CMU baseball tops WMU in second game of MAC Tournament

Junior righthand pitcher Keegan Batka throws a pitch during a doubleheader against Kent State, Friday, March 24 in Keilitz Field at Theunissen Stadium. Batka was the winning pitcher for the second game of the doubleheader.

Just 18 hours after losing a nail-biting contest to open its postseason play, Central Michigan baseball got back to what it's hung its hat on throughout the regular season - high-level starting pitching.

On Thursday, the Chippewas won their second Mid-American Conference Tournament game against Western Michigan 5-2, knocking the Broncos out of the tournament. CMU will face the hosts of the MAC tournament, Kent State on Friday at 12:30 p.m.

“Proud of the guys,” head coach Jordan Bischel said. “We played yesterday evening, didn’t get back to the hotel until after 10 p.m. and (we’re) back on the bus at 9 a.m. or so this morning to get the next one in. So, it was a quick turnaround and obviously, after a tough loss (yesterday), we could have been a little flat. But we weren’t. We were ready to go, we were excited to play. I’m proud of the guys for how they battled.”

After a shaky start from All-MAC First Team recipient Adam Mrakitsch on Wednesday, Bischel elected to give junior right-handed pitcher Keegan Batka the starting nod. Batka responded by giving up just one earned run on six hits across six innings, while striking out seven.

Batka, a transfer from Kellogg Community College earned the win, he now has a record of 8-3 this season. He’s second among starters in ERA behind Mrakitsch with a 3.67, while sitting third in strikeouts with 76.

“Another tremendous outing out of Keegan,” Bischel said. “There was a reason he made the All-Conference team. Just the consistency we’ve had from him has been really amazing and he did it again today. It’s not easy to pitch against the same team twice in a week. It probably favors a hitter when a team gets to see you twice in a week. For him to shutout Western for five innings last week and then come out and do it again for six was awfully impressive the way he battled.”

Batka wasn’t the only pitcher that logged significant innings this season to appear in Thursday’s game. Graduate outfielder/pitcher Garrett Navarra, who had only appeared as a starter this season came into the game in relief of Batka.

Navarra, who started the game in right field, struck out five batters through three innings while giving up one run on three hits earning his frost save of the season. Additionally, he batted cleanup for the Chippewas going 1-for-3 at the plate with an RBI and a walk.

In spite of the final score, WMU pitchers matched CMU pitchers in earned runs allowed with two. The Chippewas took advantage of four errors made by Broncos fielders.

In fact, the only two earned runs given up by Broncos junior starting pitcher Hayden Berg came via a two-run home run from CMU junior outfielder Marquis Jackson in the third inning. Jackson did not play in game one, but made his presence felt by scoring the first two runs of the game with his long ball.

In the seventh inning, the Chippewas took advantage of a costly WMU error. With two outs, freshman infielder Christian Mitchelle singled through the infield, advancing junior outfielder Jacob Donahue to third. A throwing error allowed Donahue to score and Mitchelle to advance, setting up another unearned run as Mitchelle proceeded to score in the frame as well.

No Chippewa recorded more than one hit as the team combined for a total of six hits on the day. Jackson led the team with his two RBIs.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Bischel said of his team’s opponent tomorrow. “When you lose the first one, basically you gotta beat everyone to win the thing. So, whoever we play tomorrow, hopefully we can play well and then if we win that one, we’ll have the other team. We’re gonna have to beat them both at some point.