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2023 Mid-American Conference Baseball Week 4 Recap

Kent State and Toledo sweep their first MAC series of the season, but it’s about who has played who this early.

Kenneth Bailey

The MAC teams played their opening weekend of games this weekend and the three-game weekend is back. The weekend format for post-Covid seasons was a nine-inning game on Friday, two seven-inning games on Saturday, and a nine-inning game on Sunday to finish the series.

Dropping from 32 innings of baseball to 27 allows the teams to be more flexible in bad weather. The conference hopes that everyone finishes all of their games by the end of the regular season. Some teams took advantage this weekend and played Saturday double headers to finish a day early.

It wouldn’t be a shock if the top four teams that make the conference tournament come from the five teams that are in position after one series.

Kent State sends a message to the MAC

Team Conf W Conf L GB Runs For Runs Ag. Win Loss Runs For Runs Ag.
Kent State Golden Flashes 3 0 +1 40 18 11 4 144 80
Toledo Rockets 3 0 +1 18 7 8 6 98 72
Ball State Cardinals 2 1 0 27 16 10 6 109 93
Eastern Michigan Eagles 2 1 0 21 16 8 5 93 74
Ohio Bobcats 2 1 0 21 12 4 10 101 117
Central Michigan Chippewas 0 0 0.5 0 0 9 6 112 84
Akron Zips 1 2 1 16 21 5 9 71 128
Western Michigan Broncos 1 2 1 16 27 4 10 89 129
Bowling Green Falcons 1 2 1 12 21 3 10 52 100
Northern Illinois Huskies 0 3 2 18 40 3 12 75 124
Miami RedHawks 0 3 2 7 18 2 14 103 159

Kent State had an incredible week starting with a 22-1 win over Youngstown State in a non-conference matchup. Youngstown State was held to two hits over the seven-inning game and they gave the Golden Flashes four extra outs in the form of errors. That’s the wrong MAC team to give outs to.

Northern Illinois looks like they are going to have another tough season and Kent State took advantage. Ben Cruikshank delivered a gem in game one and the offense covered all mistakes the rest of the series. They scored at least 12 runs in each game and averaged 13.3.

Their offensive profile is going to make them a tough team to beat all season, and especially during tournament time. They lead the MAC in on-base percentage, at a 0.420 pace, and lead in stolen bases. They nearly double the stolen base count of the second-best team Eastern Michigan, 48 to 29. They play a mean (in the best way) brand of baseball, where every base runner is a problem for the defense. In the win over Youngstown State, they stole seven bases. If their opponent cannot hold them in check, they will not stop stealing bases. They can drive in runs in bunches as well. Their 41 doubles lead the conference and 22 home runs is tied for second. If any of their batters reach base, they could steal their way to second or score from first on a double.

On top of that, the Flashes get great starting pitching and their bullpen is technically their weakness, but only two teams in the MAC have a better bullpen ERA. They have a significant edge in WHIP and the lowest walks per nine.

Their opening weekend domination of Northern Illinois is a warning shot to the conference. Do not mess around with the Flashes.

The rest of the standings are displayed relative to the cut line for the MAC Tournament. It’s never too early to watch the standings.

Ohio sweeps Saturday to win a series against Bowling Green

Bowling Green and Ohio had a delightful back-and-forth series on Friday and Saturday that’s worth a run down.

Gage Schenk started on the mound for the Falcons and Luke Olson for the Bobcats and the only base runner either allowed through two innings was a home run hit by Ohio’s Alec Patino. Bowling Green capitalized on a throwing error during a stolen base attempt and two runners scored to take a 3-1 lead halfway through the third inning.

Alec Patino would come back around and tie the game with a two-run shot to right in the bottom of the fourth.

Connor Penrod relieved Schenk in the sixth inning as Patino was coming up again. Penrod would win that battle with a flyout to left, but the Falcons trailed 4-3 after a Colin Kasperbauer single broke the tie.

Adam Fallon got Penrod the runs he needed to get the win with a tying home run in the seventh and a go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth. Bowling Green takes game one 5-4.

Game two on Saturday wasn’t quite as exciting, but it started fast. Bowling Green will play for one run as often as they can, and did in the first inning. A leadoff single is followed by a bunt that goes for a hit. Both runners end up stranded.

Ohio pushes two runs across with two outs on a double by Patino and Will Sturek single. The inning ends when Sturek was caught stealing third base. The Falcons responded in their next at bat with three runs, also ending when a runner is caught stealing.

