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2023 Mid-American Conference Baseball Week 11 Recap

Western Michigan took hold of the fourth spot by a half game this week, while Miami and Central Michigan nearly played two games in one!

COLLEGE BASEBALL: APR 23 Ohio at Indiana Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just when it looked like major changes in the standings were done, Ohio gets swept and Western Michigan jumps to the fourth spot. Drama is added to the rest of the season and all eyes will be on the series between those two in two weeks time.

Nothing is settled yet. Home-field advantage for the tournament is up for grabs between the top three for now, but anything can happen the rest of the way, and this week showed that.

Kent State in front again and Western Michigan is fourth?

Team Conf W Conf L GB Runs For Runs Ag. Win Loss Runs For Runs Ag.
Kent State Golden Flashes 16 5 +2.5 160 97 31 12 362 206
Central Michigan Chippewas 15 6 +1.5 145 90 29 14 328 213
Ball State Cardinals 15 6 +1.5 179 127 28 15 334 257
Western Michigan Broncos 13 7 0 147 118 16 24 267 327
Ohio Bobcats 13 8 0.5 152 140 16 23 273 324
Miami RedHawks 10 14 5 141 131 15 31 308 352
Toledo Rockets 8 13 5.5 150 160 19 25 314 310
Bowling Green Falcons 9 15 6 124 139 15 25 222 258
Akron Zips 9 15 6 130 195 17 27 247 385
Eastern Michigan Eagles 7 14 6.5 138 170 21 21 332 305
Northern Illinois Huskies 4 16 9 112 211 7 35 219 403

The tie at the top is broken at least for a week. Kent State takes over the top spot with a sweep of Ohio courtesy of their excellent pitching. Ohio was limited to 3.3 runs per game and an OPS 0.196 below the MAC average. The Golden Flashes bullpen split the load and pitched 12 of the 27 innings with a 0.75 ERA, nine strikeouts per nine innings and a 0.92 WHIP. When Kent State’s bullpen is operating like that, they will be tough to beat.

Ball State and Central Michigan won two games in their series against Bowling Green and Miami respectively. The Cardinals had explosive innings and couldn’t stop a slow trickle of runs from the Falcons. Ryan Peltier hit a grand slam during and eight-run sixth inning in game one but the Cardinals narrowly won, 10-8.

Central Michigan struggled to score runs against a Miami pitching staff that has been putting it together lately. The Chippewas scored 11 runs over their three game series and won two games with their own excellent pitching. Miami was held to eight runs and the league’s lowest OPS in week 11.

Western Michigan is the big winner from the Kent State and Ohio series. With the Bobcats dropping all three and the Broncos converting their series with Toledo into three wins the Broncos own the fourth spot in the conference. That unplayed game gives them the edge in winning percentage, but it’s nothing to worry about at this point. Ohio and WMU still have to play each other this season and can figure it out on the field.

Akron sweeps Northern Illinois and should finish tenth or better this season. Anything can happen, of course, but Akron holds the tiebreaker and a three-game lead with three weeks to go. The Zips are headed in the right direction in their third year back in action,

The week ahead could lead to more shake-ups with Ball State at Ohio and Western Michigan at Kent State. A sweep by the favorites is the most boring possibility but it would keep the Broncos and Bobcats within a half-game of each other. Any upsets might allow Central Michigan to move up depending on their results against Eastern Michigan.

Western Michigan: Are they for real?

Western Michigan has hung around the cut line all season for the final spot in the MAC Tournament but they were a very flawed team and never had a consistent top end of the MAC unit to rely on.

At the end of week nine, the Broncos were 7-7 coming off of a split with Northern Illinois and 2.5 games back of the fourth spot. It’s not crazy for a team to work their way into the tournament picture from a .500 record and less than a full series out, but their stats painted a bleak picture. A picture that says they might have outperformed their underlying data to this point.

Their radar chart for their conference-only stats through week nine was not pretty. Their best unit was their starting pitching and their best stat, WHIP, was still in the bottom half of the MAC. The offense could slug a little but the bullpen was the worst in the league.

