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2023 Mid-American Conference Baseball Week 8 Recap

Are the top four separating from the pack? It sure looks like it.

Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Buffalo Bulls April 7, 2012 Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images

We’ve reached the second month of #MACbats, and some truths are starting to become solidified regarding the 11 teams who call the Rust Belt home.

Currently, the wins in the MAC are being hoarded by a small group of teams at the top, but as with all things, the day of reckoning will soon come; this group of schools will have to start taking losses when they finally play each other later this season, and it will be quite the sight to behold when it starts up.

The hitters have cooled down while the pitching has stayed consistent this week. The MAC continues to operate just over the 11 total runs per game mark, which is still down from two weeks ago when the total was over 14. The strikeouts are in line with previous averages, and the WHIP for the league isn’t on a wild swing. The hitters just aren’t hitting as well as they were early in the year.

As the weather continues to warm, that might start to change. Let’s get into the news and notes for the week that was:

Ohio and Kent State sweep their opponents, Ball State had their “bye”

Team Conf W Conf L GB Runs For Runs Ag. Win Loss Runs For Runs Ag.
Ball State Cardinals 10 2 +3 112 58 23 8 244 160
Kent State Golden Flashes 9 3 +2 83 53 21 10 255 143
Ohio Bobcats 11 4 +2.5 111 85 13 15 207 224
Central Michigan Chippewas 7 5 0 79 62 17 13 206 162
Western Michigan Broncos 6 6 1 77 79 9 20 181 252
Miami RedHawks 6 9 2.5 79 73 9 24 206 260
Toledo Rockets 6 9 2.5 100 104 13 17 202 191
Bowling Green Falcons 6 9 2.5 62 68 11 17 135 163
Akron Zips 6 9 2.5 75 116 13 18 163 260
Eastern Michigan Eagles 5 10 3.5 88 109 13 15 183 183
Northern Illinois Huskies 3 9 4 66 125 6 24 151 264

An uneven amount of games is making a fool of the games behind column, but that’s the MAC schedule. Buffalo could fix this problem if they wanted to. Ball State maintains the highest win percentage in the MAC as they played Bellarmine and The Citadel this week, winning three of four games. At this point, the Cardinals could drop an entire series and still be in line for a spot in the MAC Tournament.

Ohio drops a spot this week despite sweeping Toledo and sending another MAC Tournament hopeful down the standings. Last weekend, the Bobcats sent Eastern Michigan back to Ypsilanti without a win and this weekend they did it on the road. Those sweeps are damaging to EMU and Toledo’s hopes, and also allow the top four to gain more separation from the field. The number of wins in a MAC season is finite, and right now they are all being hoarded by the top four teams. Ohio, Kent, CMU and Ball State have combined for a 16-5 MAC record over the past two weeks.

Central Michigan has played Ohio and Kent State, but none of the other series between these four teams have been played. Big-time MAC baseball is on its way.

Kent State swept a Bowling Green squad that had been playing well lately and now has the second-best winning percentage in the MAC. The Flashes’ pitching was dominant with a staff ERA of 1.00 and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. The high production was even between the starters and relievers as they continue to show no consistent weaknesses.

Central Michigan and Western Michigan each went 2-1 against Northern Illinois and Akron respectively. Western Michigan kept pace and remains a game behind for fourth place and is on an island in the standings. The Broncos will need to improve their level of play against the teams in the top half of the league, but they’re in a good place right now. Central Michigan has to survive a weekend with Ball State next, but then the schedule lightens up considerably.

Week 8 had awesome highlights

The MAC and ESPN needs to stream more baseball.

I spend a lot of time looking at box scores, the play-by-play notes and Twitter for updates from the MAC baseball games. This week, I was spoiled by a plethora of highlights and all I want is more.

Ball State’s series with The Citadel produced some hustle plays on the bases from Adam Tellier. In game two, Decker Scheffler hit a single through the right side to score Tellier from second.

It was the first of two gutsy sends from the Ball State third base coach. Clearly, Tellier gets a good jump with two outs, but the outfielder is very short in right. A good slide gets the run home.

Scheffler and Tellier pair up again, this time on a sacrifice fly to deep center field in the eighth inning of a seven inning game. Tellier caught the center fielder napping, clearly allowing the advanced to third but not expecting the turn to home.

Another great slide gave the Cardinals a 9-7 lead and they needed the run. They would win 9-8.

In the last Ball State highlight, Hunter Dobbins has a cannon.

The Citadel’s Thomas Rollauer is the base runner he was out by five feet. He’s a good base stealer too. Prior to this attempt, he was seven for eight on the year. Great throw, great tag.

Toledo’s Jeron Williams and Ohio’s Collin Kasperbauer flashed the leather during their series against each other.

The game wasn’t going well for the Rockets on Friday but this play to end the top of the eighth shows why Jeron Williams was an All-MAC defender last year and should be this year.

On the other side, Colin Kasperbauer made a fantastic barehanded grab behind third base and fired across the diamond to keep the leadoff batter off the bases. A great stretch by the first basemen completes the play.

