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2023 Mid-American Conference Baseball Week 9 Recap

Kent State is back on top and Ohio is hanging around! The stretch run to the MAC Tournament begins now.

Syndication: Kent Ravenna Record-Courier Lisa Scalfaro via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The pitchers had their fun the last two weeks, but the bats have awakened as temperatures have gotten warmer, having their strongest week of the season so far. The conference averaged 7.91 runs per game and gave up 8.43 earned runs per game. A league average 8.43 ERA over 29 games makes me wince, but that leaves room for ten-run innings to complete a comeback!

Lots of runs, and wild baseball this week. The top teams reorder themselves right before the sprint to the finish line.

A top-four shake up, but the top is still separating from the pack

Team Conf W Conf L GB Runs For Runs Ag. Win Loss Runs For Runs Ag.
Kent State Golden Flashes 12 3 +2 118 62 25 10 295 154
Ohio Bobcats 13 5 +1.5 142 114 15 17 244 261
Central Michigan Chippewas 10 5 0 110 74 21 13 252 180
Ball State Cardinals 10 5 0 124 89 23 12 269 207
Western Michigan Broncos 7 7 2.5 89 86 10 23 208 293
Bowling Green Falcons 8 10 3.5 92 93 13 19 167 196
Toledo Rockets 6 9 4 100 104 13 21 233 237
Miami RedHawks 7 11 4.5 108 104 11 27 256 309
Eastern Michigan Eagles 6 12 5.5 113 139 16 17 242 228
Akron Zips 6 12 5.5 84 151 13 22 173 310
Northern Illinois Huskies 4 10 5.5 73 137 7 25 158 276

A huge series between Central Michigan and Ball State in Mount Pleasant resulted in a sweep for the Chippewas. As surprising as the sweep is, it just shows how tough the defending MAC champs are, and how much of a rock fight the championship tourney will be.

Central Michigan has struggled to play its best baseball consistently this year and seemed to be the same team as last year without the obvious top-end of the MAC pitching. They’ve found the top-end pitching and can turn it on when the competition gets tough, as evidenced by this series.

That series also walks the cut line from 7-5 last week to 10-5 this week. The gap between the current top four and the rest of the field has grown, and the only team within a series is Western Michigan. The Broncos have their own set of issues to fix, namely their bullpen, to be serious contenders.

Kent State assumes the top spot in the MAC as they improve to 12-3 and also lead the MAC in run differential in and out of the conference. They started the MAC calendar a little shaky but haven’t lost in the MAC since March 31st against Toledo. They still won that series 2-1.

Ohio won two games against Miami to hold station, but it was not convincing. Wins are wins and worrying about being convincing is a fool’s errand, but that series needed big, clutch innings for the Bobcats to come out on top.

After WMU is Bowling Green, lurking with a solid pitching staff. The pitching staff for the Falcons ranks at the fringes of MAC Tournament worthy with the fourth-best ERA and third-best WHIP. The Falcons are ninth in runs per game but last in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wOBA. They seem to be outperforming their underlying numbers a little and could make it interesting if they can find a way to score runs.

Ohio uses Bobcat Magic to get past Miami twice

Over the course of the season, the Bobcats have been a top-three offense and middle-of-the-pack pitching staff. They win when their offense gets going and overcome any runs surrendered by the pitching staff.

The bullpen is also substantially better than the starting pitching. The bullpen has pitched more innings and has an ERA that is 3.50 runs better than the starters. Wins are not useful for pitchers, but the starters have a combined record of 5-9 and the bullpen is 10-8. It is telling that the starters either do not last long enough to get credited for the win or leave the game trailing.

That same recipe played out against the Miami RedHawks twice, and nearly a third time.

Ohio’s starting pitching was the worst in the MAC this week in ERA and WHIP, while the bullpen was fourth and third respectively.

In Game 1, Luke Olson pitched into the fourth inning but failed to record and out. Miami scored two runs in that inning and both were charged to Olson. The RedHawks had a 6-0 lead at the end of the fourth inning. The Bobcat bullpen allowed four runs of their own and heading into the bottom of the eighth the game was all but put away with a 10-3 lead for Miami.

Ohio scored ten in the bottom of the eighth. Ohio drew three walks and was helped by a hit-by-pitch and five wild pitches. They had seven hits in the inning and fifteen total bases including a grand slam by Wes Lug to take the lead.

The Bobcats nearly did it again in Game 2. This time the starter lasted four innings and surrendered five runs while the offense put another crooked number on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth again. This time the game went from an 8-3 Miami lead to a 10-8 Ohio lead courtesy of a three-run blast by Mason Minzey followed by an inside-the-park home run by Will Sturek. Miami answered with four runs in the top of the ninth to avoid two massive letdowns in one series.