Ever since then the Broncos have swept two series and are on a seven-game conference win streak. They are effectively tied with Ohio for the final spot in the MAC tournament. The turnaround has been dramatic. They’ve been the best offense in on-base percentage, wOBA and runs per game during the last two weeks. The pitchers have been the third-best in the MAC in ERA and fourth in WHIP. The bullpen still allows too many base runners but they’ve worked around them and not given up earned runs.

The radar chart through week 11 looks much better, more like a team on the fringe of the MAC tournament.

They have improved to a top-four offense that is based around runners on base. The pitching is a relative weakness, but if the starters are performing, they can win games.

The two series sweeps are against a 9-15 Bowling Green team and an 8-13 Toledo squad. Neither has had the season they were hoping for and are seventh and eighth in the MAC. The Broncos have taken care of business against teams that will probably be in the lower half of the league at the season's end, and it has given them a chance to prove that they are a MAC Tournament team in the final three weeks. Kent State is up next, then the Ohio Bobcats and the regular season finale against rival Central Michigan. It’s the toughest remaining schedule and the Broncos will try to ride the momentum as long as they can. We’ll see if they can do it.

Miami was one hit away from a series win five times

Game 3 in the Miami and Central Michigan series was a marathon game. It lasted 16 innings and from the top of the eighth until the bottom of the 16th no runs were scored— though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Miami had the most unlikely series of events and should have won the game multiple times over. The RedHawks left the bases loaded without scoring a run in the 12th, 14th, 15th and 16th innings. Miami couldn’t buy a hit, or even a walk, to drive in a run and take the lead.

A walk in the 12th inning loaded the bases with two outs and brought Zach MacDonald to the plate to face Christian Mitchelle for Central Michigan. The only thing MacDonald has to do is get on base, it does not matter how. Mitchelle needs an out and only an out.

  • Zach MacDonald - 1-of-4, HBP to that point, .384 OBP (Season)
  • Christian Mitchelle - 51 pitches, 1.04 WHIP, 0.6 walks per nine
  • Result - Five-pitch strikeout.

One at-bat ending in a strikeout isn’t a big deal. It hurts, but one at-bat is just that. The 14th inning hurts worse. A single, infield fly, double and an intentional walk loaded the bases again, this time with one out. With Evan Appelwick up against Ryan Insco, a hit isn’t needed to score a run. MacDonald followed him, also unsuccessfully.

  • Evan Appelwick - 2-of-5, 2B, BB, .386 OBP
  • Zach MacDonald - 1-of-5, HBP, .384 OBP
  • Ryan Insco - 18 pitches, 1.40 WHIP, 4.7 walks per nine
  • Results - Five-pitch strikeout, lineout to third basemen.

The next inning was another two-out, bases-loaded situation. This time three good at bats ended in walks to create base runners. Nate Stone walked in seven pitches, Cooper Weiss walked in nine pitches and Zaborowski earned a nine-pitch walk as well. It was up to David Novak against Michael Conte who entered to face Novak.

  • David Novak - 2-of-7, 2B, .381 OBP
  • Michael Conte - two pitches, 1.93 WHIP, 4.3 walks per nine
  • Result - Flyout to center

As impossible as it seems, Miami would create one more chance. This time they played for one run. A leadoff single is bunted to second but an intentional walk to Nate Stone restores the double play. An eight-pitch at bat ends in a hit batter and brings Benji Brokemond against Conte one last time.

  • Benji Brokemond - 1-of-8, .379 OBP
  • Michael Conte - 19 pitches, 1.93 WHIP, 4.3 walks per nine.
  • Result - Fielder’s choice, second basemen with the unassisted put out.

Based on the on-base percentages of the four Miami batters that had five plate appearances, the odds that none reach base is nine percent. Replay this scenario 100 times, and Miami scores a run in 91 of these situations. The number is actually higher given that the RedHawks didn’t need a hit in the 14th. In bases-loaded situations with one out in the MLB from 1957 to 2015, at least one run was scored 67% of the time according to Greg Stoll.