Last but certainly not least, Aidan Longwell hit an absolute no-doubter against Ohio State in their midweek matchup and celebrated by throwing his bat about 15 feet in the air.

Regardless of the score, I want every home run against a Big Ten team celebrated the same way. That was a beautiful bat flip on a home run for the lead. The fact that Kent State ended up losing 7-6 does not change that.

Stat leaders at the halfway point of the MAC schedule

Now that the MAC schedule is about at the halfway point and the common ground between the team’s schedules is substantial, the stat leader boards mean something.

What is easy pretty easy to spot at this point is that Ryan Peltier from Ball State has been the best hitter in the MAC to this point by a good margin. Weighted on-base average is my favorite stat to evaluate hitters since it gives each method of reaching base its own weight, unlike OPS which weighs each method by the number of bases gained.

Peltier has a wOBA of .510 and the gap to Ryland Zaborowski is 40 points. Forty points cover the gap from second to eleventh. The other stats tell the same story. Peltier leads the MAC in batting average, on-base percentage, on-base plus slugging and is second in slugging percentage. He’s having a monstrous season and leads in just about every quality metric.

In volume stats, Jeron Williams leads the MAC with 52 hits, he’s tied for first with three triples and has the most stolen bases with 24. He’s been a tough out and dangerous on the base paths all season.

Three players have reached double-digit home runs so far this season and they each have one thing in common. Each transferred to their current program prior to this season. Jack Firestone came to Akron from Purdue, Ryland Zaborowski came to Miami from Yavapai Community College and Owen Jackson went to Toledo from Kankakee CC. Apparently, power hitters are available in the portal.

On the pitching side, Miami’s Connor Oliver leads the MAC with 66 strikeouts. Miami as a pitching staff has been strikeout-heavy, but not effective at limiting runs. Their pitches are so good, they don’t even know where they are going.

The strikeouts per nine leader of all qualified pitchers is Ryan Brown from Ball State with an astounding 17.4. Brown has appeared in nine games and pitched 26.1 innings with 51 strikeouts. The Miami RedHawks do have three pitchers in the top five of that list, each with more than 13.5 strikeouts per nine.

It’s no secret that the Kent State pitching staff is statistically the best in the MAC. The high end talent they have in the bullpen shows up in the quality metrics. Mitchell Scott leads the league with a 0.81 ERA. He is a full run better than second place Braxton Kelly from Ohio. Scott is third in strikeouts per nine and fourth in walks plus hits per innings pitched. The leader in WHIP is fellow Flash Jordan Kolenda with a 0.65. He helps himself with the lowest walks per nine innings in the MAC, which makes him the perfect reliever. He’s not giving away free passes and he’s not throwing meatballs either.

Sammy Tortorella’s last start was difficult and only three innings but he still leads the MAC with 49.1 innings pitched. He’s not way out in front of the other starters but he routinely goes deep into games for Akron. It’s not a surprise that he tops the list.

Quick Notes:

  • Eastern Michigan and Akron played a non-conference game against each other in the midweek. Eastern will play a home and home with Western Michigan this week in a fun scheduling quirk.
  • Western Michigan mashed their way to wins in games one and three in their series against Akron. They’re the first team in a while to rough up Sammy Tortorella.
  • The Kent State and Bowling Green series were close in two games, but all three went to Kent State. Kent State won game one 1-0 with only two hits and let Bowling Green hang around in game three, a 4-2 win. Kent State bats hit eight doubles and four home runs in the middle game.
  • Northern Illinois wins the final game with a walk-off single that scores two runs to avoid being swept. Central Michigan couldn’t make 10 walks hurt and left 11 runners on base. The Chippewas were all over the bases this weekend and led the MAC with a .458 on base percentage.
  • Eastern Michigan continues to fall and is now 1-8 over their last nine MAC games. Miami scored three runs in the top of the seventh in game one for a comeback win and had 17 hits on their way to a 21-2 win in game two. EMU did avoid the sweep in game three but they might be out of it now.
  • Ohio swept Toledo with a miraculous six-run top of the ninth in game two to take the lead 8-7. The Bobcat pitchers didn’t strike out many Rocket hitters, but their staff WHIP was sub-one at 0.96.
  • Ball State smashed Bellarmine on Tuesday and took two of three from The Citadel on Thursday and Friday. Their wins were each by one run and required extra innings.

