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2023 Mid-American Conference Baseball Week 1 Recap

Central Michigan wins a series against a Big 12 foe, Ball State struggles against a CWS hopeful and Akron opens with a split!

Syndication: The Star Press Robby General / USA TODAY NETWORK

College baseball is finally here! Through the first weekend of action, the preseason optimism remains for every MAC team. If the weekend didn’t go well then there's still time to adjust and next weekend gets nearer every day. If you’re Central Michigan or Kent State and got a series win, you’re off on the right foot.

The pitchers didn’t throw as many pitches this weekend as they might later in the year and the depth was tested. The hitters were all over the place in the MAC. Some teams made scoring runs look easy and for some, it was like Iowa Football’s allergy to the endzone.

All across the south and west, Division I baseball was kicking off. The MAC had quite the weekend. Let’s get into it.

Central Michigan convincingly wins a series at Baylor

The Chippewas pitching staff had 44 starts leave the program after last season. There are still major questions about who the starters will be later in the season, but the three they used against Baylor will be a solid foundation to build on if the first week is any indication.

Super utility man Garrett Navarra started game one and was the rare collegiate pitcher/DH combo. College baseball allows those positions to be separate so Navarra can be replaced on the mound and stay in the lineup as the DH. He pitched four innings and gave up one run. The bullpen would falter in the first game and have some issues throughout the weekend, but only enough to affect the outcome of the first game.

After a ten-inning 6-5 loss, CMU left no doubt. Adam Mrakitsch pitched five shutout innings to start a 20-5 route and Kellogg Community College transfer Keegan Batka allowed three base runners and one run to start Sunday’s 4-3 win.

The strikeouts were high for the CMU offense but the approach seemed to be solid. They drew 10 walks in the first game and seven in the second. Outfielder Robby Morgan IV hit two home runs and fellow outfielder Marquis Jackson drove in six runners.

Baylor is not supposed to be a good Big 12 team this season, but all CMU can do is win the games on the schedule, which they did with aplomb. A five-game series with University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is up next. The pitching depth will be challenged offense will be plentiful by Sunday.

Kent State wins their opening series with their depth

The Golden Flashes were one inning away from sweeping Jacksonville over the week. Three walked batters and two hits were enough to tie the game at five runs each in the bottom of the eighth inning in game one. Kent State entered the inning with a 5-2 lead, but the throwing error that allowed the go-ahead run to score was too much to overcome in three outs.

Kent State relied on its bullpen to pitch six extra innings, which they did without giving up a hit. The Jacksonville pitching staff was running on fumes and walked in the tie-breaking run in the top of the 16th. Jacksonville needed a deep start from their Sunday starter and they didn’t get it. The Flashes scored six runs in the first two innings from the starter and went on to beat up a depleted bullpen for 12 more.

It certainly looks like Kent State has the goods this season. They are third in most offensive metrics and lead the MAC in ERA and WHIP through the first weekend. It’s very early but they’re off to a great start.

They got fantastic starts from Ben Cruikshank and Joe Whitman on the mound and their bullpen strung together scoreless innings when it mattered, especially in games two and three to get those wins.

Mack Timbrook and Michael McNamara both had multiple extra-base hits. Collin Mathews and Justin Miknis couldn’t be kept off the bases as they both reached base eight and nine times respectively.

Akron splits a series!

Akron split four series and won one last season. Earning a split in the season opener is no small feat for a team building back to normal from not existing. It took determination too.

Akron opened the scoring with a home run when Jack Firestone hit a two-run bomb in the top of the third inning. Firestone is a Purdue transfer outfielder that made an impact right away with his new club. He was a single shy of hitting for the cycle in the season opener.

An early lead is nice, but by the end of the fourth inning, the score was 5-3 Western Carolina. After five, the score was 12-5. It’s pretty easy to give up at that point and play to get to tomorrow, but not the Zips. Firestone doubled to open the top of the eighth and two batters later the bases were loaded. Ty Stolarski scored two on a single and Sam Seeker hit a sacrifice fly to draw within four runs.

An error and two walks loaded the bases for Ian Pennington after a clean inning by Yassir Kahook on the mound. Pennington hit a grand slam to tie the game at 12 each. Another error put another Zip in scoring position and a double by Michael Sprockett put them in the lead. Caleb Jenkins drove Sprockett in for an insurance run and capped off a six-run top of the ninth.

Brett Dietrich pitched 2.1 shutout innings and Kahook and Emmett Gillies each pitched one to shut down the Western Carolina offense from the fifth inning on.

Akron got a win in the final game of the series to earn the split. They have a core of pitchers and hitters emerging early in the season, and maintaining the momentum will be key for the rest of the season. Western Carolina is predicted to be a bottom of the SoCon team but the SoCon is a strong baseball conference. Elon the next weekend might not be as strong a team. It will be a good chance to see if the Zips are consistent in their strong play.

Quick Notes:

  • Western Michigan played #1 LSU and their batters ran into a buzz saw. Their poor showing was somewhat masked by their run efficiency, they scored five runs on nine hits. Nine hits over 27 innings of baseball is bad.
  • Ball State had a weird weekend on the mound. They lead the MAC in strikeouts per nine innings with 11, but are a serious outlier in the walks per nine. They walked nearly 17 per nine innings. They walked 15 batters in game one and only gave up one run. That has to be a record.
  • Miami hit nine home runs in a three-game series with Georgia Tech. The RedHawks lead the MAC in slugging percentage after one week despite being swept.
  • Ohio is the MAC leader in OPS because of one game. The Bobcats scored 14 combined runs against UNC Wilmington and Virginia, which is above average but not crazy. Then they scored 27 runs against a Navy team that is going to struggle this year. The Bobcats racked up 20 hits, 16 walks, five doubles and one home run. They had a game on base percentage of 0.569.