Looking at it from the other side, CMU pitchers should get out of that without a run 11.4% of the time. No matter how it’s cut, Miami at least takes the lead in roughly 90% of the simulations of this game. It’s incredible that CMU was able to get out of this one with the game and the series.

Quick Notes:

  • Akron swept their series against Northern Illinois by exceptional offensive output. Many great weekends are had against the Huskies pitching staff and Akron is no exception. Northern Illinois scored runs as well, but couldn’t keep up.
  • During the Ball State wins, they used an eight-run inning and a five-run inning to get it done. Bowling Green won when they didn’t give up the big inning and scored in bunches themselves.
  • Central Michigan won their series with Miami but stole a win in the deciding Game 3. Both sides pitched extremely well and no game was separated by more than three runs.
  • Kent State rolled out the “A” pitching squad in game one to take game one from the Bobcats. Ben Cruikshank handed the ball to Jordan Kolenda and Kolenda to Mitchell Scott. If Kent State builds a lead and can go to those two in the back end of the bullpen, they’ll be tough to beat. The Golden Flashes scored 13 in game two and used their exceptional bullpen to seal game three.
  • Western Michigan’s sweep of Toledo was surprising. The WMU pitching allowed the league’s most home runs, 11, but kept the Rockets off the bases enough to make it work. Toledo’s loss of their starting pitching has started to show its effects on their season.
  • Eastern Michigan had a 4-0 week with a win against Alma to start. Then the Eagles went to Niagara and thoroughly dominated that series as well. Each game had an average score of 11-4 while the Eagles had a good weekend away from the MAC.

MAC Team of the Week
C Colin Summerhill NIU 6-16, 3 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, BB, HBP
Corner IF Cade Sullivan WMU 6-14, 5 Runs, 11 RBI, 4 HR, 3 BB
Corner IF Gavin Doyle WMU 8-14, 4 Runs, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, BB, 2 Sac Fly
Mid IF Jeron Williams Toledo 11-22, 8 Runs, 4 RBI, 4 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 4 SB, HBP
Mid IF Billy Adams Ohio 8-13, 2 Runs, 4 RBI, 2B, BB, 3 SB, 2 HBP
OF Nathan Archer BGSU 7-16, 6 Runs, 6 RBI, 2B, 4 HR, BB
OF Matt Kirk EMU 8-16, 6 Runs, 7 RBI, 4 2B, 3B, HR, 2 BB
OF Collin Mathews Kent St 10-18, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 2 2B, HR, BB, 2 SB, HBP
Extra Hitter Josh Johnson Kent St 6-12, 7 Runs, RBI, 2B, HR, 3 BB, 3 SB
SP Ben Cruikshank Kent St Win, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 9 K
SP Luke Russo EMU Win, 6.2 IP, 2 H, R, 12 K, 3 HBP
SP Adam Mrakitsch CMU Win, 6 IP, 5 H, R, ER, 3 BB, 9 K
RP Ty Johnson Ball St Win, 2 Apps, 6 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 10 K
RP Cal McAninch Toledo Win, 3 Apps, 7 IP, H, BB, 4 K
RP Nick Vardavas Miami Loss, 3.2 IP, H, 5 K, HBP

The corner infielders are dominated by a pair of Broncos that were a real menace for Toledo’s pitchers. Cade Sullivan hit four home runs and drove in 11, while Gavin Doyle drove in six runs with his eight hits, half for extra bases. That kind of production coming from the heart of the lineup is hard to deal with.

Speaking of hard to deal with, Jeron Williams had eleven hits for the Rockets and added four stolen bases to his season lead in both categories. Williams has 39 stolen bases this season and that is almost double second-place Eric Erato’s total of 20. He had a solid five-game week.