Then the wheels came off the wagon for Bowling Green. Bobcats get the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the second trailing 3-2. A fielder's choice with an error gives the Bobcats a run without trading an out and a walk gives them the lead with the next batter. Patino hits a sacrifice fly, Gideon Antle singles, Alex Finney hits a double and Billy Adams drives in the final run with a single. In all, eight runs are scored and the rest of the game is smooth sailing for the Bobcats to an 11-3 win.

Bowling Green was leading the Saturday afternoon rubber match 4-2 at the end of five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, starter Peyton Willis was relieved and Luke Krouse took the mound for the Falcons. The Bobcats got five consecutive singles to tie the game and chase Krouse from the mound. Owen Recker entered a bases-loaded, no-outs, tie game situation and a wild pitch to the first batter allowed the leading run to score. A fielder’s choice scores another and the Bobcat bullpen would allow only two hits in the final three innings.

Ohio won the series with the 6-4 win, but that series was a few plays from being a series win for the Falcons or a sweep for Ohio.

Miami can’t stop the one big inning

Focusing on negatives isn’t what I’m about, but Miami’s single-inning woes are unlike anything I’ve seen before. The RedHawks went 0-5 this week and each game would’ve been winnable if it weren’t for one bad defensive inning.

Miami went to Wright State on Tuesday and lost 23-7 after giving up 11 in the bottom of the fourth. Eleven runs in one inning is always tough to swallow but to give up that many runs on four hits is truly astounding in Division I baseball. They walked ten batters in that half-inning alone and six scored runs. In total, the RedHawks walked 19 Wright State batters.

Their game the next day against Dayton was much closer. The 7-5 loss started by allowing three runs in the bottom of the first. A hit by pitch and walk put two runners on. Back-to-back strikeouts made it look like they weren’t going to hurt. Unfortunately, three consecutive walks and a hit-by-pitch followed. The inning ended on a strikeout and Dayton led 3-0 without putting a ball in play.

Midweek games can be weird, but this problem wasn’t contained to Tuesday and Wednesday. A dropped third strike, a walk and a throwing error allowed two runs to score after a home run started the inning. A sac bunt drove a fourth run home in a 5-2 loss to Toledo.

The Rockets scored four runs in the top of the fifth to take a lead they wouldn’t give up in game two. An error put an extra runner on base to score during a three-run home run, and a pass ball allowed a runner to get to third for a sac fly to get the job done. Toledo would win 6-2.

In the final game, a three-run fourth was plenty of cushion for the Toledo bullpen. Toledo was playing for one run in a 3-1 game, but a throwing error lets the intended sacrifice bunt come around to score when the next batter hit a triple.

Some of what happened in these innings is good hitting, but not enough of it. Too much bad defense and too many walks doomed the RedHawks this week. It’s likely that their focus is going to be throwing strikes in the coming week and series.

Quick Notes:

  • Eastern Michigan takes care of business and takes two games on the road at Akron. Akron did get a win in the series, but not on Friday when they’ve been most competitive this season.
  • Dane Armbrustmacher took over game two for the Broncos, but that’s all they could manage in the series. Ball State won the Friday and Sunday games in convincing fashion.
  • Toledo pitching has officially reloaded. Despite Miami’s struggles, they’ve been a good offensive team. Toledo, especially their bullpen, shut them down. Jeron Williams is having a breakout season at shortstop. He was already an excellent defender and was on the All-MAC Defensive team a year ago, but this season he’s slugging better than he did and his OPS is up 70 points.
  • Central Michigan had a great California road trip and went 4-1 this week. They got their strikeouts under control and look ready to start MAC play.

MAC Team of the Week
C Justin Miknis Kent State 11/14, 8 Runs, 8 RBI, 4 2B, 2 3B, 2 BB, SB
Corner IF Blake Bevis Ball State 5/10, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 2B, HR, BB
Corner IF Ryan Peltier Ball State 7/18, 5 Runs, 6 RBI, 4 2B, HR, 3 BB
Mid IF Michael McNamara Kent State 7/12, 6 Runs, 8 RBI, 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 BB, SB, HBP
Mid IF Billy Adams Ohio 8/14, Run, 6 RBI, 2B, SB
OF Collin Mathews Kent State 8/14, 10 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 3 BB, 5 SB, 2 HBP
OF Jake Casey Kent State 7/16, 7 Runs, 9 RBI, 3 HR, 5 BB, 5 SB
OF Matt Kirk EMU 5/13, 3 Runs, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, BB, HBP
Extra Hitter Jacob Donahue CMU 7/12, 2 Runs, 3 RBI, 2B, 5 BB, 3 SB
SP Ben Cruikshank Kent State Win, 7 IP, H, 4 BB, 11 K
SP Aidan Longwell Kent State Win, 5 IP, H, BB, 9 K
SP Connor Oliver Miami Loss, 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, ER, BB, 10 K
RP Cal McAninch Toledo Save, 4.2 IP, 2 H, BB, 5 K
RP Ryan Palmblad CMU Save, 3.1 IP, 2 H, 6 K
RP Brennan McCune Toledo Save, 4 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 5 K

Kent State is on here a lot. It makes sense. They went 4-0 with a +43 run differential and any other team that wins their games by an average of nearly 11 runs per game, they’ll dominate the Team of the Week too.

