In between weeks, it’s easy to view the four games as one outcome. The final weekend will absolutely not feel that way. As each game finishes, teams will be going to the conference tournament, one step closer to a great comeback or eliminated.
The battle for the top spot is separated by a half-game and the conference tournament location could be decided in the final innings on Sunday. Further down the standings, the fourth and final spot is more secure, but anything is possible in #MACtion.
Standings Update: Central Michigan is back on top
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||Conf W%||GB||Change|
The top spot belongs to Central Michigan once again after the Chips swept Eastern Michigan and Ball State split with Ohio. Central Michigan beat the Eagles by at least five runs in each game and officially ended the Eagle's postseason hopes. The Eagles join Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, and Akron as officially eliminated.
Ohio had a great weekend considering their opponent. This past weekend is the first split series in the MAC for the Cardinals. The Bobcats were in a tough spot. They were only four games over five hundred with a couple of teams lurking behind them and needed to not get swept.
The split knocks the Cardinals out of first place but maintains the Bobcats in fourth place. Toledo takes three games from NIU and is as close to clinched as any team can be. To miss the tournament, the Rockets would need to get swept, Ohio win at least two games and Kent State would need to sweep their series. Then Kent and Toledo would be tied for fourth place. A single win or a Kent State loss and the Rockets are in.
Ohio has a gap on the field and a favorable matchup with eliminated Western Michigan. If they win even a single game, Kent State is eliminated. If they win a second game they punch their ticket.
The standings can get wild if the Bobcats get swept. They would fall to 18-18 and even with the uneven amount of games played, Miami and Kent State can get to a .500 win percentage. As the weekend progresses, if Ohio can’t notch a win the pressure will continue to mount.
Final Week Preview: Fireworks or a dud
The final weekend can really go in one of two directions. The gap is just wide enough for suspense to build through the whole weekend or dissipate in an instant.
Ohio and Western Michigan play in Athens and provides the most potential for intrigue. Western Michigan can score runs, but their pitchers have had a tough season. The Broncos need to win games to keep other teams in the mix. Motivation and the will to fight may not be high in that dugout as the season is effectively over. If Ohio plays their game, Sunday will be stress-free.
Toledo and Central Michigan meet in Mount Pleasant in a potential tournament matchup. They are currently the one and the three seed, but a matchup this late in the season can mix that up. Toledo cannot pass Central Michigan in the standings, but Central Michigan can lose home field advantage for the conference tournament.
Ball State and Miami play each other in a series where both teams will be highly motivated to win. Miami needs at least two wins to get to a tie-break scenario if Ohio struggles with WMU. Ball State is playing a weaker opponent than CMU and would like to use the final weekend to seize the first seed.
Kent State needs to win three out of four or sweep Eastern Michigan to have any shot at sneaking into the conference tournament. The Golden Flashes need a ton of help, and it’s not likely the games they need work out for them. The Eagles seem like a team defeated. They are coming off being eliminated by Central Michigan via a sweep that wasn’t especially close all weekend. Kent State might only be eliminated by things out of their control at this point in the season.
Akron is finally at their non-conference weekend and is last overall in the standings. Bowling Green and Northern Illinois meet in Dekalb to play a series that doesn’t have any bearing on the conference tournament. Low-stress baseball in Dekalb this weekend.
“Of The Weeks”
Hitter of the Week: Mike McNamara, Kent State, Short Stop
Western Michigan and Kent State combined for 97 runs in four games and Mike McNamara lead the charge for the Golden Flashes. He got ten hits in fourteen at bats, scored three runs, drove in eleven base runners, drew a walk and hit a sacrifice fly.
He tied for the team lead in doubles and home runs with two each. His two home runs bring his season total to eleven, which is sixth overall in the MAC. McNamara has consistently been a top performer in the MAC, with a slugging percentage of .641.
The Golden Flashes put on a clinic and McNamara was there to drive everyone home.
Best Start of the Week: Zach Maxey, Miami
If the RedHawks are going to make the conference tournament, they need more performances like the one Zach Maxey delivered Saturday. Maxey pitched a rare nine inning complete game shutout against Akron in game three.
It took Maxey 106 pitches to carve up the lineup and strike out nine hitters. He only allowed three hits and didn’t walk a single batter.
He needed to be as sharp as he was. Neither team scored until the seventh inning and in a long shutout game like that one, any mistake can give the other team a lead. Maxey didn’t give Akron the option.
Reliever of the Week: Cal McAninch, Toledo
Cal McAninch entered game four in the top of the sixth inning with the score tied at one. Over the last four innings, only two Huskies reached base and the Rockets scored three. McAninch got the win for his shutdown performance.
He allowed two hits and struck out five to close out the game and the win.
McAninch has been the high-leverage medium reliever all season for the Rockets and has done a tremendous job. His season ERA is down to 2.20 and he hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 15th. His current streak is up to 19 consecutive innings. That’s two consecutive complete game shutouts coming out of the Rocket bullpen.
Conference series review
Miami (23-29, 18-18) at Akron (13-40, 11-29)
|Starter ERA||3.24||Starter ERA||13.50|
Miami crushed the Zips in this series. The top six batters in wOBA that had at least three at bats were all from Miami, and the pitching staff made Akron work for every base runner. The RedHawks pitchers allowed four total walks.
