The season is winding down and the runs are getting scarce. The MAC batters had their lowest output of the season but that kept important games close. Eight of the fifteen games were within three runs, and every game between Akron and Notre Dame was tight.
A sweep in the biggest series changed the landscape of the MAC Tournament and the top four are nearly set.
Let’s get right into it:
Western Michigan sweeps Ohio, Kent State maintains at the top
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||GB||Runs For||Runs Ag.||Win||Loss||Runs For||Runs Ag.|
|Kent State Golden Flashes||21||6||+4.5||199||113||37||14||413||231|
|Ball State Cardinals||19||8||+2.5||215||159||32||18||371||300|
|Central Michigan Chippewas||18||9||+1.5||194||111||32||18||382||247|
|Western Michigan Broncos||16||10||0||181||155||19||28||307||373|
|Bowling Green Falcons||11||16||5.5||155||150||18||29||268||301|
|Eastern Michigan Eagles||9||18||7.5||160||213||23||26||364||359|
|Northern Illinois Huskies||5||21||11||141||272||9||40||251||466|
Western Michigan swept the most critical series of the weekend and now holds a two and a half game lead over the Ohio Bobcats for fourth place in the MAC. Two games ended in walk-off hits, with one forcing a ten-run rule. The half-game difference is from a canceled third game between the Broncos and Northern Illinois, but it’s proving to be pivotal, as it can now only hurt Western going forward.
Kent State won their series against Eastern Michigan two games to one. The Eagles did prove to be pesky and won the first game of the series while taking advantage of four Kent State errors. The Golden Flashes pitched their way to wins in the next two games, holding the Eagles to one run over 18 innings. Joe Whitman and Jack Kartsonas navigated the Eastern Michigan lineup expertly and kept the Flashes in first place by two games.
Ball State took two of three from Miami to keep pace with Kent State before their big series this weekend. Miami scored 14 runs in one inning to win game one. The first seven batters reached base by getting walked in a true “the wheels have fallen off” inning for the Cardinals. They rebounded and won two convincing games to finish the weekend.
Central Michigan dropped two games to Toledo after winning the first game 12-0. After Friday, it seemed like Central Michigan was going to take care of business against the Rockets, but a walk-off single by Garret Pike in game two and five unearned runs in game three pushed the series to Toledo.
Bowling Green steamrolled Northern Illinois in game one, scored the winning run on a hit-by-pitch in the tenth inning in game two, and couldn’t complete the comeback in the final game for the sweep. Northern Illinois split two competitive games and let one get away from them, which has been a disappointing pattern for them.
Final Week Stakes: MAC Tournament preview?
Three games for each team (excluding Miami) are all that remain in the 2023 MAC regular season. The last week is an absolute banger even if it doesn’t impact the standings.
The top four teams in the standings at the end of week 13 play each other in the final week. Kent State heads to Muncie, Indiana to play Ball State and Central Michigan plays Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. There is one scenario where Ohio can sneak in, but the margin is slim.
Next season the conference tournament expands to six teams. If that were the case this season, Toledo and Ohio would be in the tournament with Bowling Green in the hunt. At the top, the top two seeds get a first-round bye and the season has just a few more quirks that matter.
Kent State at Ball State
Kent State enters the weekend with a two-game lead on Ball State to host the MAC Tournament. One win would make that official. A Ball State sweep is the only way the MAC Tournament heads to Muncie two years in a row.
This series stays interesting as long as Ball State keeps winning. The difference between the #2 seed and the #3 seed is home team and away team in the opening game of the MAC Tournament. It’s not much. If Kent State wins game one, Ball State could rest pitchers and not let Kent State get a look at their starters. I don’t think either team totally mails it in once home field is established, but managing the remaining games like a midweek game seems possible.
Central Michigan at Western Michigan
A game-and-a-half separate the traditional rivals before the first pitch of the final weekend. Central Michigan has been in the top four of the MAC for the majority of the season, as they were expected to be. Western Michigan has been on a heater since a 6-6 start against Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Miami and Akron. Ball State is the only top-half team in that group, but they’ve swept three of their last four MAC series to get into the final spot.
Western Michigan hasn’t clinched its spot in the MAC Tournament yet, but one win would do it. A Western Michigan sweep would put them in the #3 spot over the Chippewas. A sweep for Central Michigan would get them to 21 wins, the current top of the MAC. It’s not possible for them to get the top spot, but they would be guaranteed the #2 seed. It would also put the Broncos in some serious danger.
Ohio is lurking two and a half games back and if Central Michigan sweeps the Broncos, the Bobcats could sneak back into the picture. Ohio would need to sweep Akron, but that wouldn’t be a crazy outcome.
Kent State and Central Michigan are the only teams to sweep the Zips this season and they are having their best season since restarting the program. They are not a candidate to lay down at the end of the season. I have to wonder if the Western Michigan and Northern Illinois game would be rescheduled during the week if it decided the final spot of the MAC Tournament.
