Borglin comes up clutch again as baseball beats Miami 3-1 to clinch series on Sunday
With the series tied 1-1 after Central Michigan baseball's walk-off win against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday at Theunissen Stadium, Head Coach Steve Jaksa said his team had to focus on winning "Championship Sunday."
The Chippewas (18-34,10-11 Mid-American Conference) claimed a 3-1 victory over the RedHawks (23-26, 12-9 MAC) in Sunday's series finally, winning their second consecutive conference series.
CMU has won seven of its last nine games.
Although it wasn't a walk-off triple, Sunday's victory came off the bat of junior first basemen Alex Borglin in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With the score tied 1-1 in a 2-1 count and two runners on base, Borglin drove the ball, beating the RedHawk right fielder to the gap in right-center field. The hit scored both base runners and Borglin found himself safely on third base.
His second game-winning triple in the past two games moves Borglin's hitting steak to 16 games.
"I was just trying to not do too much," Borglin said. "I got a good pitch to hit and pretty much put the same swing on it as I did yesterday. I was looking to drive one."
Borglin said he noticed the MU center fielder playing closer to the left-center field gap during his prior at bat.
The Chippewas took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the fourth inning.
Miami responded in the top of the fifth, implementing some small ball. With the RedHawk runner on third base already sprinting for home, MU lead-off man Dallas Hall laid down a well-executed sacrifice bunt to tie the game 1-1.
Later that inning, with Hall on third base and another RedHawk on first, clean up batter senior Gary Russo launched a ball that nearly cleared all 330 feet over Theunissen Stadium's left field fence, but backtracking sophomore outfielder Daniel Jipping felt his way to the wall, jumped and made the catch to end the inning and the RedHawk threat.
"I don't think it would have been a home run, but I don't want to take any chances," Jaksa said about Jipping's catch. "I just know (the ball) went into his glove, so everything after that didn't really matter."
Freshman hurler Pat Leatherman (1-4) earned his first win of the season. Leatherman allowed five hits and one unearned run, while striking out seven RedHawks in seven innings of work.
After taking losses and no decisions in close contests all season, Leatherman said it felt good to get his first win under his belt.
"I think we'd all like to go out there and get wins every single day," he said. "I definitely go in with that mentality every game. I know I'm going to win — if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. you can't dwell on it. If anything it's fueled more to work harder."
CMU finished with just five hits on the day, but recorded zero errors defensively.
Jaksa said the team had a meeting to say "this is our time."
"I told them this could be our time. I feel we are playing well. I know we were snipped late in some tough ball games," he said. "I think it was before the Ohio series, I could sense we were starting to play."
The team hosts Michigan State on Wednesday at 4:05 p.m., before playing its final conference series of the season: three home games against Western Michigan.
With CMU's win and two Bowling Green losses on Sunday, CMU secured a spot in the 2016 MAC Tournament.
Before Sunday's game, the Theunissen family was recognized at home plate in front of 460 fans for the establishment of a $25,000 endowment to the CMU baseball program.
It is the program's fifth such endowment of $25,000 or more.
As a way to build for the program's future, Jaksa said he approached the family to consider creating the endowment.
"It's not cash you can only spend right now, but in the 18 years when we started with two (endowments), those are getting to be pretty significant," he said. "Somebody down the road will benefit more than I, but that's OK. That will take care of the program and that's all I really care about."
Three generations of Theunissens have come through CMU, including Bill, his sons Mike and Chris and his grandson Nate.
Bill Theunissen accumulated 151 wins during his 10 years as head coach of CMU baseball. The school's stadium is named in his honor.