MAC baseball is amazing. We’ve played through ten weeks of baseball, with seven weeks of conference games, and despite the sheer number of games, there is not a front-runner in the standings. Each of the four teams that are currently tied for first is past their off week and it’s all conference play from here on out.
The next four weeks will determine the host for the MAC Tournament and the seeding. It’s going to be fun!
Four-way tie for first place with four weeks left
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||GB||Runs For||Runs Ag.||Win||Loss||Runs For||Runs Ag.|
|Ball State Cardinals||13||5||0||160||108||26||13||307||229|
|Central Michigan Chippewas||13||5||0||134||82||26||13||309||203|
|Kent State Golden Flashes||13||5||0||134||87||27||12||326||191|
|Western Michigan Broncos||10||7||2.5||116||99||13||24||236||308|
|Bowling Green Falcons||8||13||6.5||105||120||14||22||196||227|
|Eastern Michigan Eagles||7||14||7.5||138||170||17||21||284||282|
|Northern Illinois Huskies||4||13||8.5||102||173||7||30||203||346|
We have arrived at a unique situation in the race to make the MAC Tournament. There is a four-way tie for first place. There are four weeks to play in the MAC schedule and none of the top four have a bye week.
The tie-breaker procedure is here, but the standings above do not reflect these rules.
There is a significant gap between the top four and the rest of the field, but the best record during the regular season hosts the MAC Tournament. There are plenty of games to sort this out but a four-way tie this late in the season is wild.
Ball State and Central Michigan sweep their opponents to get to the 13-5 mark. Ohio was on their bye week and had a rough outing against Indiana. Kent State also did not play well and dropped two games against Miami.
Ball State pounded Northern Illinois pitching and scored in 13 of 14 innings in the final two games. The Huskies weren’t totally outmatched, but ultimately couldn’t keep up. Central Michigan pitching dominated the Akron bats on the way to their sweep. They limited the Zips to one base runner per inning over the three-game series and struck out nine per nine innings.
Western Michigan swept Bowling Green in Kalamazoo and is 2.5 games back. They didn’t finish their series with Northern Illinois and could end up with a better win percentage because of that missing game. Controversy could be afoot, and it’s not likely, but the Broncos could be a MAC Tournament surprise.
Akron is in the fight to stay out of last place. That would be a huge, necessary step for the resurrected program. They still have their bye week, Miami and NIU on the schedule. They play the teams next to them in the standings and could cement their first non-last-place finish since 2015.
Three huge series remain, but CMU has a clear path to first
The log jam at the top with only a few weeks to go means the remaining schedules are important. Three of the top four teams have yet to play each other, but Central Michigan has the hardest part of their schedule behind them. The Chippewas have already played Ball State, Kent State and Ohio. Their path to the top is not a gimme, but Eastern Michigan, Miami and Toledo haven’t played to their preseason expectations.
The other three teams play each other in the final four weeks. This week, the Bobcats head to Kent State for a three-game set. The Kent State starting pitchers are typically excellent, but Miami averaged eight runs a game and gave the Flashes starters a 7.20 ERA. If they give up early runs to a good Ohio lineup, the Bobcats have the bullpen to hold the lead. Despite the down week, Kent State is still first or second in every quality metric. The Flashes are the team to beat even if the records are even.
Ohio get Ball State at home the following week in another huge showdown. Ball State is an offense-led team, but their pitching isn’t far behind. Patient hitters can draw walks from Cardinal pitchers, but they can also have big strikeout games.
The penultimate week is a breather before Kent State and Ball State square off in the final week. That series in Muncie could be the series that decides the location of the MAC Tournament.
Central Michigan has done the work and now needs to hold serve for the rest of the season. The other three teams each have six games against teams that are currently 13-5. It’s a safe bet now that each of these teams make the MAC Tournament but the order is anyone’s guess.
Western Michigan has the best shot to break into the group and there are two ways to view their schedule. The pessimist would say that 10-7 before playing Central Michigan, Kent State, Ohio and Toledo is not good enough to survive that group. The optimist would say they need the teams in front of them to lose and they can be the ones to give them the losses.
RedHawk pitchers outduel the Flashes
Miami put together a good weekend of baseball and won a series against Kent State. It was certainly an upset, but the RedHawks forced Kent State to play games they aren’t used to playing.
