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Mid-American Conference baseball tournament pairings announced, Kent State earns top seed

Will this year's tournament be like the 2015 version? Last season, the top two seeds failed to win a game, and Ohio pitched a no-hitter en route to a championship. Four days in Avon, Ohio will tell the tale.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Mid-American Conference baseball regular season concluded on Saturday, and following the completion of the day's games, the league released the bracket for the conference's 2016 postseason tournament. The four-day event will be held at All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio for the sixth consecutive year. Games begin on Wednesday, May 25th and continue until Sunday, May 29th.

The tournament is an eight-team double-elimination format, which means that you're out with two losses. The only possible exception is the championship game. If both teams arrive at the championship game without a loss, the game becomes winner-take-all, and the loser will be eliminated despite having only one loss.

Here is the tournament's schedule of games:

Game Team 1 Team 2 Date Time Note
1 (3) Miami (6) Central Michigan May 25, 2016 9:30 AM
2 (2) Ball State (7) Western Michigan May 25, 2016 1:00 PM
3 (1) Kent State (8) Eastern Michigan May 25, 2016 4:30 PM
4 (4) Northern Illinois (5) Toledo May 25, 2016 8:00 PM
5 Game 1 loser Game 2 loser May 26, 2016 9:30 AM elimination game
6 Game 3 loser Game 4 loser May 26, 2016 1:00 PM elimination game
7 Game 1 winner Game 2 winner May 26, 2016 4:30 PM
8 Game 3 winner Game 4 winner May 26, 2016 8:00 PM
9 Game 5 winner Game 8 loser May 27, 2016 1:00 PM elimination game
10 Game 6 winner Game 7 loser May 27, 2016 4:30 PM elimination game
11 Game 7 winner Game 9 winner May 28, 2016 9:30 AM
12 Game 8 winner Game 10 winner May 28, 2016 1:00 PM
13 Game 11 winner Game 11 loser May 28, 2016 4:30 PM if G9 winner also wins G11
14 Game 12 winner Game 12 loser May 28, 2016 8:00 PM if G10 winner also wins G12
15 Game 11/13 winner Game 12/14 winner May 29, 2016 12:00 PM
16 Game 11/13 winner Game 12/14 winner May 29, 2016 *40 mins after G15 if both teams have 1 loss after G15

The Miami Redhawks (26-27, 14-10) face the Central Michigan Chippewas (21-35, 12-12) in the opening game. The pair played last weekend in Mount Pleasant, and CMU took two out of three. Miami won a 7-3 decision in the opener, but the Chips rebounded to win 4-3 in 11 innings and then 3-1 in the rubber game of the series. CMU's offense is led by Daniel Jipping and Zach McKinstry, with Jipping providing power and McKinstry acting as an on-base machine. The Redhawks' lineup is anchored by Ross Haffey, who leads Miami in every major hitting category except home runs, where his 10 pale in comparison to the 18 cranked by Gary Russo.

The Ball State Cardinals (32-24, 15-9) and the Western Michigan Broncos (18-31, 11-13) follow in the second contest. The Cardinals seek their first tournament title since 2006, and WMU is trying to win their first ever. These two met at Ball State in early April, and it was a no-contest. BSU outscored the Broncos 41-6 in the three-game set, including wins of 21-1 and 13-3. It's a tall order; as the Cardinals led the MAC in slugging percentage and tied Kent State for the league's top spot at 6.73 runs scored per game. WMU finished the year last in the MAC with a 5.99 team ERA and allowed a .303 opponent's batting average.

The top seed in the tournament goes to the Kent State Golden Flashes (41-12, 20-4), and they'll seek redemption against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (20-34, 10-14). KSU is the Eastern Division champion for the ninth time in 11 seasons and the top tournament seed for the first time since 2013. The Flashes had won the tournament five times in six seasons before losing their only two tourney games in 2015. Outside of Kent, EMU has the most MAC tournament titles with four, but they haven't won it all since 2008.

Kent State led the MAC in both runs per game (6.73) and team ERA (2.82). In fact, their pitching was so good that they led the second-place team in ERA by 1.5 runs per game. Without a doubt, their best player (and likely the best player in the league) is starting pitcher Eric Lauer, who led the MAC with an 0.76 ERA in 95 innings, nine wins, a .140 opponents' batting average and 116 strikeouts. He also threw a no-hitter earlier this month. EMU has a big hill to climb, as they ranked ninth in the MAC in both offense and pitching. The Flashes swept a three-game series in Ypsilanti last month.

The final game of the first round pits the Northern Illinois Huskies (24-30, 16-10) against the Toledo Rockets (18-36-1, 13-11). Neither team has ever won the MAC Tournament, so both have a lot riding on this opening game. NIU was swept at home by the Rockets over Mother's Day weekend, but they still ended up with the higher seed. UT ranked next-to-last in the MAC this season in runs scored, but NIU's 5.64 team ERA was also second-to-last, so something has to give here.

Three teams failed to make the field, and they all hail from the Eastern Division. The Ohio Bobcats will not be able to defend their crown, as their winning non-conference record (15-13) devolved into an 8-16 mark in the MAC. The Bobcats are joined in season-ending pain by Buffalo (21-31, 8-16) and Bowling Green (17-37, 7-17).