The MAC continues to score runs and anyone who can limit the run scoring holds a supreme advantage.
Week 10 is over, and there are four weekends left. Most teams have four series remaining, and every series is feeling more and more important. Splits have been common this season and they’re getting more and more costly to teams who need to make up ground.
This week saw results go against the pattern, as only one series saw a sweep, creating a separation point in the standings for seemingly the first time all season.
We dive into the week’s action below:
Toledo separates, CMU-Ball State series is upcoming
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||Conf W%||GB|
The MAC teams only split one series this weekend, and the updated standings reflect that.
Toledo swept Eastern Michigan and created a gap between themselves and the first spot out of the conference tournament. The Rockets improved their situation from a half-game above a tie for fourth place to 2.5 games above the last spot and another game ahead of the next team.
Eastern Michigan has enough time to recover from the sweep, but making the tournament just got a lot tougher. With Bowling Green and Northern Illinois still on the schedule, there are wins for the taking. Unfortunately, they have Central Michigan and a tough Kent State team after that. They have no margin for error and a tough road ahead.
Central Michigan swept Akron and may not lose a conference game the rest of the season. They are finally set to play Ball State this week. The remaining schedule is not easy for either team, but this series either cements CMU as the one seed, barring a disaster, or creates a scoreboard watching scenario between the two teams.
Ball State dropped a mid-week game against WMU as part of a make-up to finish their weather canceled series, then swept NIU to finish the week. With two and a half games between the Cardinals and Chips, even if the Cardinals take three games they would still be a half-game out of first place. A sweep is technically possible, but Ball State would need to find a vulnerability that no other team has been able to exploit.
The last tournament spot likely belongs to Ohio, Kent State or Miami. All three are within a game and a half of each other and Ohio and Miami play each other this week. Each team’s remaining schedule is very similar. Each plays Ball State and Akron. Miami still has their non-conference weekend, Kent has WMU and EMU left and Ohio has WMU outside of what's already listed.
It’s interesting that Ball State is effectively the gatekeeper to the fourth spot. If they wipe out two of the teams and have an off weekend against the third, that could easily be the difference in who makes the tournament.
High octane offenses, unless you’re EMU and NIU
The average runs scored per game was 15.4 this weekend. Four teams averaged over 10 and CMU wasn’t far behind at 9.8 runs per game. The league average wOBA this week is an astonishing .405.
To give that number a reference, Fernando Tatis Jr. had a wOBA of .403 in 2021. Each team in the MAC had an average offensive output of having nine Fernando Tatis Jr.’s in their lineup. College baseball is generally a high offense league, but that is crazy.
Despite offense being off the charts, two teams had noteworthy pitching performances. Ball State has a strong pitching staff, but this week they sent NIU to the dead-ball era. Isolated power is slugging percentage minus batting average. It generally takes singles out of the slugging percentage which can be propped up by a high batting average.
Northern Illinois had an isolated power of .034. Over the four-game series, they collected 27 hits. Only four went for doubles and that is it for their power output. League average ISO was .194, nearly six times NIU’s numbers. Ball State was never in trouble in this series and that’s because their pitchers made the Husky hitter's lives miserable.
Toledo gets the other mention. Eastern Michigan has a lineup that can score runs. EMU was held by Toledo pitching to the league’s worst on-base percentage. Teams need base runners to score, but Toledo didn’t think the Eagles needed any this weekend. They were also held to a .214 batting average.
Toledo also delivered this performance knowing they were only a half-game ahead in the standings. This was not a mismatch, but the Rocket pitchers made the outcome look like one.
Central Michigan also pitched exceptionally but they are the best pitching team against maybe the worst offense in the MAC. If they do the same thing to Ball State next week, that will be different.
“Of The Weeks”
Hitter of the Week: Jeron Williams, Toledo, Short Stop
Jeron Williams had nine hits in the first three games and was every manager's dream lead-off hitter. The first two games against Eastern Michigan were close 5-1 and 5-2 wins. In those games he had six hits, four runs scored and four RBIs.
In total he finished the series with 11 hits in 17 at-bats, eight runs scored, six runs batted in, a double, a triple, a home run, a walk and two stolen bases. He was without a doubt the engine that powered the Toledo offense, the main thruster in a multi-stage rocket.
Best Start of the Week: Kyle Jones, Toledo
Kyle Jones set the tone for the EMU-Toledo series. He took the mound in game one and delivered the win.
He pitched seven innings and allowed five hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out eight.
When Jones was leaving the game it was the eventual final score, 5-1. Matt Kirk for EMU hit an RBI double in the fifth inning to open the scoring for the game and his offense answered immediately with two runs to give Jones everything he needed.
Kyle Jones does not leave the game before he gets six innings completed, but this is the first game in a while where he got the result he was looking for.
Reliever of the Week: Ben Vitas, Central Michigan
Ben Vitas came in to pitch the eighth inning of game one between CMU and Akron. The game was getting away from the Chippewas and it was 10-5 for Akron. The Zips had come on late scored nine runs in the past three innings.
Vitas pitched a perfect eighth inning. A pair of groundouts sandwiched a strikeout, and the Chips scored six in the bottom of the eighth and Vitas picked up the win.
It wasn’t his pitching that changed the score, but for CMU to win Akron needed to be done scoring and Vitas delivered.
In total, he appeared in two games, got a win, pitched 1.2 innings, struck out two and didn’t allow a hit.
