Another weekend of college baseball is in the books and unfortunately for MAC baseball, the theme is missed opportunities. Combined the conference went 10-28 with at least eight games that were winnable, but either couldn’t hold the lead or gave the game away with unforced errors.
The big picture isn’t pretty, but it’s not hard to find bright spots.
Ball State pitchers dominated the weekend
Ball State headed the Swig and Swine College Classic and came away with a 3-1 record. The Cardinals played against Merrimack, Rutgers, Bucknell and Canisius and weren’t scheduled against Boston College.
The Cardinals pitchers dominated the weekend. As a unit, they posted 2.50 ERA while striking out nearly 15 per nine innings. In 36 total innings, they struck out 59 batters. They struggled with walks the previous week, but pounded the zone and allowed a paltry 3.5 walks per nine innings.
Ty Johnson set the tone on Friday against Merrimack with seven innings of shutout baseball. He gave up four hits, two walks and struck out ten. Owen Quinn completed the shutout with two innings of relief and one hit allowed.
Ball State was trailing Rutgers on Saturday until Ryan Brown shut down the Scarlet Knights. He entered the game in the eighth inning in a 4-4 tie. He struck out the side in the eighth and allowed a one-out walk in the ninth after Adam Tellier hit a go-ahead home run. The runner stole second, but that was as far as he would go. Brown struck out the final two batters to seal the win.
On Sunday, Brown truly dominated Canisius. Casey Bargo opened and allowed the only run the Cardinals would allow in the first inning. Logan Schulfer pitched 3.2 scoreless innings and handed the ball to Brown. He pitched the final 4.1 batters facing the minimum 13 batters. He struck out the first 11 batters he faced and 12 in total.
Over the whole weekend, strikeouts accounted for 17 of his 19 outs recorded. He was incredible and is already in midseason form.
Bowling Green beats #16 Louisville on Saturday
The Bowling Green Falcons gave the Louisville Cardinals just about all they could handle in the unofficial bird battle of 2023. Louisville came into the weekend ranked somewhere between #5 and #16 depending on where you look and were heavily favored.
The first game was a pitcher’s duel between Gage Schenk from Bowling Green and Ryan Hawks of Louisville. Schenk delivered a gem, pitching six innings and giving up two runs on two hits. Schenk was given the seventh inning, but a leadoff double ended his day. Rigo Ramos couldn’t keep the inherited runner on base and the second run was the difference. The offense really struggled, but Hawks is a tough matchup.
Game #2 on Saturday did not start well for the Falcons. The first two batters in the bottom of the first walked and the first pitch to the Cardinal’s three hitter was sent over the right field fence. Two more runs were pushed across in the second inning, quickly 5-1. Good at bats from the Falcons answered and by the end of the fourth inning it was 6-5.
Luke Krouse pitched 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and handed the ball to Connar Penrod. Penrod pitched 1.1 innings and struck out three. He had to dance around three hits, but he kept the Cardinals off the board as well.
The eighth inning is when the Falcons took the game over.
With one out and the bases loaded, Nick Archer hit a single to tie the game at six. Tyler Ross got hit by a pitch to take the lead. A fielder's choice plated one more and they capped the scoring by stealing home.
Owen Recker got three outs with seven pitches to earn the save and the first-ever top-five win in program history.
Sunday didn’t break BGSU’s way, but that’s college baseball. Stealing one game, especially the way they did it, will feel like a series win for the Falcons. Their pitching staff had the second-best WHIP in the MAC and they look like a team ready to make noise in conference play.
The second most painful weekend WMU could imagine
Who’s ready for pain? The Broncos entered the weekend series with Northern Kentucky without a win. The Horizon league isn’t the SEC. A win was a reasonable expectation for the weekend, and they did not get it. The pain comes from how.
On Friday, the Broncos fought back from 5-0 to tie the game at five each. Hayden Berg carried the water for the bullpen and pitched four innings of one-hit baseball. In the bottom of the eleventh, a one out triple posed a threat. The Broncos opted to intentionally walk two batters to load the bases. NKU had the top of the order coming up and the walks made sense. However, the pinch hitter was hit by a pitch to force in the game-winner. A walk-off HBP feels like the Broncos gave this one away.
Western Michigan was looking for a rebound on Saturday and scored a run in the seventh, two in the eighth and three in the ninth to tie the game at seven. In the top of the tenth the Broncos had runners on first and second with no outs. A fielder’s choice and a double play ended the threat. In the bottom of the tenth, a walked batter came home on a walk-off home run. The Broncos drop another tight one.
The wheels never had a chance to fall off on Sunday. In the bottom of the first the Norsemen scored 14 runs. It started with a single, walk, hit-by-pitch and a grand slam. Liam McFadden-Ackman effectively ended Ethan Houghtaling’s day right there. The Bronco starter didn’t record an out. To make matters worse, neither did reliever Luke Thelen. Five more runs had come in and the bases were loaded when McFadden-Ackman was up again.
He hit another grand slam in the first inning. Without an out being recorded. Off the third pitcher of the game.
The game was basically over at this point, but a seven-run fourth inning was tacked on. In total NKU had 27 runs on 19 hits, six doubles, a triple, three home runs and 12 walks. McFadden-Ackman hit for the cycle with an extra home run. He had 10 RBIs on the day.
The only way it could’ve been worse for the Broncos is if Central Michigan did this to them.
- Central Michigan played a five-game series with University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and split the series 2-3. They had a major power outage over the last three games when they hit one extra base hit. They also struck out an incredible 42.9 percent of their at-bats. Talk about swinging and missing.
