Sixth-inning magic helps CMU baseball sweep Friday doubleheader
It was something about the sixth frame that allowed the Central Michigan baseball team to secure a sweep of Toledo Friday afternoon.
The Chippewas scored a total of 13 runs in the sixth frame during the doubleheader, scoring seven in the first matchup and six in the nightcap.
"Our guys were tough today," Bischel said. "We were down in both games, down a lot in the second game. At times we've had some good rallies but at times we've not done a great job staying the course. It was big for us to stay the course, to keep putting pressure on."
CMU (37-16, 30-7 Mid-American Conference) remains one-half game behind Ball State, who won its first game of a doubleheader against Miami (Ohio).
Central Michigan had been held down for too long.
After scoring just two runs in Thursday's series-opening loss, the Chippewas had totaled just one through the first five innings of game one of Friday's twin bill.
A switch flipped in the bottom of the sixth, as the offense erupted for seven runs to seal an 8-2 win.
Tied at 1 apiece, Toledo elected to relieve starter Connor Brandon with Patrick Dillon, who walked the only two batters he faced in the sixth. After Dillon was replaced by Gavin Starcher, Robby Morgan reached on a bunt single to load the bases with nobody out.
Adam Proctor gave CMU its first lead of the game with a two-run single. After Mario Camilletti was hit by a pitch and Jakob Marsee intentionally walked, Danny Wuestenfeld drove in a run on a sacrifice fly.
Drew Lechnir made it 6-1 with a single and Aidan Shepardson put the final nail in the rally with a two-run single to center. On Lechnir's knock, Camilletti scored his 66th run of the season, which ties him for fifth all-time in single-season runs scored.
CMU starting pitcher Garrett Navarra (W, 8-2) allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in a complete game effort.
Wuestenfeld drove in CMU's first run, scoring Proctor from third with a sacrifice fly to center in the fifth. Toledo had led 1-0 lead since the second, scoring on a throwing error by Shepardson.
In the most unique of circumstances, Andrew Taylor took the mound in the top of the eighth inning.
Following a six-run rally in the bottom of the sixth, Bischel turned to Taylor to record the game's final outs. It was the first relief appearance for the Caledonia native since the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
He didn't disappoint, recording six straight outs to seal a 7-6 win and the sweep for CMU Friday. Taylor struck out five of the six batters he faced, which included three straight strikeouts to end the game in the ninth. He sat down the final batter, Jeron Williams, looking and waved goodbye before turning to celebrate with his teammates.
"He loves to compete," Bischel said. "If there's anything Andrew would've wanted to do more today it would've been to pitch more than two innings. Besides that, he was lights out."
Bischel said Taylor had been dealing with soreness in his arm. Though he had been cleared by a doctor, the Chippewas didn't want to run his pitch count much higher than what it ended up being Saturday (31 pitches).
Taylor, who normally starts the second game in four-game series, had been throwing on and off in the bullpen since the fifth inning. In the eighth, Bischel made the move. It ended with the hard-throwing sophomore notching his first career save.
"We wanted to be safe with him," Bischel said. "When there's an opportunity to finish a game and keep his pitch count low, we figured we'd jump on it."
Logan Buczkowski went 4 1/3 innings as the starter, allowing four runs (one earned). The defense was sloppy early, committing three errors and allowing the Rockets to race around the base paths.
Adam Mrakitsch (W, 4-1) allowed two runs in the sixth inning, allowing Toledo to stretch its lead to 6-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
In that half inning, though, everything changed. Wuestenfeld led off with a double and scored on a single from Shepardson. Navarra and Morgan each reached base via walk, setting the stage for Proctor's three-run double that cut the deficit to 6-5.
Proctor appeared as a pinch-hitter in both games Friday, replacing Nick Dardas in the first game and Drew Stengren in the second. The Michigan State transfer has played in 48 games but started just 19, giving the Chippewas a calming presence off the bench at a moment's notice.
"He's such a good person," Bischel said. "He works his butt off, he's a great teammate. He's done a really nice job for us, but he doesn't start any games for us. That's really unusual. He doesn't complain about it, he supports his teammates and he's ready to go every time we put him in."
Justin Simpson and Marsee hit back-to-back doubles with one out in the inning, each driving in a run. The latter scored the former with his two-bagger to left, giving CMU its first lead of the game.
Mrakitsch pitched a scoreless top of the seventh before turning it over to Taylor, who mowed through the Rockets and finished the win.
CMU and Toledo will play one game Saturday, the regular season finale that begins at 1 p.m.