The Zips made game two interesting but ultimately lost 11-10. Bryant Shellenbarger did his best for the Zips to keep them in it. He hit a bases clearing double in the first inning to make the score 5-3 and got the game within a run in the third inning with a sacrifice fly. Shellenbarger had three hits, two doubles, four RBI and scored a run in game two.
Miami’s pitching was stellar all weekend. Jonathan Brand and Zach Maxey both threw complete games and Brady McLean had a solid start with some run support in game four. Kenten Egbert and Billy Blood closed out the finale without allowing a run.
Miami will need another pitching performance like that against Ball State to at least do their part in getting into the conference tournament. They definitely need help. Akron finishes their season at home against Purdue Fort Wayne.
Ohio (26-21, 18-14) at Ball State (34-17, 28-7)
|Starter ERA||12.94||Starter ERA||10.13|
Tyler Schweitzer got the win for Ball State in game one in the series against Ohio, but it wasn’t as dominant as he usually is. He gave up four earned runs, five total, in 6.1 innings of work.
The Bobcats went to Muncie ready to hit. They scored at least five runs in each game of the series and no other MAC team has done that to the Ball State pitching staff.
Adam Chrisitanson, Zach Cole and Ryan Peltier were an offensive force for the Cardinals, combining for seven doubles and four home runs over the four game series.
Ultimately, the series ends in a split. Ball State had better overall numbers coming out of the series but couldn’t get that edge to show up in the win column. If they meet in the conference tournament this series tells us Ball State has the edge, but it’s not as big as their records might suggest.
Ohio goes home to play Western Michigan and hopes to punch their ticket. Ball State plays at Miami with a chance to clinch home field advantage.
Central Michigan (36-15, 28-6) at Eastern Michigan (21-31, 15-21)
|Starter ERA||3.22||Starter ERA||11.12|
Eastern Michigan never had the lead in this series and Central Michigan rolled into the top spot in the MAC. CMU scored early and often and held the Eagles to 2.5 runs per game.
The Central Michigan pitchers were dominant and efficient. Central Michigan only used nine pitchers to cover the 34 innings pitched and the bullpen was excellent. Five pitchers came out of the bullpen to pitch 11.1 innings and allowed one run. The Eagles only got to Andrew Taylor, he got touched up for four earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched, but by the time he left the game, it was 8-4 CMU.
Aaron Dolney and Matt Kirk did their best to drive in runs for the Eagles but there weren’t enough base runners on for their combined four doubles and three home runs to do much damage.
Central Michigan hosts Toledo and could end up playing them in the opening round of the MAC Tournament if they struggle. Eastern Michigan plays Kent State to finish their season.
Kent State (21-27, 16-18) at Western Michigan (17-33, 14-21)
|Starter ERA||17.25||Starter ERA||16.32|
Western Michigan and Kent State set the season-high for combined runs scored in a series. Everyone should have seen this coming, the previous high water mark was a tie at 87 runs. The WMU and BGSU series and the Kent State vs Ohio series each had 87 runs. The common factors in each of those series met and combined for 97 runs.
The starter ERA’s are eye-popping and neither team’s starting pitchers came close to the halfway point of innings pitched. Twenty-five combined pitchers made 28 appearances to try and get through this series.
The offenses combined for a .627 slugging percentage, 29 doubles and 15 home runs. The league average for doubles per game this week, even with this series included, is 2.4. This series averaged 7.3 doubles per game, three times the league average for this week.
The Broncos finish their season on the road at Ohio and can be a savior to Miami and Kent State. The Flashes desperately need to sweep Eastern Michigan to give themselves the best chance at making the tournament.
Northern Illinois (12-38, 11-23) at Toledo (31-21, 22-14)
|Starter ERA||4.24||Starter ERA||3.86|
Toledo looked like they were going to mess around and give up their hard-earned lead in the standings when they lost to the Huskies 8-1 on Friday. The Rockets quickly corrected their course and won the next three games with a +21 run differential.
The series opener was a tight game until the fifth inning. Northern Illinois scored a run with one out in the fourth and the rally was killed by a double play in the next at-bat. In the fifth, a run came across on a pitch that went to the backstop, and Aaron Harper hit a home run on the next pitch to make the score 5-0. The Huskies would tack on three more in the seventh, while Matt Salomonson and Nick Bonk delivered a gem.
After that game, the only one that had any intrigue was game four. NIU took an early 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth, but excellent pitching held the Huskies to one run. Toledo tied the game in the fifth and took the lead in the sixth on the way to a 4-1 win.
The Huskies are going to finish the season in a stress-free series against Bowling Green at home, and the Rockets play Central Michigan in a series with location and seeding implications.
Bowling Green (16-32, 12-22) at #21 Rutgers (39-12)
|Starter ERA||15.84||Starter ERA||3.60|
Bowling Green took their weekend off of MAC games to play nationally ranked Rutgers. It was a short two-game series and Rutgers had a very businesslike weekend. They took care of business.
The Falcon’s center fielder Jack Krause was the only hitter to have multiple hits. Nathan Archer and Justin Fugitt both hit home runs, both in the game one 12-5 loss.
Sophomore Isaiah Seidel pitched two shutout innings and he was the only BGSU pitcher to finish with no runs given up.
Bowling Green goes to Dekalb to play Northern Illinois to finish the season.