski nearly went pitch-for-pitch against Wicks, striking out six and walking none across five innings of impressive work.

Offense was a little harder to come by on Saturday and Sunday, but the Broncos did take Kansas State to the ninth inning on Sunday, putting the equalizing run on base before a game-ending double play cutoff any comeback attempt.

Junior catcher Connor Charping led all Bronco hitters with five hits and the starting rotation struck out 15 with just two walks across 13 total innings. Future first day MLB draft Blake Dunn did not play Saturday or Sunday due to an injury. Hopefully, the five-tool outfielder can return to the field quickly. The Broncos will travel to St. Louis for a three-game series this weekend.

Northern Illinois @ Evansville

  • Game one: Northern Illinois 4, Evansville 5
  • Game two: Northern Illinois: 5, Evansville 8
  • Game three: Northern Illinois 7, Evansville 4

The Huskies finally got on the diamond this past weekend after their opening series at Memphis was canceled last week. They took a lead into the ninth inning of game one but a four-run final frame gave Evansville the win to kick things off. Center-fielder Brady Huebbe wasted no time in settling in at the plate, picking up three hits with three RBI. All three hits went for extra-bases, including his first home run of the year.

NIU was able to end the weekend with a win, and another three-hit day for Huebbe, thanks to a five-run fourth inning and a three-run HR with four total RBI from freshman second baseman Jack Blazevich.

The biggest takeaway from the weekend was that NIU has the opportunity to play spoiler this year in the MAC. The Huskies will look to keep the bats hot this weekend with a three-game set at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Toledo @ Davidson

  • Game one: Toledo 1, Davidson 8
  • Game two: Toledo 2, Davidson 12
  • Game three: Toledo 14, Davidson 16

The bats eventually came alive for the Rockets on Sunday afternoon, but ultimately it was another rough weekend for Toledo, who sits at 0-6 after their first two series. 1B/RHP Chris Meyers continued his dominant start to the year, collecting six hits with six RBI and two BB, including his team-leading third home run of the year.

Meyers (.348), Trace Hatfield (.375), and Mason Sykes (.304) are the only three Toledo hitters hitting above .300 at this point while the spark plug that should be outfielder Darryn Davis has just three hits in six games and the Rockets have struck out a total of 78 times. It’s still very early and Toledo has plenty of potential to get hot and make some noise, but they will face another tough test this weekend as they travel to Samford, who put up quite the fight against one of the top teams in the country last weekend in the Florida Gators.

Elsewhere around the Mid-American Conference, Central Michigan was unable to rebound from a disappointing opening weekend after their series against Bellarmine was canceled due to COVID-19.

The Chippewas are not scheduled to play until March 11, when they travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, for a series against the Mountaineers. Perhaps, we see them this weekend if another team happens to be in need of an opponent.

Finally, Akron returns to the baseball field for the first time in nearly a year as they take on Olivet for a doubleheader on Saturday and Sunday at home.