Why do we try to play baseball in March? Baseball is great. Baseball in 35°F weather is not great. The logistics and timing of the academic year demand that March baseball happens in the Upper Midwest, but no one likes it.
But all that said, warmer weather is ahead and as a result of the cold temperatures, a jam-packed baseball schedule waits for us there.
Week six had some cold weather cancellations and game shuffling, but good baseball was played nonetheless.
Ball State has an early lead
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||Conf W%||GB|
Ball State is through their series with Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Western Michigan. It’s not exactly a murderer’s row, but Ball State has taken care of business. For any other team to keep pace, that team would need to match a 9-1 record against those teams. That’s tough to do, especially in baseball.
Central Michigan has games in hand and plays Ball State later this season. The Chippewas will have opportunities to make the gap disappear.
Ohio is the surprise so far. They have a hot offense and their pitchers don’t make many mistakes. They haven’t been the best pitching team but they do a lot of little things the right way and keep themselves in games.
The top half of the league is all within a series sweep of first place. The conference tournament takes the top four teams, and every team is in contention for now.
Early Look at the best units
The Ohio Bobcats have the best offense to this point in the conference season, followed by Ball State and Kent State. Ohio has played only eight games and leads the league in home runs with 17. They lead the league in OPS, runs per game, and their right fielder, AJ Rausch, needs one home run to be winning a triple crown.
Ball State and Kent State are second and third in slugging, OBP, OPS and runs scored. Both of these teams utilize more speed throughout their lineup. Ball State has hit seven triples in 10 games and Kent State has stolen 14 bases in their 10.
Central Michigan has the best pitching staff through their first six games by any meaningful metric. They have the best ERA, highest K/9, lowest BB/9, lowest allowed OPS and the lowest FIP. They really lean on their starting pitchers Andrew Taylor, Jordan Patty, Garrett Navarra, and Logan Buczkowski. Those four pitched 23 of the 32 innings against Miami.
So far, the MAC has been an offense-dominated league. CMU has separated itself from the noise, but every other team has something they do well and a couple of things to work on.
Toledo and Miami are the next best pitching units, but the ERA for each team is just under 5.00. Toledo limits the walks, but the opponent’s batting average is high. Both teams have below-average fielding percentages and extend innings for their pitchers. Miami is better than the league average in most things except walks per nine innings. The MAC as a conference has an issue with walking batters at 4.7 per nine innings, so being league average leaves room for improvement.
Schedules are getting complicated
Week four had four games canceled, and week six had five games canceled. Akron and Eastern Michigan are the only two teams not affected by rescheduled games. Everyone else has to find mid-week dates to get these conference games made up.
It really throws a wrench in the week's plans. Pitcher rest is easy with a week between games. A Tuesday or Wednesday game that a team needs to win means hoping that a bullpen day can deliver or sacrificing some rest for the upcoming weekend series.
Ohio has had it the worst and needs to add four games to the remaining weeks. To put it another way, they have to fit an entire extra series into the remaining schedule. Miami and Toledo each have one game to make up against each other, and all other teams have to make up two games.
“Of The Weeks”
Hitter of the Week: Daniel Warkentin, Eastern Michigan, Second Base
Daniel Warkentin hit five home runs in four games against Akron this weekend. He had eight hits in total and drove in 11 runs. He scored 10 times and stole two bases. His slugging percentage this week was 1.143.
During game one he hit a home run and a double in four at-bats. The game ended up being a one-run game and his offensive output was critical to getting the win for the Eagles.
His game three performance was outstanding but a bit wasted. It was the only game the Eagles dropped in the series and he opened the scoring with a two-run shot in the first and hit another out in the third. Ultimately, they lost in eleven innings, and let a two-run lead in the eighth slip away.
Best Start of the Week: Tyler Schweitzer, Ball State
Tyler Schweitzer pitched Monday against the Broncos and absolutely shut them down. In five and two-thirds innings he allowed six total base runners, no runs, and struck out 11. One base runner made it to third with two outs and that is the closest WMU came to scoring.
Schweitzer has not allowed a run in two consecutive starts and his innings streak is up to 14.2 innings. His season ERA dips under three to 2.78 with this performance and his strikeouts per nine soars to 12.5.
Reliever of the Week: Camryn Szynski, Toledo
The reliever of the week often comes down to performance in tough situations and this week is no different. Sophomore Camryn Szynski entered game one in a 5-5 tie in the top of the seventh inning, and his job was to get the game to the bottom of the seventh still tied.
The RedHawks put in their long reliever and spot starter and the pair traded blank innings for five innings. In his five innings of scoreless work, Szynski gave up four hits and struck out four.
Without his strong performance, Miami completes the comeback and Toledo doesn’t get the game one win.
Conference series review
Akron (6-15, 5-7) at Eastern Michigan (8-13, 4-4)
|Starter ERA||12.86||Starter ERA||10.34|
Eastern Michigan takes three games in an offensive series against a scrappy Akron Zips team. The Eagles hit nine home runs and stole 15 bases on the way to 41 runs in four games. Their bats are going to keep them in any game hitting like that.
Daniel Warkentin was a terror for the Akron pitching staff. Five baseballs left Oestrike Stadium off his bat and he stole two bases as well. The Zips were better off taking the bat out of his hands.
