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2023 Mid-American Conference Baseball Week 14 Recap

Kent State emphatically earns home field advantage for the MAC Tournament, while several MAC programs find themselves looking for their next skipper.

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

The regular season is over and the MAC Tournament is set!

The games start Wednesday with Kent State and Western Michigan starting at 12:30 pm EDT. Ball State and Central Michigan play the nightcap at 6:00 pm EDT the same day.

Coaching decisions are being made, or have at least been announced now that the season is over for seven of the MAC programs. After this week, it will be over for all but one. The National Tournament awaits our champion. Can anyone knock Kent State out of the driver's seat?

Final Standings - Kent State scores 54 runs on Ball State

Team Conf W Conf L GB Runs For Runs Ag. Win Loss Runs For Runs Ag.
Kent State Golden Flashes 24 6 +5.5 253 132 40 14 467 250
Central Michigan Chippewas 19 11 +0.5 217 137 33 21 407 282
Ball State Cardinals 19 11 +0.5 234 213 33 22 402 355
Western Michigan Broncos 18 11 0 207 178 21 29 333 396
Ohio Bobcats 15 15 3.5 190 198 19 30 318 384
Toledo Rockets 14 16 4.5 213 222 25 30 387 384
Bowling Green Falcons 13 17 5.5 182 174 20 30 295 325
Miami RedHawks 13 17 5.5 184 174 21 35 395 424
Eastern Michigan Eagles 12 18 6.5 188 225 27 26 409 379
Akron Zips 12 18 6.5 167 235 20 34 293 444
Northern Illinois Huskies 5 24 13 153 300 10 43 275 495

The Kent State Golden Flashes left no doubt on Thursday when they secured the best record in the MAC by beating Ball State 29-11, in an effort which saw KSU score ten runs in back-to-back innings. Every weekend that a highly anticipated series is underway, the MAC provides a surprising result. Kent State winning the series wouldn’t be surprising, and a sweep is closer, but averaging 18 runs a game on the way to the sweep without a competitive game is surprising.

Western Michigan punched its ticket to the MAC Tournament with a win of their own Thursday. They won games one and two against Central Michigan by smashing their way to both wins. Game three went to Central Michigan 12-1 in seven innings. The Chippewas tied Ball State’s record and moved into second in the conference, but it’s not much of a difference. They still play Ball State in the opening round of the MAC Tournament.

Akron won their series with Ohio by winning both of the first two games by a 7-6 score. Akron got jumped in the standings by Eastern Michigan due to the head-to-head tiebreak with the Eagles. Eastern Michigan swept Northern Illinois and finished the season on a four-game win streak. They had a winning record and finished ninth in the MAC. The last time that was even close to happening was Miami’s 22-23 record in 2010 which was also good for ninth, but in a twelve-team MAC.

Bowling Green tied Miami’s record and moved ahead on head-to-head record with two wins over Toledo. Thursday’s game was at Scott Park, Bowling Green’s home field, and a Saturday doubleheader was held at Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens. The doubleheader was split with the winner scoring at least 16 runs in each game to finish the year.

MAC Tournament Set

The MAC Tournament teams were set on Thursday and the seeding wasn’t finished until the final outs of the weekend. Ball State could have been the #2 seed with any win in their series against Kent State.

As it is here are the seeds and previews for the MAC Tournament teams:

#1 Kent State Golden Flashes 40-14 (24-6)

What is there to say about the Flashes? They’ve been excellent across the board this season from start to finish. With a balanced MAC schedule complete for everyone, their offense ranks first as a team in on-base percentage, weighted on-base percentage and runs per game. They are second in slugging percentage by 19 points to Ball State.

The Golden Flashes pair their incredible offense with the best team ERA and WHIP in the MAC. Broken down a little further, their starters are second in ERA and WHIP to Central Michigan but their bullpen makes up the gap. Central Michigan has the second-best bullpen in the tournament but allows 1.54 runs per nine innings.

It’s hard to say what Kent State leans on to win games because they’ve been the best in the MAC at everything. The Flashes average 8.43 runs per game and have a team ERA of 3.92. They are better than their MAC opponents by an average of 4.51 runs.

That’s not to say they are perfect. They have six losses, including a series loss to Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant. Half of their MAC losses have been by a single run and if anyone else wants to win the MAC Tournament, they need to hope that Kent State has a bad day fielding the ball and another one-run loss. Kent State has lost three games more convincingly and in each they had at least three errors in the field. Central Michigan was the only team to consistently keep them off the board this season and they could see each other as early as the second round.

#2 Central Michigan Chippewas 33-21 (19-11)

The Chippewas have a clear offensive identity. They draw walks, wear out your pitchers and steal bases. They are ninth in the conference in slugging percentage and rely on traffic to score runs, and they do a good job of it. Despite the lack of power and being in the middle of the MAC in wOBA, they are third in runs per game.