More Awesome Highlights
The last week of MAC baseball was put on Twitter well enough to find some great clips to paint the week 13 picture. Let's start in Kalamazoo.
The Broncos had taken a 4-1 lead with four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the seventh. They had trailed since the top of the second when a one-out triple scored during a fielding error that may have scored the run anyway.
Ohio fought their way back in with three runs in the top of the ninth. Two doubles were aided by two more Bronco errors to get the game tied and headed to the bottom of the ninth inning. Cade Sullivan untied it.
Ohio catcher Mason Minzey didn’t appreciate that Sullivan gave it a gratuitous look before heading to first. I’m not a huge unwritten rules of baseball guy, if Minzey wants to be mad, don’t be mad at Sullivan. Game two got a little spicy in Kalamazoo.
In a previous highlight section, I pointed out that Hunter Dobbins has a cannon. He displayed that again this week with some excellent bunt defense.
Cooper Weiss was trying to get on base with a bunt in the top of the fourth inning on Sunday trailing Ball State 3-1. If it’s anyone but Dobbins behind the dish, that could’ve been a hit. Dobbins bare-handed the ball, spun and threw a bullet to first in one motion. That’s hard to do and that ball goes to right field or is thrown into the runner pretty often on plays like that.
That was game three and the day before Dobbins hit not one, but two home runs.
The first home run opened the scoring and gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the third inning. The second was a two-run shot that was hit to a nearly identical spot over the fence. Both pitches were out over the plate and about belt high. Not a good place to miss for a pitcher and Dobbins made sure it hurt. The pitcher, Kenten Egbert, had a good day outside of these two pitches, he gave up three runs over seven innings and three hits.
The last clip is a rare walk-off hit by pitch. Bowling Green’s Tyler Ross gets plunked in the back for the win.
There are two things that I love in this clip:
- Ross’s fist in the air as soon as it hits him.
- The rest of the team mobbed him at first base.
It’s still a game-winning at bat, albeit an unorthodox one, and should be celebrated. The Northern Illinois pitcher Mason Ruh is behind in the count 2-0 and loses a fastball high and in. In 2020, when he was 17, Ruh’s fastball hit 88 mph at the WWBA Tournament in Iowa. He’s probably throwing a little harder than that now and Ross has a nice bruise on his shoulder to show for the game-winner.
- Miami won game one against Ball State 14-8. They scored all 14 in the top of the 8th inning. Miami sent 19 hitters to the plate and Tommy Harrison drew a walk, hit a 3 RBI double and grounded out to end the inning. He had three plate appearances in one inning. Sam Klein came in after the leadoff hitter was walked and walked all five batters he faced. Evan Appelwick would’ve hit a grand slam if it weren’t for a wild pitch during his at-bat that brought a run in. #MACtion is not contained to football.
- Northern Illinois held on for the win in game three against Bowling Green. Halfway through the second inning, the Huskies had a 5-0 lead thanks to three wild pitches. The Falcons brought the score to 5-4 when Jack Krause hit a three RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh, the Falcons got runners to second and third but couldn’t bring them in and failed to score a run with the bases loaded in the eighth. The Falcons finally scored a run with two outs in the ninth but stranded the tying run at third to end the series. Northern Illinois pitching staff got out of some high-leverage situations unscathed. That’s something to build on going forward for the Huskies.
- Two errors in the bottom of the third for Central Michigan extended the inning and three Toledo runners came around to score. It’s not clear why Jeron Williams scoring in the fifth isn’t earned, but Caden Konczak reached on an error and scored the fifth and final unearned run in the seventh inning. While that was going on, Cal McAninch was dealing for the Rockets. He pitched five shutout innings in relief for the win.
- Western Michigan was able to use two relievers all weekend against Ohio. All season the pitching staff for the Broncos has had ups and downs and if Ohio was going to win this series, they were going to get into the Bronco bullpen. Starters Brady Miller and Dane Armbrustmacher combined to pitch 14.1 innings in the first two games and Hayden Burg finished both games. Joe Shapiro struggled in his start, but DJ Thompson pitched the final 4.1 innings without allowing a run. The Broncos needed five pitchers to sweep Ohio, but that’s not a sustainable model.
- Notre Dame is projected to be an at-large in the national tournament and Akron lost three games by a combined five runs. There aren’t moral victories in college baseball but the Zips played well and were a swing away from extra innings in game two and left six runners on base in a 2-1 loss.
