The MAC baseball tournament is here! Central Michigan played well all through the regular season and secured the top seed and first round bye. Ball State secured the other first round bye in their attempt to be a regional competitor. The MAC tournament format is a little goofy.
Six teams qualify for the double elimination tournament. Six? How does that work? Even the byes need to be double eliminated so where do they go in the losers bracket?
After the first round the teams are reseeded to give the one seed the lowest seed in the winners bracket. In the second round, if the one or the two seed loses, they lose their bye and play the next day, early. That team would need to win two elimination games to get the championship. If the second day goes chalk, the highest seed gets placed further into the losers bracket.
One more quirk, if Central and Ball State both lose in their first game, they play each other immediately in the losers bracket. That would be a very tense game.
Game 1 – Kent State vs Ohio
Connor Wollersheim will probably start on Wednesday for the Golden Flashes. In his prior start against Ohio, he was great. He surrendered one run on five hits in six innings and left the game with a 9-1 lead. Should he find himself in trouble, Kent State might look to Luke Albright to settle things down.
The Flashes offense was hot and knocked Ohio around. They hit three bombs, five doubles, and a triple in that game. Kent State took two of three that weekend and scored 30 runs. They were shutout 1-0 in game three.
Edward Kutt IV will probably start for the Bobcats but might be on a short leash given how game one of the regular season series went. Kenny Ogg might be the fire man on call after dealing 8 shutout innings in the 1-0 series finale win.
Based on the regular season results, it sure seems like Kent State should take care of business here, but anything can happen in any one game of baseball.
Kent State Golden Flashes
Hi my name is Kent State and I hit dingers. If Kent State can be a dark horse in baseball, they have a real shot to be the dark horse in the tournament. They mashed all season and lead the MAC in runs scored, batting average, stolen bases, and home runs in conference play. Their pitching was the inconsistent part of their team but they were far from bad. They were good enough to win just about two out of three from every series, but just couldn’t put away some of the bottom tier teams and earn the bye.
Ohio’s shot in the dark rests in the hands of Rudy Rott. Ohio beat Western Michigan on Sunday to secure their spot in the tournament by half a game. Despite that, they were second in the conference in home runs. If the bats get hot, they could turn into a real nuisance. The pitching would need to get hot as well. When you need stack a couple ‘if’s’ together to envision a MAC championship, it’s just not likely.
Game 2 – Miami vs Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois won the series, but couldn’t get anything going in game one against Sam Bachman. Northern Illinois did switch their starting pitching order later in the season and they won the game that Michael Lasiewicz pitched. The Huskies got a couple unearned runs off the Miami stopper, Shane Smith, and held on for the win.
When Miami threw strikes and made a struggling NIU offense earn their way on, they dominated play. Bachman can struggle to find the plate at times, walking 4.9 per 9 innings, but was otherwise Miami’s best option for suppressing opponent batting average.
NIU won the series 2-1 on the Sunday game by the score 13-3. They drew 11 walks and had 12 hits. They may not see many of those pitchers they saw on that day but they definitely want the same result.
Miami doesn’t have a stand out strength, as shown by the radar chart. The Redhawks are strong all around and have decent power throughout the lineup. Landon Stephens and Cal Elvers both have four home runs, and three other players each have two. None of the starters are lighting the record books on fire but they’re all good. None have an ERA over 4 and they have a great arm out of the bullpen in Shane Smith. The Redhawks are going to be a tough out in the tournament.
Northern Illinois Huskies
With a perfectly even conference play run differential, the Huskies finished a game over 0.500. Their radar chart looks the saddest but they’re a solid team. They pitch to contact and single their way around the bases. They really are about the sixth best team by the numbers about anyway you look at it. Kyle Seebach can come out of the pen in quiet things down for a couple innings. He might see some heavy lifting this week.
Game 5 – Ball State vs TBD
Ball State is the two seed but they might have the most exciting player in the MAC in Drey Jameson. He’s going to get the start and I’m very excited to watch him work. He leads the MAC with 83 strikeouts in conference play and 136 overall. If he can get 6 more he’ll have the MAC single season record for strikeouts. His fastball is in the high 90’s and will be selected somewhere in the MLB draft in June. Watch in college while you can.
The Cardinals are lead by their pitching but can pound the ball as well. They are the only team in the tournament with a different leader for average, OPS, and home runs that made the tournament. The extra base power, 15 triples in 25 games, makes up for the lack of stolen bases.
With the first round bye, they can lean on their top two starters and top reliever deeper into the tournament, and all have a top 10 ERA in the conference. Ball State wants to go to their first national tournament since 2006. It would be their second ever.
Game 4 – Central Michigan vs TBD
The regular season MAC champions paved the way with a balanced team. Pitching, hitting, and defense all were excellent and consistent. Starters Pat Leatherman and Cameron Brown both have an ERA around 2.50 and a strikeout per nine in the neighborhood of 8.
Six batters in the lineup are hitting over 0.300 for the entire season. Only Miami can match that total. Griffin Lockwood-Powell is the sophomore first baseman leading the hit parade. He is one of three players in the conference with an on base percentage over 0.500. The dude can hit.
With their balance, Central Michigan matches up with every team well. They’re going to miss everyone’s ace until potentially late in the tournament. Central Michigan has been a consistent regular season champion but rarely put it together in the tournament and secure the MAC’s only bid to the NCAA tournament. With a simple three wins they could earn their first regional birth since 1995.