Their patience at the plate is the defining trait of their offense. No team drew more walks than they struck out, but the Chippewas were the closest. They led the MAC in walks and strikeouts looking but their overall strikeout rate was right at the MAC average.

Their pitching staff, especially the starters, led the way. Central Michigan has the best starters over the course of the season which comes as a surprise after losing three of their best starters over the offseason. Newcomer Keegan Batka, Adam Mrakitsch and Garrett Navarra each had sub 4.00 ERAs over their combined 235.1 innings pitched this season. Ryan Palmblad headlines the bullpen with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings over 51 innings pitched. Their bullpen is solid, but not as lights out as Kent State’s. If their games go to plan in the tournament, they won’t need them much.

Central Michigan took two of three from Kent State and swept Ball State. Western Michigan is their kryptonite and lost two of three in the final series of the season. The Chippewas are the reigning champs and showed during the regular season that they can beat anyone in the MAC.

#3 Ball State Cardinals 33-22 (19-11)

Ball State is a wild card in the MAC Tournament. Their offense rakes when it’s on and was second in the MAC in doubles and homers and first in triples. They put the ball in play for better and worse, low strikeouts and low walks, but lead the MAC in slugging percentage. Ryan Peltier was running away with the MAC Player of the Year award before he fell into a pretty serious slump. He went 1-26 in his final seven games with 12 strikeouts.

Decker Scheffler and Adam Tellier continued to play well, but a third big bopper in the lineup makes the Cardinals into a lineup that is hard to deal with. Peltier’s cold snap could end in any at bat and he could return to the .400 hitter with tremendous power.

The Ball State pitchers have dealt with injury all season. They currently rate as the eighth best staff in ERA and seventh in WHIP. The starters are better than that, but they haven’t been able to go deep into games. Trennor O’Donnell has been a solid starter for the Cardinals, but the other spots have rotated throughout the season. The bullpen has been bad, 10th in ERA and ninth in WHIP, but they are hopeful to get an important arm back.

Ryan Brown hasn’t appeared since April 16th against Central Michigan when he faced five batters and struck out three. Brown and Sam Klein are the best arms they have in the bullpen and they will both be needed this week.

They handled Western Michigan early in the season but struggled against both of the other teams in the tournament. They could snap out of their relative funk and mash their way to wins or allow nine runs in two games and drop out early.

#4 Western Michigan Broncos 21-29 (18-11)

The Broncos’ overall record might suggest their happy to be in the tournament, but their recent play has been spectacular. They started the conference schedule with Ball State and a string of teams in the bottom half of the conference. They split a series against Northern Illinois to be 7-7 with the toughest teams yet to come. It didn’t look good, especially since the Ohio Bobcats were tearing up the MAC at the time.

Their bats carried them down the stretch and from April 17th on they were the second-best offense in the MAC. Will Morrison is an on-base machine and Cade Sullivan, Gavin Doyle and Jackson bring the pop. The biggest problem in their statistics is that are essentially Ball State lite. They are led by their offense which isn’t quite as strong as the Cardinals over the MAC schedule, and their bullpen struggles to support their starters.

The Broncos starting pitchers are in the top half of the MAC and not out of place in the MAC Tournament field, but their bullpen is dangerously thin. Brady Miller and Dane Armbrustmacher can handle MAC hitters, but Hayden Burg is the only Western Michigan reliever with an ERA under 5.00. Once he’s exhausted, Joe Shapiro, Jake Gernon and DJ Thompson combine for 71 earned runs in 87.2 innings.

They did not handle the buzz saw that is Kent State well this season, but did alright against the other two. The most recent series win against Central Michigan is a confidence boost right when they needed it.

Quick Notes

  • Miami separated from their head coach Danny Hayden, as did Eastern Michigan from Eric Roof. They join Northern Illinois who moved on from Mike Kunigonis on May 7, and Akron who has been led by an interim this season.
  • Speaking of Akron, they’re in a weird situation with their coaching staff. Greg Beals was let go from Ohio State after 12 seasons but left Akron before the season started for Marshall. In a pinch, they handed the reigns to assistant coach Tim Donnelly and they had the best season of Akron baseball since its return. The Zips played 11 fewer conference games this season but dropped the average per-game differential from -4.24 to -2.27. That’s a big improvement.
  • Kent State scored at least eleven runs in each game on the road against Ball State. They didn’t take their foot off the gas even after the best record was secured. The Flashes have one setting, and it’s winning baseball games.
  • Western Michigan stayed hot at the plate and scored 25 combined runs in the first two games against Central Michigan. The Chippewas rebounded in game three to avoid the sweep.
  • Akron took two games from Ohio, but Ohio won the third game 3-1 with three unearned runs. That’s a painful loss for Sammy Tortorella and the Zips.
  • Jeron Williams went off in game two to propel the Rockets to a win in the opening game of a doubleheader and the second game was over quickly. Tyler Ross hit a grand slam in the second inning for the Falcons and they cruised to a 16-5 win to finish the season.
  • Josh Kross plated eight runners to earn a tie for first in the MAC for runs batted in at 70. Eastern Michigan finished its season with a sweep of Northern Illinois to head into the offseason on a high note.