Game 3 was the second leg of a doubleheader for these teams and Miami scored quickly. Two runs in each of the first two innings made it 4-0 RedHawks. Ohio would take the lead before the eighth inning, but left enough time for Miami to tie it with a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning. Tied at seven, the game went to extra innings.

The first two batters reached base in the tenth and a fielder’s choice put runners on second and third with one out. Alec Patino was the hero with a walk-off single for the game and series win.

The Bobcat's improbable wins are becoming a recurring feature of the MAC season. A team with hot bats and a good bullpen is a team built to play well in a tournament, and the Bobcats are that.

Eastern Michigan hitters go bananas

Eastern Michigan played a lot of baseball this week. They played a mid-week two-game series with Western Michigan before a road series with Bowling Green. They won each game against the Broncos with a 34-15 combined score and scored at least eight runs per game over the weekend.

It wasn’t obvious that Eastern Michigan’s bats exploded this week until the team of the week was selected. Four players made the nine positions and three hit at least three home runs this week. I thought I was making a mistake.

Eastern Michigan has been a top-half offense, built around a high slugging percentage to score runs. This week the Eagles’ slugging percentage jumped from .451 to .484 and moved them from fourth to second in the conference. Their team slash line for the week is .349 / .452 / .656 which results in a 1.108 OPS and a .475 wOBA. That’s good enough to get on the team of the week as a player most weeks, and the Eagles posted that as a team.

The MAC averages 14.5 total bases per game and Eastern Michigan really feasted on WMU pitching in their first game. The Eagles had 38 total bases including six home runs. Five different players hit one in that game. In the rest of the games they produced 20, 23, 23 and 18 total bases in order.

First baseman Josh Kross hit four dingers, utility outfielder Logan Hugo hit three and designated hitter Darren Kraft hit three. The opponents should’ve stopped pitching to these guys.

Quick Notes:

  • Kent State swept Akron, but didn’t steamroll them. The first game got out of hand, but the other two were each decided by three runs. Akron’s Brett Dietrich left Game 2 after four pitches. It could be a big blow to Akron’s pitching down the stretch.
  • Central Michigan shut down the Ball State hitters on their way to a sweep. The Cardinals were held to four runs per game and their pitchers walked 9.4 batters per nine innings. It’s a recipe for disaster against a Chippewa squad that gets on base any way you let them. That issue has shown up multiple times this season for Ball State.
  • Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan traded comeback wins in the first two games, and the Falcons were able to survive another comeback attempt for the series. The Eagles only managed to go 3-2 in a week when they scored 59 runs.
  • Western Michigan and Northern Illinois didn’t get their third game in and do not have a plan to make it up. They split their two-game set. The Huskies were down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth in game one before winning in the eleventh inning. That loss really hurts for WMU.
  • Toledo played a tough Samford team and couldn’t scratch out a win. It was a tight series between the two teams but the Rocket bats maxed out at five runs in Game 3.

MAC Team of the Week
C Kyle Gurney BGSU 5-15, 6 Runs, 4 RBI, 2B, 2 HR, 4 BB, HBP
Corner IF Aidan Longwell Kent St 11-14, 6 Runs, 7 RBI, 2B, 3B, HR, SB, 2 HBP, Sac Fly
Corner IF Josh Kross EMU 12-22, 9 Runs, 11 RBI, 2B, 4 HR, 2 BB, HBP
Mid IF Sam Seidel BGSU 5-11, 7 Runs, RBI, 2B, 5 BB, 4 SB, 2 HBP
Mid IF Taylor Hopkins EMU 9-21, 5 Runs, 8 RBI, 3 2B, HR, 3 BB, 3 SB
OF Zach MacDonald Miami 9-23, 7 Runs, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 3 HR, 3 BB
OF Will Sturek Ohio 5-15, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, 2 HR, 5 BB, HBP
OF Logan Hugo EMU 5-16, 8 Runs, 8 RBI, 3B, 3 HR, 4 BB, SB, 2 HBP
Extra Hitter Darren Kraft EMU 7-19, 5 Runs, 6 RBI, 3 HR, 4 BB, SB, HBP
SP Ben Cruikshank Kent St Win, 7 IP, 5 H, R, ER, 6 K
SP Dane Armbrustmacher WMU Win, 8 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 9 K
SP Adam Mrakitsch CMU Win, CG, 9 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 10 K
RP Mitchell Scott Kent St 3 Apps, 3 Saves, 4.1 IP, H, 2 BB, 9 K
RP Brennan McCune Toledo 3 Apps, 5.1 IP, H, 6 K, HBP
RP Dillon Masters Ohio 2 Apps, Win, 4.1 IP, BB, 6 K, HBP

The best players continue to dominate.

