CMU baseball falls to host Florida in NCAA Regional opener

Illinois infielder, Danny Wuestenfeld, hitting a triple during the double header against Akron.

Central Michigan catcher Adam Proctor swung and missed at an 0-2 fastball, sending the Florida crowd into a frenzy. 

The Michigan State transfer struck out with the bases loaded against Gator reliever Ryan Slater, stranding three runners to end the top half of the eighth inning. Trailing 3-1, the whiff ended CMU's last hope of rallying in the NCAA Regional opener. 

Florida hung on to defeat CMU 7-3 Friday evening, advancing to the second round of the Regional to face Oklahoma. The Chippewas, meanwhile, will take on Liberty at 1 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. 

Proctor stranded three in the eighth, following what had become a common theme throughout the night. In all, the Chippewas left 12 runners on base in the game. After escaping the bases-loaded jam, Florida added four runs in the bottom of the eighth to seal its win. 

The Chippewas out hit the Gators, 12-8, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunities. 

Early on, it was a pitcher's duel between CMU's Andrew Taylor and Florida's Brandon Sproat. The Chippewas put pressure on Sproat early, as the first two hitters of the game reached base. The Gators' ace settled in, however, and stranded the runners at second and third. 

As Taylor was dealing, striking out five batters the first time through the order, the Chippewas took the lead in the top of the third inning. It was sophomore Danny Wuestenfeld who provided the key hit, knocking in Justin Simpson with a ground-ball single through the middle of the infield. 

Though Taylor would set down a sixth hitter, Florida leadoff man Wyatt Langford, on strikes to begin the bottom half, he mad a mistake pitching to the No. 2 hitter Sterlin Thompson. It was a first pitch fastball that caught too much of the plate, and Thompson drove it out of the park to tie the game. 

Florida took its first lead of the game in the fifth when Colby Halter hit a solo blast off Taylor. Outside of the two home runs, Taylor (L, 8-4) was a good as can be. He struck out nine in five innings while allowing four hits. The ninth and final punch out broke CMU's single-season record, which Taylor had set in 2021. 

After allowing one run in the sixth, reliever Garrett Navarra was pulled with one out in the bottom of the eighth after allowing a two-run single to Jac Caglianone. Ryan Insco promptly allowed another run to score, with Florida extending its lead heading into the final at-bats. 

As it has so many times this postseason, the Chippewas tried to mount one last rally in the ninth. Scoring on RBIs from Wuestenfeld and Aidan Shepardson, CMU cut into the lead before Navarra struck out to end the game. 

Simpson and Wuestenfeld led the Chippewas with three hits, with Wuestenfeld driving in two runs.