MAC Team of the Week
C Matthew Rivera Ball St 4-8, 5 Runs, 6 RBI, 4 HR, BB, HBP
Corner IF Aidan Longwell Kent St 8-13, 8 Runs, 5 RBI, 2B, 2 BB, SB, 2 HBP
Corner IF Josh Kross EMU 11-21, 5 Runs, 8 RBI, 4 2B, HR
Mid IF Jimmy Allen WMU 7-11, 4 Runs, 5 RBI, 5 2B, BB
Mid IF Mack Timbrook Kent St 6-13, 10 Runs, 5 RBI, 2B, 3 HR, 2 BB, SB, HBP
OF Kyle Schroedle EMU 9-16, 9 Runs, 9 RBI, 2B, 3B, 4 HR, BB
OF Decker Scheffler Ball St 6-13, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 3 HR, 2 BB
OF Jackson Kitchen WMU 5-9, 3 Runs, RBI, 2B, 3B, 4 BB, SB, HBP
Extra Hitter Colin Summerhill NIU 7-13, 3 Runs, 7 RBI, 3 2B, HR, 2 BB, SB, HBP
SP DJ Newman BGSU Win, 8 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K
SP Joe Whitman Kent St Win, 5 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 2 BB, 5 K
SP Sammy Tortorella Akron Loss, CG, 9 IP, 6 H, 3 R, BB, 5 K, 3 HBP
RP Cal McAninch Toledo Save, 2 Apps, 6.2 IP, 3 H, BB, 6 K
RP Sam Klein Ball St 4 IP, H, 4 K
RP Hudson Boncal Ohio Save, 4 IP, BB, 7 K

The MAC was a home run conference this week. Three players hit four and one didn’t even make the Team of the Week. Jeron Williams, a mainstay for the middle infielders, three in one game and four in total, but it wasn’t enough.

Eastern Michigan’s Kyle Schroedle and Ball State’s Matthew Rivera each hit four home runs. Schroedle hit one as part of a cycle on Friday, and each of those runs were needed in the 10-9 win over NIU. Rivera’s week was a bright spot in a pretty dim week for the Cardinals. He wasn’t the only player playing well for Ball State, but it definitely wasn’t enough.

Mack Timbrook had six hits, earned two walks and was hit by a pitch and scored ten runs. That picture is as clear as it gets for what was happening in Muncie for the Golden Flashes. They were basically inventing runs.

On the mound, DJ Newman did something I haven’t seen this year in the MAC. There’s always a handful of two-way players, but none of them have pitched eight shutout innings while going 4-4 at the dish. He was their designated hitter in the other two games and finished his week 8-12 with an RBI and a double.

Sammy Tortorella went the distance in a loss while allowing zero earned runs. Cal McAninch and Hudson Boncal finished their seasons with starter-like appearances with high strikeouts. Boncal was especially lights out earning the four-inning save with one walk allowed.

Series Scores:

Date Away Score Home
5-18 Ohio Bobcats 6-7 Akron Zips
5-19 Ohio Bobcats 6-7 Akron Zips
5-20 Ohio Bobcats 3-1 Akron Zips
Date Away Score Home
5-16 Ball State Cardinals 12-1 Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles
5-18 Kent State Golden Flashes 29-11 Ball State Cardinals
5-19 Kent State Golden Flashes 14-3 Ball State Cardinals
5-20 Kent State Golden Flashes 11-5 Ball State Cardinals
Date Away Score Home
5-16 Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons 8-7 Toledo Rockets
5-18 Bowling Green Falcons 4-0 Toledo Rockets
5-20 Bowling Green Falcons 7-19 Toledo Rockets
5-20 Bowling Green Falcons 16-5 Toledo Rockets
Date Away Score Home
5-16 Central Michigan Chippewas 2-9 Michigan State Spartans
5-18 Central Michigan Chippewas 6-11 Western Michigan Broncos
5-19 Central Michigan Chippewas 5-14 Western Michigan Broncos
5-20 Central Michigan Chippewas 12-1 Western Michigan Broncos
Date Away Score Home
5-16 Milwaukee Panthers 1-12 Northern Illinois Huskies
5-16 Oakland Grizzlies 8-17 Eastern Michigan Eagles
5-18 Northern Illinois Huskies 2-11 Eastern Michigan Eagles
5-19 Northern Illinois Huskies 9-10 Eastern Michigan Eagles
5-20 Northern Illinois Huskies 1-7 Eastern Michigan Eagles
Date Away Score Home
5-17 Miami RedHawks 14-8 McNeese State Cowboys
5-18 Miami RedHawks 5-13 McNeese State Cowboys
5-19 Miami RedHawks 13-6 McNeese State Cowboys