The MAC teams completed week two and are already 20 percent into the conference season. It’s very early, but the leaders have made themselves known. Toledo, Miami and Akron are all 4-4 in conference so far and Toledo and Miami are expected to finish above .500 by the time the season ends.
Akron is a surprise, but their pitching will continue to cause problems for their opponents.
Kent State is off to a sluggish start at 2-4. The real surprise will be if they don’t get it together and rip off a bunch of wins.
Early conference leaders: Ball State, Central Michigan, Ohio
It’s early in the conference season, but three teams have started to separate themselves. The only teams with winning records through two weekends are Ball State, Central Michigan and Ohio.
Ball State beat a tough Eastern Michigan team three out of four times, and swept a down Bowling Green team, taking the sweep by at least a five-run margin in each contest. That’s how a good team beats a bad team.
Ohio split a shortened series with NIU and took three of four from Kent State. The Flashes aren’t in this group of front runners yet, but they could easily get back into it with the rest of the season. Ohio scores runs consistently and have a fantastic top end of the rotation and bullpen.
Central Michigan has yet to play a home game, which makes their 5-1 record that much more impressive. Their pitching has been the best in the MAC over their six games with a 1.79 ERA. No other team is close to that. In 40.1 innings pitched they have struck out 50 batters, also the best in the MAC in K/9.
A lot can change as the season progresses, all of these teams have yet to play each other, but getting off to a 7-1, 4-2, and 5-1 start respectively is exactly what they wanted to do.
Central Michigan survives two tough tests before their conference break
The Chippewas have played two road series against Kent State and Miami, two of the stronger teams in the MAC. They were playing well and limited the Flash's strong offense to six runs, despite the series being cut short by snow.
The Miami RedHawks haven't had the results in the win column that they would like in the non-conference season, but they opened MAC play with a sweep of BGSU. Central Michigan gave them a taste of their own medicine and took all four this past weekend.
Kent State and Miami are going to finish in the top half of the MAC. Taking five of six from them is a great start.
They take their weekend off from MAC games this week and come back to host another tough team in Ohio. If CMU gets through that series with a split or better, they will have set themselves up to cruise to a regular-season championship. The Ball State series will be huge for them in late April.
Bowling Green needs pitching
There is a trend where the hitter of the week comes from a team that played the Falcons. Their ERA has been almost twice as high as any other team in the MAC through their eight games.
Walks are a problem for them, but the largest outlier in their pitching numbers is their .409 batting average allowed. That number is a real bummer. Some other stats are correctable but a .409 batting average happens in two ways: with insane batted ball luck, and lots of hard contact.
It’s probably a little of both but hard-hit balls will find space in the defense no matter who is out there.
This isn’t meant to pile on players that are working hard, but rather, meant to recognize a team in a tough spot. When they pick up some wins this season or hold opponents to six runs or less, they had a good day relative to where they are now.
“Of The Weeks”
Hitter of the Week: Matthew Rivera, Ball State, Designated Hitter
Matthew Rivera had an on-base percentage of .737 in the four games against BGSU. Their pitching is thin, but to take advantage the way Rivera did is impressive.
On top of reaching base in 14 of 19 plate appearances, he had eight hits, scored six runs and drove in eleven. In his eight hits, he hit three doubles and two home runs.
His weekend OPS is 2.045, which is an insane number.
Rivera hasn’t always been in the lineup, but as of late has cemented his spot in the heart of the Ball State lineup as the designated hitter.
Best Start of the Week: Jordan Patty, Central Michigan
In the bottom of the fourth inning in game one, Cole Andrews hit a one-out double for the RedHawks. That was the closest they got to scoring in that game.
Jordan Patty was lights out and made his eight innings of work look easy. He only allowed five base runners while striking out ten and earning the win.
The Chippewa offense only produced two runs and that was more than enough for Patty on Saturday. He’s had some tough outings so far this season, and this game was a major return to 2021 form.
Reliever of the Week: Brenden Roder, Ohio
Brenden Roder is a senior for the Bobcats and is a spot starter and long reliever for them. He has started their midweek games for them this season. He started and pitched two effective innings against Marshall on Wednesday.
The series with Kent State drained pitching. There were a total of 62 runs scored in the first three games. If the game four starting pitchers got into trouble, the bullpens were thin behind them, and that’s what happened to Ohio.
On short rest and down 5-0 in the second inning, Roder allowed one inherited runner to score and one more unearned run in 6.1 innings to save the Bobcats. He only allowed four hits and hit one batter.
While Roder was dealing, the Bobcat offense was scoring runs. They came back to win 8-7 and getting six innings from the long reliever after putting out a fire was huge.
Conference series review
Northern Illinois (3-14, 3-3) at Akron (5-12, 4-4)
|Starter ERA||3.13||Starter ERA||5.19|
Akron has been a pesky team so far this season. The Zips weren’t expected to be great, but have found ways to steal some wins with strong pitching. The second and fourth games of the series were low-scoring wins, with Conor Steinbaugh serving as a major player, whiel the bullpen also had excellent performances, with Jackson Hickert going three innings and Brett Dietrich notching the save.
Northern Illinois got their wins in games one and three in convincing, whole-team efforts. Kyle Seebach needed 88 pitches to get through eight innings. He faced 36 batters and allowed 12 to reach base. Being that efficient is rare. His counterpart, Taed Heydinger, had a more normal outing and threw 101 pitches, and made it into the sixth inning.