|MAC Team of the Week|
|C||Hunter Dobbins||Ball St||5-9, 4 Runs, 4 RBI, 2 HR, 2 BB, Sac Fly|
|Corner IF||Tyler Ross||BGSU||6-12, 3 Runs, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 4 BB, 2 HBP|
|Corner IF||Colin Kasperbauer||Ohio||6-14, 5 Runs, RBI, 2B, 3B, 2 BB, SB|
|Mid IF||Adam Tellier||Ball St||7-15, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 2B, HR, 2 BB|
|Mid IF||Jeron Williams||Toledo||6-14, 3 Runs, 4 RBI, 2 2B, HR, BB, 2 SB, 2 Sac Fly|
|OF||Garrett Navarra||CMU||4-11, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, 3 B, HR, 3 BB, HBP|
|OF||Josh Swinehart||WMU||7-13, 5 Runs, RBI, 3 BB|
|OF||Eric Erato||NIU||3-8, 4 Runs, 2B, 6 BB, 3 SB|
|Extra Hitter||Greg Budig||WMU||6-11, 4 Runs, 5 RBI, HR, BB|
|SP||Jack Kartsonas||Kent St||Win, 8 IP, 3 H, 4 K|
|SP||Ty Weatherly||Ball St||Win, 7 IP, 3 H, 2BB, 11 K, HBP|
|SP||Trennor O'Donnell||Ball St||7 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 11 K|
|RP||Cal McAninch||Toledo||2 Wins, 3 Apps, 8.2 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K|
|RP||Mitchell Scott||Kent St||2 Saves, 3 Apps, 3.2 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K, HBP|
|RP||Ben Vitas||CMU||2 Apps, 3 IP, 2 H, 5 K|
It was a good week to not allow any runs on the mound. Jack Kartsonas made his eighth appearance and third start of the season and made the most of 80 pitches. His strikeouts were low, but eight innings of three-hit baseball are always good enough for a win. He averaged less than three pitches per batter and cruised with only one run from the offense.
Kartsonas handed the ball to Mitchell Scott and he picked up his 14th save in his third appearance of the week. He has been sensational this season and allowed five earned runs in 37 innings of work. He is not a pitcher that anyone wants to see on the mound when Kent State has the lead. He’s converted 14 of his 16 save opportunities this season and in one of the blown saves he still got the win.
Ben Vitas leads the pitchers here with 15 strikeouts per nine with five in three innings of work.
Catchers lead the way for the hitters for the first time this season. Hunter Dobbins big week leads all hitters in wOBA this week and Greg Budig had a stat line that earns the catcher spot almost every other week.
Tyler Ross leads the group with six RBI, including the one he drove in by getting hit in the back against NIU. He had two doubles and four walks to cap off a great week for the Falcons.
The weekly walk leader goes to Eric Erato in the dugout opposite Ross. Erato walked six times and stole three bases. He was on base all the time and either put the ball in play or drew a walk. Erato did not strike out once in 14 plate appearances.
|5-9||Ball State Cardinals||1-11||Indiana State Sycamores|
|5-12||Miami RedHawks||14-8||Ball State Cardinals|
|5-13||Miami RedHawks||1-5||Ball State Cardinals|
|5-14||Miami RedHawks||3-8||Ball State Cardinals|
|Next Opp.||at McNeese State||Next Opp.||at Southern Indiana (Tue), vs Kent St|
|5-9||Bowling Green Falcons||1-5||Youngstown State Penguins|
|5-12||Northern Illinois Huskies||1-21||Bowling Green Falcons|
|5-13||Northern Illinois Huskies||4-5||Bowling Green Falcons|
|5-14||Northern Illinois Huskies||6-5||Bowling Green Falcons|
|Next Opp.||vs Milwaukee (Tue), at Eastern Michigan||Next Opp.||at Toledo|
|5-9||Toledo Rockets||3-4||Oakland Grizzlies|
|5-10||Central Michigan Chippewas||5-13||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|5-12||Central Michigan Chippewas||12-0||Toledo Rockets|
|5-13||Central Michigan Chippewas||3-4||Toledo Rockets|
|5-14||Central Michigan Chippewas||2-5||Toledo Rockets|
|Next Opp.||at Michigan State (Tue), at Western Michigan||Next Opp.||vs Purdue FW (Tue), vs Bowling Green|
|5-9||Akron Zips||2-7||Kent State Golden Flashes|
|5-10||Eastern Michigan Eagles||10-11||Michigan State Spartans|
|5-12||Kent State Golden Flashes||6-9||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|5-13||Kent State Golden Flashes||4-1||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|5-14||Kent State Golden Flashes||1-0||Eastern Michigan Eagles|
|Next Opp.||at Ball State||Next Opp.||vs Oakland (Tue), vs Northern Illinois|
|5-9||Western Michigan Broncos||6-9||Valparaiso Beacons|
|5-9||Ohio Bobcats||7-2||Marshall Thundering Heard|
|5-12||Ohio Bobcats||2-8||Western Michigan Broncos|
|5-13||Ohio Bobcats||4-6||Western Michigan Broncos|
|5-14||Ohio Bobcats||3-14||Western Michigan Broncos|
|Next Opp.||at Akron||Next Opp.||vs Central Michigan|
|5-9||Akron Zips||2-7||Kent State Golden Flashes|
|5-13||Akron Zips||2-5||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|5-13||Akron Zips||4-5||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|5-14||Akron Zips||1-2||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|Next Opp.||at Youngstown St (Tue), vs Ohio|