If you are a fan of pitching and defensive efforts, then today's opening round Mid-American Conference tournament game between the second-seeded Ball State Cardinals (35-25) and the seventh-seeded Western Michigan Broncos (21-36) was your kind of tilt. Both the Cards and Broncos had monster efforts from their starting pitchers before WMU was able to break the scoring drought with a two run 7th inning and hang on for a 5-1 victory.
That sort of pitching performance being the story of the game should come as no surprise, given who was on the mound for both squads. WMU's LHP Keegan Akin (5-3, 1.68 ERA) vs. BSU's BJ Butler (6-0, 1.78 ERA) may be one of, if not the, best opening round pitching matchups in the conference tourney and both hurlers delivered. Akin picked up the win, going 7.2, and giving up 4 hits, along with one unearned run. Jacob Piechota earned his third save of the season, going 1.1 innings to close it out.
Ball State's Butler did his best to salvage the outing, and did well, clocking 8.0 innings pitched, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), striking out 8, and walking 2 in the loss. Not an ideal time for your first loss of the season to be sure. The Cardinals threatened several times, leaving runners in scoring position in the 8th and the bases loaded in the 9th. Akin was simply too much for the Cardinal bats. It was fitting that the potential game-tying grand slam made it only to the warning track to end the game.
The ineffectiveness at the plate was the story of the game for the Cardinals, mustering just 6 hits, with lead off hitter and newly named MAC Player of the Year Alex Cool going 0-4.
Western Michigan advances through the winners' bracket to a Thursday 4:30 date with Miami, while the Cards will take on Central Michigan on Thursday at 9:30am in an elimination game. Both games will be streamable on ESPN3.