- Toledo leads the MAC this weekend with six home runs. That puts them in a three-way lead tie for the MAC with Ball State and Miami for first.
- Eastern Michigan won on Friday and got a great start from Nick Chittum on Saturday. He pitched 4.2 innings giving up two hits and one walk. Chittum was perfect the first time through the order. He didn’t record a strikeout, but his defense had his back. He was pulled after 62 pitches, which seemed quick for how well he was cruising, and the Eagles weren’t able to hold on to the lead.
- The Southern Conference is still a one-bid baseball conference, but it’s definitely stronger than the MAC. Kent State versus Wofford was good versus good and Kent State got swept. Not a good result for Kent State or the MAC.
- Northern Illinois’ pitchers had a strong showing this week despite low strikeout numbers. The Huskies had 16 strikeouts in 25 innings an ERA of 5.04 and a WHIP of 1.52. Those are good for second and third in the MAC this week, respectively. It’s a major improvement from 2022 if they can keep it up.
- Errors sunk the Bobcats against a good Western Kentucky squad. To the Hilltopper's credit, when they were given extra outs they scored runs. Three unearned runs were the difference in game two and two unearned runs resulted in a one-run loss in game three.
|MAC Team of the Week|
|C||Justin Miknis||Kent State||6/13, Run, 2 RBI, 2B|
|Corner IF||Ryan Peltier||Ball State||9/17, 6 Runs, 4 RBI, 2B, HR, BB, HBP, 2 SB|
|Corner IF||Aiden Longwell||Kent State||6/12, Run, 3 RBI, 4 2B, HBP|
|Mid IF||Cory Taylon||EMU||4/10, 3 Runs, RBI, HR, BB, 2 SB|
|Mid IF||Andre Demetral||NIU||4/10, Run, 2B, 3B|
|OF||Jake Casey||Kent State||6/12, 5 Runs, 3 RBI, 2 2B, 3 HR|
|OF||Garrett Navarra||CMU||5/11, Run, RBI, 4 BB|
|OF||Will Morrison||WMU||5/10, Run, 2 RBI, 2B, BB, HBP|
|Extra Hitter||Josh Kross||EMU||5/10, 3 Runs, 6 RBI, 2B, HR, 2 BB, HBP|
|SP||Ty Johnson||Ball State||Win, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 10 K, HBP|
|SP||Connor Oliver||Miami||5.1 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 4 BB, 11 K|
|SP||Nick Chittum||EMU||4.2 IP, 2 H, BB|
|RP||Ryan Brown||Ball State||2 Win, 2 Appearances, 6.1 IP, BB, 17 K|
|RP||Luke Russo||EMU||Win, 4.1 IP, 4 BB, 6 K|
|RP||Hayden Burg||WMU||4 IP, H, 4 K|
Ty Johnson and the previously mentioned Ryan Brown picked up all three wins for Ball State and dominated the opposing lineups. Brown was one pitch away from an immaculate inning in the eighth on Sunday and needs one more hitless inning for nine consecutive innings without giving up a hit. He has been incredible to start the season.
The Ball State offense has been carried by third baseman Ryan Peltier. Last weekend he hit three home runs, and he added another this weekend. He did everything. He scored runs, drove in runs, hit for extra bases and stole bases. He’s an early candidate for player of the year.
Kent State had three players rise to the top of the position lists despite the lack of wins. The series with Wofford was disappointing but close. Justin Miknis, Aiden Longwell and Jake Casey were all over the bases but they couldn’t get the support they needed to score more runs. Casey hit three home runs and had three RBIs. That tells a story by itself.
Josh Kross for Eastern Michigan was the RBI leader this week and drove the Eagle's offense. Evansville was correctly treating Matt Kirk with great care but Kross made sure to make them pay for free base runners. On Saturday he had three hits with four RBIs with a double.
|Next Opp.||at Purdue|
|Ball State Cardinals
|Next Opp.||vs Cornell (Fri), vs Purdue FW (Sat), vs Wake Forest (Sat), vs Purdue FW (Sun)|
|Bowling Green Falcons
|2-24||at #16 Louisville||L||1-2|
|2-25||at #16 Louisville||W||9-6|
|2-26||at #16 Louisville||L||1-14|
|Next Opp.||at Evansville|
|Central Michigan Chippewas
|Next Opp.||at Saint Mary's|
|Eastern Michigan Eagles
|Next Opp.||at Towson|
|Kent State Golden Flashes
|Next Opp.||at Murray State (Tue, Wed), at UT Martin|
|2-25||at North Alabama||L||7-12|
|2-26||at North Alabama||L||9-14|
|2-26||at North Alabama||L||9-10|
|Next Opp.||at Cincinnati (Wed), vs Siena|
|Northern Illinois Huskies
|2-24||vs Penn State||L||3-7|
|2-24||vs Penn State||L||1-5|
|Next Opp.||at Western Kentucky|
|2-24||at Western Kentucky||L||1-14|
|2-25||at Western Kentucky||L||6-9 F/7|
|2-25||at Western Kentucky||L||8-9|
|2-26||at Western Kentucky||W||6-4|
|Next Opp.||at Southern Illinois|
|2-25||at USC Upstate||W||11-3|
|2-26||vs Gardner Webb||L||7-10|
|Next Opp.||at Middle Tennessee State|
|Western Michigan Broncos
|2-24||at Northern Kentucky||L||5-6 F/11|
|2-25||at Northern Kentucky||L||7-9 F/10|
|2-26||at Northern Kentucky||L||4-27|
|Next Opp.||vs North Carolina A&T (Fri), vs Bucknell (DH Sat), vs North Carolina A&T (Sun)|