Justin Miknis was only retired three times this week and hit two triples. The outfielder pair, Colin Mathews and Jake Casey, combined to drive in 14 and steal 10 bases. It’s really incredible what they were able to achieve this weekend including on the mound.

Ben Cruikshank pitches another seven innings of shutout baseball and Aidan Longwell allowed two base runners during a midweek start. They are truly built to be a tournament team if their fourth starter is throwing shutouts on Wednesdays.

Both corner infield spots go to Cardinals. Ryan Peltier has either been on this list or the next hitter up in his ultra-consistent season. His teammate at first base is a freshman that’s having a great rookie season. Western Michigan could not limit their offensive production.

Matt Kirk hits four extra base hits this weekend of his total five. Not enough of his teammates are on base in front of him though or his numbers would really pop.

Connor Oliver was the victim of a Miami big inning, and otherwise was excellent. If errors aren’t committed possibly two more hits come off of his stat line. Even with them, his WHIP averages 1.50 which is okay. Ten strikeouts in six innings is good though.

Cal McAninch and Brennan McCune pitched long innings to close out their wins against the Miami RedHawks. Each had more than nine strikeouts per nine and a maximum WHIP of 1.00. They’re going to be tough to beat in one game if both of those guys are ready in the bullpen.

Series Scores:

Date Away Score Home
3/10 Eastern Michigan Eagles 8-7 Akron Zips
3/11 Eastern Michigan Eagles 8-3 Akron Zips
3/12 Eastern Michigan Eagles 5-6 Akron Zips
Next Opp. at Western Michigan Next Opp. vs Dayton (Wed), vs Bowling Green
Date Away Score Home
3/7 Ball State Cardinals 11-9 Florida A&M Rattlers
3/7 Western Michigan Broncos 11-17 Presbyterian Blue Hose
3/10 Western Michigan Broncos 9-11 Ball State Cardinals
3/11 Western Michigan Broncos 10-1 Ball State Cardinals
3/11 Western Michigan Broncos 3-15 F/7 Ball State Cardinals
Next Opp. vs Eastern Michigan Next Opp. vs Purdue FW (Tue), vs Toledo
Date Away Score Home
3/8 Ohio Bobcats 2-9 Kentucky Wildcats
3/10 Bowling Green Falcons 5-4 Ohio Bobcats
3/11 Bowling Green Falcons 3-11 Ohio Bobcats
3/11 Bowling Green Falcons 4-6 Ohio Bobcats
Next Opp. vs Oakland (Wed), at Akron Next Opp. vs Central Michigan
Date Away Score Home
3/7 Northern Illinois Huskies 3-7 Minnesota Golden Gophers
3/7 Youngstown State Penguins 1-22 F/7 Kent State Golden Flashes
3/10 Northern Illinois Huskies 1-12 Kent State Golden Flashes
3/11 Northern Illinois Huskies 7-12 Kent State Golden Flashes
3/12 Northern Illinois Huskies 10-16 Kent State Golden Flashes
Next Opp. at Purdue (Wed), at Miami Next Opp. vs Lake Erie (Wed), vs Canisius
Date Away Score Home
3/7 Miami RedHawks 7-23 Wright State Raiders
3/7 Toledo Rockets 8-3 UT Martin Skyhawks
3/8 Miami RedHawks 5-7 Dayton Flyers
3/8 Toledo Rockets 6-10 UT Martin Skyhawks
3/10 Toledo Rockets 5-2 Miami RedHawks
3/11 Toledo Rockets 6-2 Miami RedHawks
3/12 Toledo Rockets 7-3 Miami RedHawks
Next Opp. at Wright State (Wed), at Ball State Next Opp. at Northern Kentucky (Tue), at #8 Louisville (Wed), vs Northern Illinois
Date Away Score Home
3/6 Central Michigan Chippewas 8-4 San Jose State Spartans
3/8 Central Michigan Chippewas 3-5 Sacramento State Hornets
3/9 Central Michigan Chippewas 8-4 F/10 Sacramento State Hornets
3/10 Central Michigan Chippewas 8-3 Sacramento State Hornets
Next Opp. at Ohio