Taylor, Navarra spin gems as Chippewas sweep Toledo, come one win from NCAA Tournament berth
The next time Central Michigan baseball takes the field, it will have a chance to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.
The Chippewas (38-16, 29-9) swept Toledo (23-31, 21-17) thanks to a pair of pitching gems, maintaining a two-game lead on Ball State with two games remaining. All that stands between CMU and a second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid is one more win.
Saturday was highlighted by spectacular outings from Andrew Taylor and Garrett Navarra. The offense was quiet in game one but came alive in game two.
The wins give the Chippewas at least a share of the conference title. One win or a Cardinal loss on Sunday will give CMU its second-straight conference crown.
Taylor was phenomenal, allowing just one hit across eight innings. Toledo's Kyle Jones was just as good, but CMU junior second baseman Mario Camilletti singled to right with two outs in the eight, and Taylor slammed the door to secure the 1-0 victory.
Neither pitcher allowed a hit in the first four innings. Camilletti singled with one out in the sixth to break up Jones' no-hitter, advancing to second on a passed ball but remaining there after the next two Chippewas each flew out to center field.
Taylor surrendered his first hit in the bottom of the sixth inning when catcher Marcus Strother doubled past the reaching glove of Jakob Marsee with one out. Strother advanced to third on a groundout but was stranded there, as Chippewa center fielder Zach Gilles snagged a line drive to end the inning.
After a 1-2-3 top of the seventh against Jones, the Chippewas made quick work of the Rockets in the bottom half. After striking out Darryn Davis to end the inning, Taylor stared down the Rockets' dugout as he walked off the field.
Jones retired each of the first two Chippewas he saw in extras, but Justin Simpson smacked a two-out double to create an opportunity for Camilletti, which was taken advantage of. Camilletti drilled a 0-1 pitch into right, allowing Simpson to score from second.
The Chippewas secured the victory when Taylor struck out pinch hitter Danny O'Reilly swinging, giving Taylor 10 strikeouts on the day. The performance leaves Taylor three shy of the program's single-season strikeout record. He allowed only one hit and one walk across eight innings.
Though Taylor provided a tough act to follow, Navarra held his own. The sophomore left-hander allowed just two hits while striking out nine across 6 2/3 innings. The Chippewa bats came alive early, pounding their way to a 9-0 victory in the doubleheader finale to earn the sweep.
Simpson cleared the bases in the second to open the scoring, driving in three runs with a double. After a Rocket error allowed Simpson to cross the plate, Navarra helped his own cause with a single as part of a six-run second inning.
Navarra allowed his first hit with one out in the fourth inning, the first of two hits he would allow to Toledo right fielder John Servello. The hits surrendered to Servello were the only two allowed to Rocket hitters, as Toledo spent the entire game without a runner in scoring position.
Aidan Shepardson drove in a run with a double in the fifth and Jakob Marsee followed suit with an RBI triple in the sixth. Griffin Lockwood-Powell and Camilletti led the way with two hits each while six other Chippewas had one.
Navarra allowed a single to Servello to lead off the bottom of the seventh before retiring the next two batters. With one out remaining in the game, coach Jordan Bischel turned to J.T. Rogoszewski out of the bullpen to seal the deal. Rogoszewski needed just one pitch to induce a game-ending groundout.
The Chippewas and Rockets will play another doubleheader Sunday, with the first game scheduled to begin at noon.