Akron avoided the sweep, winning game four in eleven innings. They scored a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to get to extra innings, then two in the eleventh for the win. Brett Dietrich was called from the bullpen in the seventh inning, allowed the inherited runner to score, and then pitched four shutout innings to let the offense get to work.
Eastern Michigan is looking to run up the score next weekend against WMU, and Akron is on the road against Bowling Green.
Ball State (14-8, 9-1) at Western Michigan (4-16, 2-4)
|Starter ERA||4.00||Starter ERA||1.93|
The weirdest matchup of the week goes to the Cardinals and the Broncos. Due to temperatures not being over the minimum needed to play, no games were played until Monday. Western Michigan was the home team at Ball State’s field when the series was moved due to field conditions.
Once the baseball actually started, Ball State pitching dominated the doubleheader. In sixteen total innings, the Cardinal pitchers struck out 26 hitters. Sophomore reliever Ryan Brown retired nine of fourteen batters faced via strikeout. Ball State won both games 2-0, and 12-5.
The Broncos were let down by their defense. Joe Shapiro started game two and gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings. None were earned. The offense only pushed five runs across in two games but Tyler Schweitzer is always going to be tough in game one, and without nine unearned runs in game two, five would’ve been enough.
Ball State takes the show on the road to Toledo next weekend, and WMU plays Eastern Michigan.
Ohio (11-8, 5-3) at BGSU (3-16, 1-9)
|Starter ERA||12.14||Starter ERA||7.37|
Ohio and Bowling Green only played two games and traded lopsided wins. Bowling Green got their first conference win in game one 14-2, then lost game two on Saturday 21-6.
Both games were seven innings.
Bowling Green’s ace, Gage Schenk, dominated game one. He pitched 6.1 innings and allowed eight total base runners, just over one an inning, and struck out 12. He made one mistake to Spencer Harbert in the second inning and pitched around five walks in the win.
The bullpens diverged in the second game. After three innings, the score was 4-3 for the Bobcats. The Falcons brought in their second pitcher from the bullpen and ended up needing three to get through the inning. The Bobcats scored 11 in the inning and comfortably handed the ball to Brett Manis and Brendan Roder. They didn’t allow an earned run over the remaining four innings.
Bowling Green plays Michigan State in a mid-week game and hosts Akron over the weekend. The Bobcats travel to Central Michigan to create some separation at the top of the conference.
Kent State (9-10, 5-5) at Northern Illinois (4-17, 4-6)
|Starter ERA||5.09||Starter ERA||4.19|
The Kent State Golden Flashes nearly swept the Northern Illinois Huskies, losing their only game by a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. Kent State scored 8, 10, 13 and 12 runs in their four games.
The offense gave the pitching what they need to win games, but they couldn’t convert game two.
Kent State found themselves trailing 4-2 in the seventh before the offense scored six runs to take the lead. Josh Johnson started the rally with a solo shot to center field, and Aidan Longwell and Collin Mathews joined in to hit two more in the inning.
Game two was the second leg of the Friday doubleheader. Kent State scored five in the top of the first and NIU responded with six in the bottom half of the inning. NIU answered every time Kent State scored until Carlos Aranda hit a walk-off in the bottom of the eleventh.
Kent State starting pitchers Colin Romel and freshman Eric Chalus each pitched five innings and allowed one run each in the next two games to get wins for the Flashes.
Kent State hosts #25 UConn Huskies next weekend and NIU plays #16 Notre Dame in a mid-week game before hosting Miami.
Miami (8-13, 5-6) at Toledo (11-11, 6-5)
|Starter ERA||6.39||Starter ERA||4.50|
The Rockets and RedHawks were supposed to play 23 innings of baseball combined on Friday and Saturday. They ended up playing 31 innings in their three-game series and each game was decided by a single run.
Game one on Friday was intended to be a seven-inning game with a seven-inning game to follow immediately after. It went 12 innings and essentially used a second starter. Kenten Egbert has started games earlier this season for the RedHawks and pitched from the seventh inning on. Camryn Szynski was his equal for Toledo, and he pitched five innings from the seventh to the eleventh.
Ultimately, Darryn Davis hit a two-out walk-off home run to win it in the bottom of the 12th.
Mercifully, game two only saw three pitchers take the mound in a true pitchers duel. Miami lost the game 3-2.
Saturday was supposed to be a nine-inning game and, once again, it went 12 innings. Miami rallied for two runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to get it to extras. The bullpen hero for Miami was Patrick Mastrian IV, who gave up one hit and struck out five in three and a third to get the win.
Toledo plays Ohio State on Wednesday, and Ball State to finish the week. Miami plays Wright State in a mid-week game and goes to Northern Illinois for the weekend.
Central Michigan (10-10, 5-1) at Iowa
|Starter ERA||4.38||Starter ERA||7.50|
Central Michigan played Iowa in Iowa City this week, showing themselves admirably. They lost game one 7-4, won game two 10-1 and lost the rubber match 4-2.
The Chippewas were all over the bases but could not drive them home, leaving 35 baserunners on base in three games. The Hawkeyes were able to come up with the pitches they needed precisely when they needed them. They ended 10 of the 27 Chippewa half innings with strikeouts.
Designated hitter and two-way player Grant Navarra drove in a run and pitched three and two-thirds shutdown innings. He struck out six and induced five ground balls to maintain the CMU lead.
Central Michigan plays its first home game of the season next weekend when they host the Ohio Bobcats.