CMU baseball's regional run ends in heartbreaking loss to Florida
Just two college baseball programs have won 42 games in each of the last three full seasons.
One of them is Central Michigan, led by coach Jordan Bischel.
The Chippewas saw their season end Sunday in a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to Florida in the loser's bracket finale of the Gainesville Regional. This season marked the third consecutive season in which CMU has won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament.
CMU's season ends at 43-19, with a Mid-American Conference tournament championship in tow.
"We did a little bit of research and there are two teams in the entire country that have won 42 games three years in a row now," Bischel said. "These guys are one of these two teams. I know we don’t play in the SEC but no matter who you play it’s hard to win."
CMU did everything in its power to extend its season Sunday, rallying from a 5-0 deficit to tie the game before allowing the winning run in the top of the ninth. Even after allowing the deciding score, it loaded the bases in its last at-bat.
"It's interesting because from an outside perspective, if you’re down 5-0 to Florida in the fifth or sixth and you’re Central Michigan, probably people are wondering if there needs to be a run-rule in place in a couple of innings," Bischel said. "Once you get into game four, pitching is thin, and our guys don’t blink. That’s a lot to be proud of, for sure.”
Only when Aidan Shepardson's pop-up had landed firmly in the glove of Florida third baseman Colby Halter was the Chippewas' fate truly sealed. Time and time again throughout its postseason run, the Chippewas faced long odds and deficits, and each time they were erased.
Sunday's rally started when redshirt freshman Robby Morgan punched his eighth home run of the season over the wall in right-center field to start the fifth inning. Danny Wuestenfeld continued his strong regional with an RBI single, starting a four-run sixth that would knot the score.
After Garrett Navarra drew a bases-loaded walk and Morgan drove in another run with a single, Jacob Donahue knocked in the tying run by beating out a fielder's choice. What was once a 5-0 game had become something totally different.
"This was the fourth time we were in an elimination game down by five or more and came back to tie it," Bischel said. "In this case we didn’t take the lead, we won the other ones. The progress we have made as competitors, it was a lot more than that off the field, but really remarkable job by these guys.”
Florida took the lead for good against Navarra in the top of the ninth when Ty Evans drove in Wyatt Langford with a sacrifice fly. A two-way player, Navarra pitched three innings Sunday to up his postseason total to 15 1/3.
In its final at-bat, CMU loaded the bases with singles from Adam Proctor and Jakob Marsee and a walk by Wuestenfeld. With two outs, Shepardson popped out on an 0-1 pitch to end the game.
Senior Logan Buczkowski started the game, tossing five innings and allowing four runs. Three of those runs were earned, with the fourth coming on an error. He allowed two solo home runs but struck out six in the final start of his Chippewa career.
Reflecting on the season's end, Bischel was candid.
“I’ll remember this last game, not bitterly at all," Bischel said. "I’m disappointed for the kids, they didn’t get a chance to keep playing but what is there to be upset about. When you look at this Florida roster, I don’t know how they ever lose, it’s unbelievable. We go toe-to-toe and it comes down to one sacrifice fly. Play that ninth inning 100 times and you get 50 wins probably. Today was one of the 50 on the other side."