Central Michigan’s Gainesville Regional did not go their way. The Chippewas came in as the fourth-seed, but that didn’t change their expectations.
This season was their third consecutive season making the national tournament and they were ready to fight their way into a Super Regional. The Chips were the only four-seed to win over 40 games in the tournament field. It’s not unreasonable to think they could play with the teams in Gainesville.
They largely held their own, but played the host twice and dropped both games. The offense dried up at the worst time but, credit to their opponents, these were not MAC pitchers they were facing.
Game 1: Central Michigan vs Florida
Central Michigan started their tournament with the hosting Florida Gators. Both teams put their ace on the mound and it was a pitcher’s duel until the last two innings of the game.
Andrew Taylor started the game for CMU and did what he’s done all season. He pitched the opening five frames and allowed two runs on four hits and a walk. He also struck out nine, eight through three innings at one point.
8Ks through 3 for Central Michigan's Andrew Taylor. Getting a little bit on outside part of plate.— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) June 3, 2022
Pitcher's delight. pic.twitter.com/9qd8Z2j5BU
The Gators had good at bats, took pitches and drove Taylor’s pitch count to 100 before his exit.
Florida’s starting pitcher, Brandon Sproat, had an excellent start and pleaded with his manager late in the seventh inning to stay in the game and finish the inning. His 100mph fastball kept CMU from doing serious damage at the plate but did give up nine hits and a walk.
Garrett Navarra came in to relieve Taylor and gave up a walk and a double in the sixth making it a 3-1 game for the Gators. The game was still in reach, but a single, walk, sac bunt, and single series of batters made it 5-1 in the eighth inning. Two more arms came out of the CMU bullpen and by the end of the eighth, the score was 7-1.
The Chippewas would score two in the top of the ninth, but it was too little, too late.
Central Michigan put 17 runners on base to Florida’s 13 and was all over the bases, as they usually are. Their issue was pushing the runners across the plate. CMU had 12 total bases to show for their 12 hits, while Florida had 16 total bases for their eight hits.
In addition to their lack of power, they came up empty in high leverage moments. In total, they left 11 runners on base. With runners on second and third with no one out in the first inning, CMU was not able to score a run. A two-out rally left two runners on in the second, and a double play killed the third inning. A run had already scored and there were runners on the corners.
In the fifth inning, the inning ended on the base running error below. There would have been runners on the corners with two outs.
Wow. What an incredible blunder by Central Michigan. pic.twitter.com/vhAgweJglM— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) June 4, 2022
Two runners were left on in the seventh inning and the bases were left loaded in the eighth inning. There were run-scoring opportunities, but Florida was able to get out of them every time.
Game 2: Liberty vs Central Michigan
A day after a disappointing loss, CMU had to rebound and play a tough Liberty team. Liberty won a three-game series against Florida to open the season and were the Atlantic Sun regular-season champions.
Liberty started ASUN first-team pitcher Joe Adametz III. He brought his 2.51 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 86 innings and held CMU to two runs over six innings.
Central Michigan ran Jordan Patty out to the mound, and he was even better than Adametz. Patty allowed one unearned run over his six innings of work while giving up three hits and five walks.
The bats perked up in the sixth inning when both teams scored one run, but offense was a struggle even after the starters left the game. Liberty turned to Mason Fluharty and he was absolutely outstanding. He did not allow a base runner for the next five innings.
Adam Mrakitsch came in for Central Michigan and kept the Liberty bats quiet enough to hold out for the win in the 12th inning. He pitched the remaining six innings with a WHIP under 1.00.
After Fluharty left the game after 61 pitches and five no-hit innings, and then CMU got going on offense. In the bottom of the 12th inning, Garrett Navarra started the inning with a single. Mario Camilletti got hit by a pitch, and Justin Simpson moved the runners to second and third with a sac bunt. One batter later Danny Wuestenfeld hit a walk-off single to score the game-winner.
Freshman Adam Mrakitsch has come into a high leverage spot and delivered an excellent long relief performance in the conference tournament and the regional. He paused the Toledo offense when the Chips were down 6-1 and gave his offense the innings they needed to complete the comeback. The lefty is going to be an arm they will lean on more and more in his time at CMU.
Again, the hitters were able to get on base and leave them there. Nine runners were left on base, and five were in scoring position. Despite that, the pitching was there to survive and advance one more day.
Game 3: Florida vs Central Michigan
Central Michigan came into the rematch with the Gators with their bullpen in a much better place than their opponent. The Gators had lost to Oklahoma in the nightcap and burned one starter and four relievers, each throwing at least 22 pitches.
Florida used their power to generate runs early and they got some help from CMU as well. A triple and a groundout scored a run in the second inning, a home run and a throwing error scored two in the third, and another home run scored another in the fourth.
The Gators scored their fifth run on a double steal and the ball never left the mound.
This run and the unearned run would end up being massive difference makers. To start off the bottom of the fifth inning, Robby Morgan hit a solo shot to get on the board.
In the next inning, CMU scored three runs and sent six batters to the plate before Florida was able to record an out. Singles and walks pushed runners around the bases, but CMU needed a big hit to break the game open a little bit. It never came, but they did tie the game at five before the inning was out.
A six-pitch walk and a seven-pitch walk started the ninth inning for the Gators and from there they were able to manufacture the run that ended up being the difference. CMU made it interesting and loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but a foul out ended the threat.
The Chippewas desperately needed a well-timed extra-base hit in this game and it never happened. Their pitching was good enough to win the game, even with the double steal that resulted in a run.
The Gainesville regional was defined by runners left on base and a poorly timed power outage for CMU. In 27 innings, 29 runners were left on base and their combined runs scored and against was 11-15. The chances were there for the Chips to play in a Regional Final for a chance to go to a Super Regional.
Players of the Regional
Jordan Patty, Starting Pitcher
Jordan Patty pitched six innings in an elimination game without giving up an earned run. He struck out seven and only allowed three hits. He did walk six batters, one intentionally, but he got away with it. To make a run through the elimination bracket a pitching performance like that is what a team needs.
Danny Wuestenfeld, First Base
The hitters struggled as a group but not Danny Wuestenfeld. Not only did he deliver the game-winning single against Liberty, but he also went 6-13 with a run scored, four RBIs, a walk and was hit by a pitch twice. His regional OPS was 1.024 and his wOBA was 100 points higher than any other hitter on his team. Wuestenfeld had a good regional weekend, but probably not as good as he wanted it to be.