Baseball suffers first MAC defeat as defense, pitching stumble against Western Michigan
Entering on one of its best starts in Mid-American Conference history, the Central Michigan baseball team showed some cracks in the armor Sunday afternoon.
The Chippewas — who won the first two games of the series — came in riding its first 8-0 conference start since the 2013-14 season, but were dominated by rival Western Michigan in an 11-2 thumping at Theunissen Stadium.
Central Michigan falls to 19-16 overall, but remains in first place in the West Division at 8-1.
"We'll move on and make some adjustments," said head coach Steve Jaksa. "The guys have been resilient that way, but they still have to understand what the rivalry really is. There are some guys new to it, so we have to make sure they know what it means.
"It's never going to change. It doesn't matter if you've beaten them twice or not, you have to understand what it's going to take to beat them a third time."
Sophomore right-hander Pat Leatherman got the start for Central Michigan Sunday and was affected by three costly errors from the left side of the infield. Two errors from freshman Reed Adams at third base allowed three runs to score in the fifth inning and Leatherman’s day was done following the third out.
"You can't let frustration (set in), you have to work over it," Jaksa said. "We made one mistake on Friday and worked over it. Today, we made more, which you can't do. You got to make your mistake and move on."
The Jenison native (4-4) allowed six runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks. Leatherman struck out five batters. Senior Jordan Grosjean took the mound in the sixth inning and surrendered two runs in his one inning pitched.
Trailing 8-0 in the eighth inning, CMU had its best chance of the day to close the gap with the bases loaded and nobody out. Sophomore Dazon Cole pinch hit and delivered an RBI-single, but senior Alex Borglin hit into a double play the next at bat to only bring in one additional run.
WMU’s Tyler Frank opened the scoring with a two-run home run to left field in the second inning. The Broncos added an RBI-single to right field in the third inning before blowing the game open in the fifth.
The high-powered CMU offense — which leads the MAC in runs, hits and on base percentage — was hindered on the afternoon with only five hits and five additional walks. Boncos’ pitcher Kyle Mallwitz pitched 7 2/3 innings and struck out six batters.
· CMU committed four errors on defense Sunday. The team entered the weekend with 41 on the season — fifth worst in the MAC.
· Left-handers Brady Williams, Braxton Markle and Jack Collins came on in relief in the eighth inning and combined to allow two runs on four hits.
· Six Chippewas went hit-less on the day.
· With a high portion of the student body home for the holiday weekend, 233 fans still made it to Theunissen Stadium Sunday. The season-high was 374 against Miami (OH.).
The Chippewas head to Detroit Tuesday for the annual Clash at Comerica. CMU faces Notre Dame, who enters at 15-20 on the season. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. Central Michigan has won two of the last three games at Comerica Park — all of which against Michigan State.
"It's a great opportunity. We get a good alumni base down there to see us play another quality opponent in Notre Dame," Jaksa said. "It's great for the guys, it's good for the university and our team to go down there and the game of baseball to be playing in that game and that situation."