18 of NIU’s 19 hitters got at least one hit in their wins and Eric Erato and Andre Demetral did the most of the damage.
Akron goes on the road to Eastern Michigan next week, and NIU plays Kent State at home. NIU also plays Purdue Tuesday.
Bowling Green (2-15, 0-8) at Ball State (12-8, 7-1)
|Starter ERA||19.50||Starter ERA||6.16|
Ball State swept the series by taking advantage of the state of the Falcon pitching staff. Fifty-five runs are the most one team has scored in a series so far this season.
Ball State hit seven home runs and Bowling Green hit six. Bowling Green’s offense was up-and-down in the series, but scored enough to typically be in some games, but Ball State’s offense was overwhelming. On top of the seven home runs, they hit 11 doubles and four triples.
Three of the home runs hit by the Cardinals were grand slams, and another was a three-run blast. They were painful for the Falcons.
Tyler Schweitzer struck out nine and did not give up a run in his start for Ball State on Saturday in the series opener.
Ball State plays Western Michigan in Kalamazoo next weekend and Bowling Green stays home to play Ohio.
Central Michigan (9-8, 5-1) at Miami (7-11, 4-4)
|Starter ERA||1.17||Starter ERA||2.66|
Pitcher of the week Jordan Patty dominated in game one of the series and Andrew Taylor picked up where he left off the next day. Taylor didn’t go as deep into the game but he did hold Miami to one into the fifth inning.
Central Michigan won game two 5-4 with only three hits. They scored all of their runs and recorded all of their hits in one-half inning. All of the runs were scored with two outs. It’s the second weirdest inning of the weekend. Central Michigan hitters went:
- Fly out, out #1
- Strikeout, out #2
- Hit by pitch
- Single, run scored
- Walk, run scored
- Walk, run scored
- Single, two runs scored
- Strikeout, out #3
Walking three batters in a row is enraging, walking in two runs is excruciating. The Chips scored four runs in the eighth inning of game three and seven runs in the sixth inning of game four to seal the wins.
Central Michigan plays Iowa of the Big Ten Conference for their next series, while Miami looks to rebound against Toledo.
Kent State (6-9, 2-4) at Ohio (10-7, 4-2)
|Starter ERA||11.88||Starter ERA||10.47|
The Ohio Bobcats won three of four games against Kent State and inserted themselves into the conversation for the MAC regular-season championship. Kent State has not gotten out of the gates the way that they wanted, but they are not out of it. The series probably finishes in a split nine times out of ten with the same stats.
What separated the Bobcats this time are individual performances and timely offense. Both teams struggled to find reliable pitching due to the quality of the offensive lineups in the series.
AJ Rausch hit an inside-the-park home run to break the tie in the 8th inning in game one, Isaiah Peterson drove in two runs with a seventh-inning single to take the lead in game three, and Rausch put one over the fence in the eighth for the game four winner.
Kent State looks to get into the win column against NIU, and Ohio is headed to Bowling Green to play the Falcons.
Toledo (9-10, 4-4) at Western Michigan (4-13, 2-2)
|Starter ERA||5.00||Starter ERA||7.23|
Each team gave away a game in this series, with the other games coming down to the pitchers in a fairly even series.
During game one, the Broncos pushed runs across on a throwing error and a wild pitch. The game ended 4-3. The batter at the plate ended up hitting a double, so the wild pitch may not have hurt much. The Broncos got the walk-off win in the eighth on a Cade Sullivan double.
Games two and three were split. WMU got four runs in game two from reliever Brennan McCune, who had a rough day, and then the Rockets ruined starting pitcher Nick Crandell’s day. They tagged him for six runs in four and a third innings.
Game four had the weirdest half-inning of the week and it’s not close. CMU and Miami had a weird half-inning, but it’s rare when multiple pitchers lose the ability to throw strikes completely.
The Rockets scored seven runs on one hit, and it was a bunt. Their batters produced this:
- Bunt single
- Walk, run scored
- Ground out, out #1, run scored
- Wild pitch, run scored
- Walk, pitching change
- Strikeout, out #2
- Walk, run scored
- Wild pitch, run scored
- Walk, run scored, pitching change
- Walk, run scored
- Flyout, out #3
In total, the Broncos walked in four runs and allowed two runs to come in on wild pitches. This half-inning effectively ended the game.
The Broncos host Ball State and Toledo plays Miami in what should be a good series.
Eastern Michigan (5-11, 1-3) at Butler
|Starter ERA||1.93||Starter ERA||5.54|
In each game of Eastern Michigan’s non-conference series, they got at least one stellar pitching performance. Zach Fruit and Trevor House pitched 8.1 innings of game one and allowed only one run. Zach Gillig pitched five innings of one-run ball to close out game two. Gillig got pinned with the bad luck loss.
Thomas House and Frankie Volkers pitched five innings and four innings respectively in game three. Each allowed only one hit and no earned runs.
In the first game of the series, the Eagles scored a run in the top of the seventh to take a 5-1 lead. The Bulldogs scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tighten the game up 5-4. The Eagle's offense impressively responded with five runs in the top of the eighth.
Seven batters went to the plate and produced four hits, a walk and a hit batter to seal the series-opening win.
The Eagles play Akron at home next weekend.