Western Michigan Takes Down Regular Season Champion Ball State, Continues to Advance in MAC Tournament
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AVON, Ohio- A day after ousting last year’s defending tournament champion Bowling Green, No. 8 Western Michigan (24-30 record) bounced this year’s regular season champion and No. 1 seed Ball State with a 4-1 win over the Cardinals Friday in the Mid-American Conference baseball tournament.
In the 26 years of the conference tournament format, it is just the second time ever and first since 1998 Western Michigan has posted two wins in the MAC postseason.
The Broncos will face No. 4 Kent State Saturday at 1 p.m. and would need to beat the Golden Flashes twice tomorrow to advance to the championship game Sunday.
Western Michigan sophomore LHP Derek Schneider and junior RHP Will Nimke combined for nine strikeouts and limited Ball State to three singles, not allowing a hit after the leadoff batter in the fourth.
Schneider surrendered the only run in the first on a walk, hit by pitch and single up the middle. He then went on to record a career-high six strikeouts.
Nimke held Ball State (39-18 final record) without a hit over the final 4.2 innings, striking out three, to earn the win - his first of the year (1-2).
The Broncos tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the third when Dan Shutes reached on an error, Grant Miller walked and Andrew Sohn flared an RBI single to right field. Brett Sunde walked to load the bases, but the Cardinal second baseman made a leaping catch for a third out to rob Jared Kujawa of a hit, preventing more runs from scoring.
Western Michigan posted three runs in the fifth and played strong defense to hold onto the 4-1 victory. After drawing a leadoff walk, Shutes scored the go-ahead run sliding under the tag at home as Sohn drilled a hard grounder that rolled up on the shortstop. With two on and two-out, Sunde blasted a two-run double to right center.
In the field, WMU turned a pair of inning-ending 6-4-3 double plays in the fifth and sixth. Sunde threw out a runner attempting to steal second in the fourth.
Nimke entered the game at a critical stage in the fifth, taking over with one out and runners on first and second. He was clutch as he got MAC Player of the Year Sean Godfrey to ground into the double play.
The Broncos pounded out nine hits and chased BSU left-handed starter Nestor Bautista after just three innings. They also made it a short day for reliever Tyler Jordan (1.1 innings) and tallied a run and four hits off of MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year Zach Plesac.
The victory avenged a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals in Western Michigan’s first game of the MAC Tournament Wednesday, which put the Broncos in a lose-or go home situtation for the rest of the time in Avon.
WMU is one of four teams remaining in the tournament currently. No. 7 Akron and No. 6 Buffalo play in the early game tomorrow, with the Bulls facing the same situation as WMU, two wins to advance, elimination with a loss. Both Kent State and Akron do not have a loss heading into Saturday.