Ben Cruikshank will give up runs occasionally. He gave up four earned runs to Toledo, five to Wofford and three to Central Michigan. What Cruikshank and Kent State don’t do is allow unearned runs. A two-out error in the third inning scored one unearned run and the next hitter drove in two more with a single. Kent State has avoided costly errors all season and found themselves in a 6-0 hole after three innings in game one.
Connor Oliver and Lawson Blackmore combined to hold the Flashes to three runs on four hits. Kent State never had the base runners they usually use to drive their offense. When their offense is humming the Flashes are all over the bases and stealing frequently. Over the entire series Kent State only attempted three stolen bases and were thrown out twice.
In the second game, Zach Maxey appeared in relief and shut down the opponent like the Kent State bullpen usually does. Kenten Egbert had given up four runs, including three solo home runs, over the first six innings. At the end of six, the Flashes held a 4-2 lead. Miami would score a run in the seventh and a run in the ninth to tie the game. A walk-off solo shot by Tommy Harrison would end it in the tenth. Maxey relieved Egbert and pitched the final four innings while striking out five and giving up one hit.
Kent State had an answer every time Miami scored in game three and broke an 8-8 tie in the top of the ninth. Miami hit four home runs but it wasn’t enough. In the entire series, the RedHawks hit eight home runs to the Golden Flashes four and out slugged them 0.612 to 0.394.
It’s only one series and Kent State is stilled tied for first place, but they haven’t been handled like that by a MAC team this season.
- Toledo won two games in the series at Eastern Michigan. Toledo bats were running hot all week and scored ten runs in three wins and eleven in a loss. Eastern Michigan’s Matt Kirk made the play of the week with a walk-off grand slam to finish a six-run bottom of the ninth.
- Central Michigan had a 5-0 week to keep the nine-game win streak alive. Their starting pitching dominated the Zips, especially Keegan Batka in game three.
- Ball State scored 36 runs in three games against Northern Illinois and posted a team wOBA of .526. The Huskies played two games in the midweek and gave up an additional 34 runs. It’s not been their pitcher’s year.
- Western Michigan swept Bowling Green behind an all-around effort from the Broncos. They weren’t the most statistically dominant team this week but the pitching allowed 13 runs and the offense broke double digits twice. Gavin Doyle’s grand slam in game one provided the runs needed for that win.
- Indiana put Ohio away easily in the last two games of their three-game series in what was ultimately a sweep. The Bobcats made Indiana sweat in the opener but couldn’t seal the deal despite opportunities.
|MAC Team of the Week|
|C||Tommy Harrison||Miami||4-11, 2 Runs, 3 RBI, 3 2B, HR, 2 BB|
|Corner IF||Blake Bevis||Ball St||7-14, 4 Runs, 5 RBI, 3 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 2 BB, HBP|
|Corner IF||Ryan Peltier||Ball St||10-24, 10 Runs, 19 RBI, 3B, 8 HR, BB, 2 SB|
|Mid IF||Michael McNamara||Kent St||7-13, 5 Runs, 6 RBI, 2B, 4 HR, 4 BB, HBP|
|Mid IF||Cooper Weiss||Miami||5-14, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 HR, 5 BB, 3 SB, HBP|
|OF||Caden Kenczak||Toledo||8-13, 4 Runs, 8 RBI, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 2 BB, HBP|
|OF||Matt Kirk||EMU||8-17, 5 Runs, 10 RBI, 2 2B, 3 HR, 3 BB|
|OF||Cole Prout||CMU||3-7, 6 Runs, 4 RBI, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 BB, 2 SB, HBP, Sac Fly|
|Extra Hitter||Ryland Zaborowski||Miami||8-17, 7 Runs, 9 RBI, 2B, 4 HR, 3 BB|
|SP||Keegan Batka||CMU||Win, 10 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 11 K|
|SP||Connor Oliver||Miami||Win, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, ER, 3 BB, 7 K|
|SP||Garrett Navarra||CMU||7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K|
|RP||Zach Maxey||Miami||Win, 4 IP, H, 5 K, HBP|
|RP||Sam Klein||Ball St||Win, 3.2 IP, 2 H, BB, 10 K|
|RP||Ty Johnson||Ball St||Save, 2 Apps, 3 IP, 2 H, 4 K|
Ryan Peltier went off this week. The final game against Northern Illinois only lasted seven innings and Peltier hit three bombs and drove in seven runs. The last of the three was a three-run blast in the bottom of the seventh that enforced the ten-run rule. An unconventional walk-off!