Kyle Gurney, Aidan Longwell, Darren Kraft, Adam Mrakitsch and Mitchell Scott are each back on the Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

The combined line for this week’s offensive team is incredible. The combined OPS of 1.433 with 19 home runs, 54 runs batted in and 68 total hits are video game numbers. The pitchers combined for 38 innings pitched, two earned runs allowed and a WHIP of 0.61 is hilariously low. It is a bit surprising that these pitching performances exist in the same week as the hottest bats of the season.

Brennan McCune’s week could easily be missed with Toledo going 1-4. He was excellent from the bullpen in three appearances, only allowing two base runners in 5.1 innings.

Mitchell Scott’s dominance continues from the Kent State bullpen. He added three saves this week without allowing a run and dropping his ERA to a league leading 0.67. He was used to get 13 outs this week and he got nine of them via the strikeout.

As mentioned earlier, four Eastern Michigan Eagles made the list with home run power. Taylor Hopkins was the only one to make the Team of the Week without multiple home runs. He was on base all weekend and stole three bases. Darren Kraft has 14 hits over the last two weeks with 13 RBI, five home runs, and seven walks. He might get pitched around a bit more as he continues to rake. The sophomore has exploded since being added to the lineup after only 11 at bats in his first season in Ypsilanti.

The starting pitchers for these three games were stingy with the runs. Armbrustmacher was able to dance around base runners to pitch eight innings without a run and Cruikshank was able to do the same, but allowed fewer runners. Mrakitsch made one mistake to Ball State’s Adam Tellier and only gave up one more hit the rest of the game.

Series Scores:

Date Away Score Home
4/11 Akron Zips 1-15 Ohio State Buckeyes
4/11 Pitt Panthers 2-5 Kent State Golden Flashes
4/14 Akron Zips 3-23 Kent State Golden Flashes
4/15 Akron Zips 0-3 Kent State Golden Flashes
4/16 Akron Zips 6-9 Kent State Golden Flashes
Next Opp. at Eastern Michigan (Tue), vs Central Michigan Next Opp. vs Tiffin (Wed), at Miami
Date Away Score Home
4/11 Ball State Cardinals 13-16 Indiana Hoosiers
4/11 Hillsdale Chargers 6-15 Central Michigan Chippewas
4/14 Ball State Cardinals 1-9 Central Michigan Chippewas
4/15 Ball State Cardinals 5-13 Central Michigan Chippewas
4/15 Ball State Cardinals 6-9 Central Michigan Chippewas
Next Opp. at Purdue (Tue), vs Northern Illinois Next Opp. vs Northwood (Tue), vs Madonna (Wed), at Akron
Date Away Score Home
4/11 Eastern Michigan Eagles 21-5 Western Michigan Broncos
4/12 Western Michigan Broncos 10-13 Eastern Michigan Eagles
4/12 Bowling Green Falcons 2-8 Ohio State Buckeyes
4/14 Eastern Michigan Eagles 8-6 Bowling Green Falcons
4/15 Eastern Michigan Eagles 9-11 Bowling Green Falcons
4/15 Eastern Michigan Eagles 8-13 Bowling Green Falcons
Next Opp. vs Akron (Tue), at Oakland (Wed), vs Toledo Next Opp. at Oakland (Tue), at Western Michigan
Date Away Score Home
4/11 Marshall Thundering Herd 8-6 Ohio Bobcats
4/11 Miami RedHawks 5-7 Cincinnati Bearcats
4/12 Miami RedHawks 16-11 Northern Kentucky Norse
4/14 Miami RedHawks 10-13 Ohio Bobcats
4/15 Miami RedHawks 12-10 Ohio Bobcats
4/15 Miami RedHawks 7-8 Ohio Bobcats
Next Opp. vs Ohio State (Tue), vs Kent State Next Opp. at Indiana
Date Away Score Home
4/11 Eastern Michigan Eagles 21-5 Western Michigan Broncos
4/12 Western Michigan Broncos 10-13 Eastern Michigan Eagles
4/14 Western Michigan Broncos 5-6 Northern Illinois Huskies
4/15 Western Michigan Broncos 7-1 Northern Illinois Huskies
Next Opp. at Notre Dame (Wed), vs Bowling Green Next Opp. vs Northwestern (Tue), vs Illinois State (Wed), at Ball State
Date Away Score Home
4/11 Toledo Rockets 18-9 Youngstown State Penguins
4/12 Wright State Raiders 18-4 Toledo Rockets
4/14 Toledo Rockets 3-5 Samford Bulldogs
4/15 Toledo Rockets 1-4 Samford Bulldogs
4/16 Toledo Rockets 5-10 Samford Bulldogs
Next Opp. at Michigan (Wed), at Eastern Michigan