CMU baseball loses series to Toledo, dropping to third in MAC standings
Going into Friday, Central Michigan baseball sat two games back from the top seeded Kent State in the Mid-American Conference standings, tied with Ball State.
However, the Chippewas (32-18, 18-9) took a step back after losing their series against Toledo (18-33, 10-17) over the weekend. CMU dropped two of three games and now sits in third place in the MAC after both Kent State and Ball State won their weekend series.
For its series in Toledo, CMU shut out the Rockets 12-0 in their first game before combining for five total runs in the next two games, losing 4-3 on Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday.
The Chippewas started game one off rather slowly but picked it up as they went along.
Toledo’s lineup managed a hit in the first two innings off of Chippewas’ starting pitcher Adam Mrakitsch, a sophomore left-handed pitcher.
Friday was Mrakistch’s third shutout effort of the season and seventh outing in which he punched out seven or more. His season ERA now sits just above three at 3.02, which is the lowest among starters in CMU’s rotation.
CMU’s lineup picked its production up a bit in the third inning, plating one run behind a single and a walk. Junior catcher Nick Dardas walked to lead off the inning, eventually scoring when graduate infielder Justin Simpson sent a sacrifice fly to right field, giving the Chippewas their first run.
It wasn’t until inning seven that CMU really blew the game open. Heading into the frame with a comfortable six-run lead, the Chippewas went through their entire order, scoring six runs on as many hits.
Jake Brill was the first to register an RBI in the inning, scoring freshman infielder Christian Mitchelle on a single through the left side of the infield. Graduate outfielder Garrett Navarra followed up with a two-run triple to center field, pushing the lead to 9-0.
Also registering RBIs in the big seventh inning was junior outfielder Jacob Donahue and junior designated hitter Danny Wuestenfeld, both via singles.
The Chippewas did not have the same success on the mound in game two as they did in the series opener.
Junior right-handed pitcher Keegan Batka drew the start for Saturday’s contest, but Toledo’s lineup got on him quickly. After retiring the leadoff batter, Batka gave up a solo home run to outfielder Caden Konczak, giving the Rockets an early lead behind three first-innings hits.
Before Toledo was able to score in the bottom of the second, CMU scored all three of its runs in the top of the second. The Chippewas had Navarra, Wuestenfeld and Mitchelle due up to start the second inning each of them reaching base safely.
With the bases loaded, redshirt sophomore infielder Robby Morgan IV was hit by a pitch, scoring Navarra.
Following the initial score, CMU scored twice more via sacrifice fly. The first run was courtesy of junior catcher Drew Stengren, while Donahue registered the second.
After the first inning, Toledo did not hold a lead for the rest of the game up until the final frame. Trailing 2-3 for a portion, the Rockets evened the score in the sixth inning thanks to a single from Jeron Williams, who batted in the leadoff spot for Toledo.
Innings seven and eight were rather quiet for both teams, with just three combined hits between them. But the contest eventually came down to the final frame, where the Rockets pulled out some timely at-bats.
Graduate reliever Ryan Palmblad was in to start the ninth inning for CMU. He walked the first batter, followed by a pop out and a single to the next two before being pulled for freshman left-handed pitcher Evan Waters.
Waters ultimately sacrificed a walk off single to Toledo outfielder Garret Pike to fall, 4-3 to the Rockets.
In the series rubber match, CMU gave the game away by allowing the Rockets to score five unearned runs as the Chippewas dropped the final game of the series 5-2.
Starting the game on the hill for the Chippewas was Navarra. By the end of the second inning, he had three punchouts and allowed just one hit.
In the bottom of the third, the Rockets had runners at the corners due to CMU errors and no outs. Troy Sudbrook then scored via sacrifice fly - which would have been the final out of the frame had a pair of errors not occurred. Scott Mackiewicz also scored along with another base runner on a two run double from first baseman Mason Sykes, giving the Rockets a 3-0 lead.
Toledo scored once again in the bottom of the seventh due to another fielding error by the Chippewas. Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Insco entered the game at the top of the frame, walking the first batter he saw before the next one reached first base.
Though Insco managed to induce a ground ball which was hit into a double play after the fielding error, another unearned run crossed the plate.
Navarra and Insco combined for just four hits (all of which were given up by Navarra) and as many walks. In his six innings, Navarra compiled seven strikeouts while Insco added another pair.
As in game two, the Chippewas scored all of their runs in the fifth inning. They led off the inning by drawing three consecutive walks to load the bases, chasing Toledo starting pitcher RJ Shunk after four innings.
Shunk was replaced by Cal McAninch, who sat down the first two batters he saw before sacrificing a two run double by Simpson, which scored Morgan and Mitchelle. After that, he settled in and only gave up two more hits while finishing out the remainder of the game.
As the regular season winds down, CMU will have one more midweek game on Tuesday against Michigan State in East Lansing. The game is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.