Miami’s Ryland Zaborowski had a week to match Peltier, hitting four home runs of his own. The JUCO transfer leads the MAC with 17 on the season. He really came out of nowhere after not playing much at Yavapai College due to injury. Before that, he played a season at Grand Canyon University. It seems like Zaborowski was looking for a home and found one in Oxford with the RedHawks.
A batting average over .500, four home runs and four walks is incredible production from a primarily defensive position, but Michael McNamara delivered for Kent State. The week was not great for the Flashes, but McNamara did everything he could to help their cause.
The reigning MAC Player of the Year Matt Kirk had a great week at the plate including the grand slam from earlier. More than half of his hits went for extra bases and he drove in ten runs in four games. That’s a Player of the Year week.
Two teams pitching dominated their series and they are well represented on the Team of the Week. Central Michigan’s Keegan Batka and Garrett Navarra controlled their games against the Zips and Batka made a midweek appearance as well. His eight-inning performance with ten strikeouts was fantastic. Miami’s Connor Oliver, the MAC strikeout leader, went seven innings against Kent State for the win. He struck out a batter an inning on average and kept the Golden Flashes off balance.
Zach Maxey was mentioned earlier for his excellent relief appearance against the MAC’s best offense. No pitcher in the MAC had done that to the Flashes to this point. Sam Klein deserves a mention as well for retiring 11 batters, 10 via strikeout. Ball State has two relievers that can weaponize the strikeout that way and they can change any game they enter.
|4/18||Akron Zips||14-10||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|4/18||Northwood Timberwolves||13-23||Central Michigan Chippewas|
|4/19||Madonna Crusaders||2-10||Central Michigan Chippewas|
|4/21||Central Michigan Chippewas||5-3||Akron Zips|
|4/22||Central Michigan Chippewas||16-5||Akron Zips|
|4/23||Central Michigan Chippewas||3-0||Akron Zips|
|Next Opp.||vs Oakland (Tue), vs Miami||Next Opp.||at Youngstown St (Tue), vs Malone (Wed), at Northern Illinois|
|4/18||Ball State Cardinals||2-3||Purdue Boilermakers|
|4/18||Northwestern Wildcats||16-5||Northern Illinois Huskies|
|4/19||Illinois State Redbirds||18-11||Northern Illinois Huskies|
|4/22||Northern Illinois Huskies||2-5||Ball State Cardinals|
|4/22||Northern Illinois Huskies||12-16||Ball State Cardinals|
|4/23||Northern Illinois Huskies||5-15||Ball State Cardinals|
|Next Opp.||vs Illinois-Chicago (Tue), at Illinois St (Wed), vs Akron||Next Opp.||vs Indiana (Tue), at Bowling Green|
|4/18||Bowling Green Falcons||16-4||Oakland Grizzlies|
|4/19||Western Michigan Broncos||1-2||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|4/21||Bowling Green Falcons||4-6||Western Michigan Broncos|
|4/22||Bowling Green Falcons||6-10||Western Michigan Broncos|
|4/23||Bowling Green Falcons||3-11||Western Michigan Broncos|
|Next Opp.||at Toledo (Wed), vs Ball State||Next Opp.||at Toledo|
|4/18||Akron Zips||14-10||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|4/19||Eastern Michigan Eagles||7-9||Oakland Grizzlies|
|4/19||Toledo Rockets||10-7||Michigan Wolverines|
|4/21||Toledo Rockets||10-4||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|4/22||Toledo Rockets||10-9||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|4/23||Toledo Rockets||11-12||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|Next Opp.||at Dayton (Tue), vs Bowling Green (Wed), vs Western Michigan||Next Opp.||at Alma (Tue), at Niagara|
|4/18||Ohio State||12-11||Miami RedHawks|
|4/19||Tiffin Dragons||12-15||Kent State Golden Flashes|
|4/22||Kent State Golden Flashes||3-12||Miami RedHawks|
|4/22||Kent State Golden Flashes||4-5||Miami RedHawks|
|4/23||Kent State Golden Flashes||9-8||Miami RedHawks|
|Next Opp.||vs Ohio St (Tue), vs Ohio||Next Opp.||at Purdue (Wed), at Central Michigan|
|4/21||Ohio Bobcats||8-9||Indiana Hoosiers|
|4/22||Ohio Bobcats||2-17||Indiana Hoosiers|
|4/23||Ohio Bobcats||2-9||Indiana Hoosiers|
|Next Opp.||vs Shawnee (Tue), at Kent St|