MAC Team of the Week
C Mason Minzey Ohio 2/6, 7 Runs, 5 RBI, HR, 5 BB
Corner IF Ryan Peltier Ball State 5/10, 6 Runs, 3 RBI, 3 HR, 4 BB, 2 SB
Corner IF Alec Patino Ohio 7/13, 3 Runs, 11 RBI, 3 2B, HR, 2 BB, HBP
Mid IF Mack Timbrook Kent State 7/17, 3 Runs, 5 RBI, 4 2B, BB, SB
Mid IF Taylor Hopkins EMU 4/10, 3 Runs, 8 RBI, 2 2B, HR, BB, SB
OF Jack Firestone Akron 7/15, 7 Runs, 5 RBI, 2B, 3B, 3 HR, BB, HBP
OF AJ Rausch Ohio 5/11, 7 Runs, 4 RBI, 3 2B, HR, 7 BB
OF Matt Kirk EMU 5/10, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, 2B, HR, BB, SB, HBP
Extra Hitter Ryland Zaborowski Miami 5/14, 5 runs, 4 RBI, 3 HR, BB
SP Joe Whitman Kent State 5 IP, 2 H, BB, 11 K, HBP
SP Keegan Batka CMU Win, 5 IP, 2 H, BB, 7 K
SP Ben Cruikshank Kent State 7 IP, H, 2 R, BB, 9 K, HBP
RP Brett Dietrich Akron Win, 2 Appearances, 4 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 4 K
RP Connar Penrod BGSU Win, 2.1 IP, 5 K
RP Hudson Leach Miami 6 IP, H, BB, 8 K

The reigning MAC Player of the Year is at it again. Matt Kirk had two extra-base hits in his five this weekend for Eastern Michigan. Combine that with a walk and getting hit by two pitches, and his on base percentage is a cool 0.615 to start the year. His teammate, Taylor Hopkins, drove in eight with two doubles and a home run for himself.

Six transfers made the list in Week 1. It’s a coach's dream for a transfer to step in and contribute on day one. Taking a chance on a new player mixing into the team is easier for everyone to accept when they perform well. Alec Patino from Ohio, Jack Firestone from Akron and Ryland Zaborowski from Miami combined for seven home runs in the opening weekend. Joe Whitman from Kent State, Keegan Batka from Central Michigan and Hudson Leach from Miami dominated on the mound. Between them, they gave up one earned run and struck out 26 over 16 innings.

Leach’s six-inning relief stint kept Miami in their game against a strong Georgia Tech squad. He went six innings only allowing two base runners while striking out eight. The RedHawks lost the game but it kept the Yellow Jackets out of the backend of their bullpen for at least a game longer.

Connar Penrod wins most improved player for week one. He pitches two and a third innings of perfect baseball with five strikeouts. Last season he had an ERA over 12 and walked more than nine per nine innings. It’s only one outing, but it was a fantastic one.

Series Scores:

Akron Zips Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Western Carolina W 14-12
2-18 at Western Carolina L 1-6 F/7
2-18 at Western Carolina L 6-11
2-19 at Western Carolina W 3-2
Next Opp. at Elon
Ball State Cardinals Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Charlotte W 2-1
2-18 Charlotte L 4-9 F/7
2-18 at Charlotte L 5-9 F/7
2-19 at Charlotte L 5-19
Next Opp. at Swig and Swine College Classic (Merrimack, Rutgers, Bucknell, Canisius)
Bowling Green Falcons Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Tennessee Tech L 0-1
2-18 at Tennessee Tech L 9-11
2-19 at Tennessee Tech W 10-4
Next Opp. at #16 Louisville
Central Michigan Chippewas Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Baylor L 5-6
2-18 at Baylor W 20-5
2-19 at Baylor W 4-3
Next Opp. at Univ. of Texas Rio Grande Valley (5 Games)
Eastern Michigan Eagles Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Northern Kentucky L 2-9
2-18 at Northern Kentucky L 4-5
2-19 at Northern Kentucky W 13-9
Next Opp. at Evansville
Kent State Golden Flashes Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Jacksonville L 5-6
2-18 at Jacksonville W 10-6 F/16
2-19 at Jacksonville W 18-6
Next Opp. at Wofford
Miami RedHawks Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Georgia Tech L 12-15
2-18 at Georgia Tech L 4-5
2-19 at Georgia Tech L 8-16
Next Opp. at Indiana (Tue), at North Alabama
Northern Illinois Huskies Opponent Result Score
2-17 at Oral Roberts L 2-16
2-18 at Oral Roberts L 2-8
2-18 at Oral Roberts L 2-3 F/10
2-19 at Oral Roberts L 1-6
Next Opp. vs Monmouth (Fri), vs Penn State DH (Sat), vs Maine (Sun)
Ohio Bobcats Opponent Result Score
2-17 vs UNC Wilmington L 10-14
2-18 vs #19 Virginia L 4-8
2-19 vs Navy W 27-9
Next Opp. at Western Kentucky
Toledo Rockets Opponent Result Score
2-17 at East Tennessee State L 2-15
2-18 at East Tennessee State W 6-4
2-19 at East Tennessee State L 2-3
Next Opp. at OneSpartanburg, Inc. Baseball Classic (Presbyterian, USC Upstate, Gardner-Webb)
Western Michigan Broncos Opponent Result Score
2-17 at #1 LSU L 0-10
2-18 at #1 LSU L 3-5
2-19 at #1 LSU L 2-9
Next Opp. at Northern Kentucky