All Kent State outfielders hit the ball well this week, but Collin Mathews and Josh Johnson lead the way for the Golden Flashes. Both get hits in more than half of their hits and combined for 16 hits, 12 runs, six RBI, five stolen bases and four extra-base hits. Nathan Archer hit four home runs in four games this week and Matt Kirk had another outstanding week in a bid to defend his Player of the Year title.

The pitchers this week are led by Eastern Michigan’s Luke Russo and his 12 strikeouts against Niagara. He pitched into the seventh inning and gave up one unearned run and five base runners. Russo leads the MAC in strikeouts after this performance with 85 in 62 innings.

The relievers were all lights out in either long outings or starter amounts of innings. Over the 16.2 combined innings, they allowed a single earned run and four hits. Add in 19 strikeouts to get out of jams. Nick Vardavas pitched in the 16 inning marathon game and for some reason is tagged with the loss. He was not the last Miami pitcher to appear and wasn’t pitching when CMU walked it off. It has to be a scorebook error and I wasn’t going to let the “loss” keep him off this list.

Series Scores:

Date Away Score Home
4/25 Akron Zips 5-8 Youngstown State Penguins
4/25 Illinois Chicago Flames 8-1 Northern Illinois Huskies
4/26 Malone Pioneers 13-9 Akron Zips
4/26 Northern Illinois Huskies 5-11 Illinois State Redbirds
4/28 Akron Zips 19-7 Northern Illinois Huskies
4/29 Akron Zips 11-9 Northern Illinois Huskies
4/29 Akron Zips 8-4 Northern Illinois Huskies
Next Opp. at Miami Next Opp. at Milwaukee (Wed), vs Toledo
Date Away Score Home
4/25 Indiana Hoosiers 9-8 Ball State Cardinals
4/26 Bowling Green Falcons 7-12 Toledo Rockets
4/29 Ball State Cardinals 10-8 Bowling Green Falcons
4/29 Ball State Cardinals 3-7 Bowling Green Falcons
4/30 Ball State Cardinals 6-4 Bowling Green Falcons
Next Opp. at Ohio Next Opp. vs Oakland (Wed), at Virginia Tech
Date Away Score Home
4/25 Oakland Grizzlies 2-8 Central Michigan Chippewas
4/26 Miami RedHawks 8-4 Purdue Boilermakers
4/28 Miami RedHawks 3-6 Central Michigan Chippewas
4/29 Miami RedHawks 3-2 Central Michigan Chippewas
4/30 Miami RedHawks 2-3 F/16 Central Michigan Chippewas
Next Opp. at Southern Indiana (Wed), vs Akron Next Opp. vs Eastern Michigan
Date Away Score Home
4/25 Ohio State Buckeyes 5-10 Kent State Golden Flashes
4/25 Shawnee State Bears 2-7 Ohio Bobcats
4/28 Ohio Bobcats 1-6 Kent State Golden Flashes
4/29 Ohio Bobcats 4-13 Kent State Golden Flashes
4/30 Ohio Bobcats 5-7 Kent State Golden Flashes
Next Opp. vs Ball State Next Opp. at Michigan (Wed), vs Western Michigan
Date Away Score Home
4/25 Toledo Rockets 9-3 Dayton Flyers
4/26 Bowling Green Falcons 7-12 Toledo Rockets
4/29 Western Michigan Broncos 9-8 Toledo Rockets
4/29 Western Michigan Broncos 13-5 Toledo Rockets
4/30 Western Michigan Broncos 9-6 Toledo Rockets
Next Opp. vs Valparaiso (Tue), at Kent State Next Opp. at Northern Illinois
Date Away Score Home
4/25 Alma Scots 12-15 Eastern Michigan Eagles
4/28 Eastern Michigan Eagles 9-4 Niagara Purple Eagles
4/29 Eastern Michigan Eagles 12-2 Niagara Purple Eagles
4/30 Eastern Michigan Eagles 12-5 Niagara Purple Eagles
Next Opp. vs Concordia (Tue), at Central Michigan