MAC Team of the Week
C Kyle Gurney BGSU 4-10, Run, 2 RBI, HR, BB
Corner IF Aidan Longwell Kent St 7-15, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, SB, Sac Fly
Corner IF Kyle Jackson Kent St 5-14, 3 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, HBP
Mid IF Grady Mee WMU 7-15, 8 Runs, 7 RBI, 2B, 3 HR, 2 BB, SB, HBP
Mid IF Luke Sefcik CMU 10-16, 5 Runs, 6 RBI, BB, 3 SB, HBP, 2 Sac Fly
OF Jackson Kitchen WMU 7-16, 4 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 2B, HR, 4 BB, 2 SB
OF Sam Seeker Akron 3-10, 3 Runs, RBI, 3B, HR, BB, SB, 2 HBP
OF Jacob Donahue CMU 6-14, 8 Runs, 3 RBI, 2 2B, 5 BB, 3 SB, 2 HBP, Sac Fly
Extra Hitter Darren Kraft EMU 7-13, 4 Runs, 7 RBI, 2 HR, 3 BB, SB
SP Luke Russo EMU Win, 7 IP, 2 H, R, ER, BB, 9 K, 2 HBP
SP Luke Olson Ohio Win, CG, SO, 9 IP, 2 H, 7 K
SP Adam Mrakitsch CMU Win, 7 IP, H, 3 BB, 9 K
RP Mitchell Scott Kent St 2 Saves, 4.2 IP, 2 H, BB, 4 K
RP Evan Waters CMU Win, 4.1 IP, H, BB, 6 K
RP Logan Schulfer Ball State 2 Wins, 6 IP, 5 H, R, ER, 2 BB, 9 K

Coming into this week, Western Michigan freshman Grady Mee had five hits in 23 at bats and no runs batted in. He led the MAC in wOBA with seven hits, including a double and three home runs, and drove in seven runs. Mee is slashing .316 / .409 / .632 for the season and has definitely earned more playing time at second base.

Aidan Longwell continues to crush baseballs for Kent State. He hit two more home runs and drove in another five runs to add to his MAC lead. Longwell has driven in 45 runs this season and has 10 more than Alec Patino from Ohio. The Golden Flashes third baseman Kyle Jackson joins him on the Team of the Week, also hitting two home runs.

Central Michigan’s Luke Sefcik could not be retired this week. He was 10 for 16 with a walk and a hit by pitch. Two of the outs he hit were productive and drove in runs.

Luke Olson headlines the pitchers with a complete game shutout of the Toledo Rockets on Friday. In 103 pitches he retired 27 batters and allowed two hits while striking out seven. Luke Russo and Adam Mrakitsch each pitched seven innings in their wins for EMU and CMU. Mrakitsch didn’t allow a run and only one hit in a stellar outing.

Logan Schulfer for Ball State earned two wins as a reliever and pitched six combined innings. His line would be good for a full game, but Ball State effectively being able to choose when they need great innings is what earned Schulfer the wins. Mitchell Scott closed down two games for Kent State while allowing three base runners in 4.2 innings. Evan Waters for CMU was a shutdown reliever in his 4.1 innings against Oakland. With six strikeouts, one hit and one walk, Waters earned his win.

Series Scores:

Date Away Score Home
4/4 Eastern Michigan Eagles 9-2 Akron Zips
4/4 Western Michigan Broncos 5-12 Michigan Wolverines
4/7 Akron Zips 5-14 Western Michigan Broncos
4/8 Akron Zips 5-4 Western Michigan Broncos
4/9 Akron Zips 7-12 Western Michigan Broncos
Next Opp. at Ohio State (Tue), at Kent State Next Opp. vs Eastern Michigan (Tue), at Eastern Michigan (Wed), at Northern Illinois
Date Away Score Home
4/4 Kent State Golden Flashes 6-7 Ohio State Buckeyes
4/7 Kent State Golden Flashes 1-0 Bowling Green Falcons
4/8 Kent State Golden Flashes 10-1 Bowling Green Falcons
4/9 Kent State Golden Flashes 4-2 Bowling Green Falcons
Next Opp. vs Pitt (Tue), vs Akron Next Opp. at Ohio State (Wed), vs Eastern Michigan
Date Away Score Home
4/4 Central Michigan Chippewas 6-3 Oakland Grizzlies
4/4 Northern Illinois 3-6 Illinois-Chicago Flames
4/7 Central Michigan Chippewas 7-0 Northern Illinois Huskies
4/8 Central Michigan Chippewas 17-7 Northern Illinois Huskies
4/9 Central Michigan Chippewas 5-6 Northern Illinois Huskies
Next Opp. vs Hillsdale (Tue), vs Ball State Next Opp. vs Western Michigan
Date Away Score Home
4/4 Xavier Wildcats 16-2 Miami RedHawks
4/7 Miami RedHawks 6-4 Eastern Michigan Eagles
4/8 Miami RedHawks 21-2 Eastern Michigan Eagles
4/9 Miami RedHawks 1-8 Eastern Michigan Eagles
Next Opp. at Cincinnati (Tue), at Northern Kentucky (Wed), at Ohio Next Opp. at Western Michigan (Tue), vs Western Michigan (Wed), at Bowling Green
Date Away Score Home
4/4 Morehead State Eagles 15-2 F/7 Ohio Bobcats
4/4 Toledo Rockets 9-8 Purdue FW Mastodons
4/7 Ohio Bobcats 6-0 Toledo Rockets
4/8 Ohio Bobcats 8-7 Toledo Rockets
4/9 Ohio Bobcats 5-2 Toledo Rockets
Next Opp. vs Marshall (Tue), vs Miami Next Opp. at Youngstown State (Tue), vs Wright State (Wed), at Samford