Conference series review
Akron (11-28, 9-19) at Central Michigan (28-10, 21-1)
|Starter ERA||10.68||Starter ERA||2.78|
Central Michigan needed a big eighth inning to avoid a game one upset at the hands of the Akron Zips. It would’ve been a similar fate that Ball State suffered, but now it looks like Akron could be a spoiler if the one seed is separated by one game.
The Zips had a 10-5 lead going into the eighth and it was all downhill from there. After a pair of singles, Akron walked two batters and hit another with a pitch. That spotted CMU two runs. They pushed four more across to finish the innings and closed it down with a scoreless ninth.
Andrew Taylor pitched game two for Central Michigan and was exceptional as usual. He struck out 13 batters in six innings. CMU defenders only needed to convert two fly balls and three grounders into outs while Taylor was on the mound.
Central Michigan has their big series with Ball State on the road up next. Akron heads home to play Kent State.
Ball State (24-14, 18-4) at Northern Illinois (7-30, 6-15)
|Starter ERA||1.11||Starter ERA||9.72|
Ball State limited Northern Illinois to seven runs over four games and was never in trouble. Ball State scored first in each game and held the lead. The games were never tied again.
Ball State drew more walks than struck out, a rare find in baseball today. Pair that with 13 batters hit by pitch, they had a walk rate of 23 percent. Nearly one in four plate appearances resulted in a free base runner for Ball State.
Freshman Hunter Dobbins started each game for Ball State as the designated hitter. Dobbins had started three games prior and appeared in a total of five. He made the most of the opportunity and had five hits and a home run.
Ball State is in a good place when they can pull a .333 batting average a home run from the bench.
Ball State gets ready to host Central Michigan in the series of the season and Northern Illinois plays the Broncos in Kalamazoo.
Western Michigan (13-24, 10-13) at Bowling Green (12-25, 9-17)
|Starter ERA||11.34||Starter ERA||9.31|
This series was light on pitching. Bowling Green and Western Michigan combined for 97 runs, 118 hits, 21 home runs and WMU had the lower OPS of 1.117.
The batting stats are eye-popping. Adam Furnas hit five doubles and a home run for Bowling Green. Dylan Nevar and Will Morrison hit two home runs each for the Broncos. A total of eight hitters had at least eight at-bats and hit over .500 in the series.
Gage Schenk was the only pitcher to pitch more than two innings and get out unscathed. Schenk pitched a nine-inning complete game shutout for the Falcons in game one. He only gave up four hits and one walk while striking out six. Ball State and Central Michigan touched him up a little bit, but he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any other MAC start. Schenk is 100 percent the Falcons ace.
BGSU goes to Eastern Michigan in a week and Western Michigan plays at home against NIU.
Eastern Michigan (15-24, 10-14) at Toledo (22-17, 16-11)
|Starter ERA||16.68||Starter ERA||3.47|
Jeron Williams and the Rockets jumped on the Eagles pitchers early and got deep into their bullpen. The Eagles used eight relievers and two of them made two appearances. Their only pitcher to not allow a run was Trevor House. He pitched the final two innings in a 21-7 loss and the Rockets only had one starter in the lineup at that point.
Toledo scored 25 runs in the first two innings across all four games. Games three and four saw a 14-run second inning and an eight-run second inning.
Daniel Warkentin had an unusual week for him. He went 2-13 with no extra base hits. He only struck out twice which means he had a weekend of soft contact, or couldn’t find a gap.
The Eagles went from 9-7 and third place by a game to 10-14 and behind by two games. The season has 16 games left for the Eagles but these last two weeks sting.
The Eagles look to bounce back at home against BGSU and Toledo plays honorary MAC member Austin Peay at home. This will be the third series the Governors will play against a MAC team.
Miami (17-23, 12-15) at Kent State (15-20, 10-12)
|Starter ERA||5.60||Starter ERA||5.57|
Finally, a back-and-forth series. The series was so even, they both hit .308 over the series.
Jonathan Brand and Kenten Egbert took game one for the RedHawks and kept Kent State off the board. They combined for 10 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.00. Eric Chalus and Collin Romel didn’t have bad days on the mound for the Flashes, but any mistakes are magnified when the opposing pitchers allow zero runs.
Kent State only managed three runs in game two and gave up two runs in the sixth and seventh to watch a win slip away.
It almost happened again in the second half of the doubleheader, but Kent State kept their cool and sent it to extras with a ground out that scored a run and walked it off in with a tenth inning single.
Game four was a bullpen battle. Both starters were out by the end of the fourth and the Kent State hitters kept adding runs. They got the win 17-10.
The split keeps both teams in the mix a little longer. Soon splits will not be enough though.
Kent State heads to Akron for a four game series, and Miami plays Ohio at home in a big series for their season.
Canisius (17-18) at Ohio (18-17, 10-10)
|Starter ERA||14.22||Starter ERA||5.00|
Ohio kept the schedule light with a Saturday doubleheader against Canisius and swept the pair.
Colin Kasperbauer hit a clutch three run homer in the seventh inning to take the lead and make the final score 8-7 in game one. Spencer Harbert hit another three run dinger earlier in the game.
Edward Kutt comes out of the bullpen to get his first save of the season. In the games that recorded pitch counts, he hasn’t pitched fewer than 87 pitches. Kutt is going to be a starter in future series. This was a way to get him some work but also keep it light.
Cael Baker hit a solo home run in the first inning to end the scoring in a six run first inning. That was all the Bobcats would need to cruise to a 9-5 win.
Tyler Peck had a four pitch seventh inning for the Bobcats. He faced four batters and got three ground outs and gave up a home run. More pitches were used warming up between innings than during live action.
Ohio heads to Miami next weekend.