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Surging Central Michigan wins 12th straight, crushing Michigan State

Allissa Rusco (Central Michigan)

Central Michigan — one of the hottest teams in college baseball — trounced Michigan State 10-2 in a nonconference tilt at Keilitz Field at Theunissen Stadium in Mount Pleasant earlier this afternoon.

Michigan State, which took two out of three games against the previously nationally-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City over the weekend, struck first with a run in the top of the first, but the Chippewas responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to tie the game.

Deadlocked at 2-2, Michigan State’s pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone in the sixth and walked in three consecutive runs. The Chippewas put a fistful on the board, scoring five runs on only two hits in the inning to take an insurmountable 7-2 lead.

Central Michigan added two more runs on a triple by senior Jason Sullivan in the bottom of the seventh and tacked on another run on a fielder’s choice to make it 10-2. It was the eighteenth time the Chippewas have scored in double-digits this year.

Freshman Garrett Willis (2-0), a left-hander from Midland, Michigan, who allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings, was credited with the win while Michigan State’s Sam Benschoter (0-1) took the loss.

The Chippewas (40-12) won both non-league encounters against the Big Ten’s Michigan State (19-33) this season, having defeated the Spartans 8-6 in East Lansing in their previous meeting in early April.

The 40 wins thus far by Central Michigan are the most since 2005 when the Chippewas posted an impressive 42-18 record.

Central Michigan’s record this year is all the more impressive since it has only played 14 home games while winning 20 of 28 road games and going 8-2 at neutral sites.

Central Michigan’s last setback occurred on April 23rd in an inexplicable 26-19 loss to Division II Davenport University of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. It was Davenport’s first victory against a Div. I school since March of 2010 when the Panthers upset Western Michigan 6-5 in a thrilling contest in Kalamazoo.

Central Michigan, which swept Eastern Michigan last weekend — its third consecutive conference sweep and fourth of the season — will look to extend its winning streak and claim its first regular season Mid-American Conference title since 2015 when it hosts Miami (Ohio) in an important three-game series against the third-place RedHawks, who are 15-8 in the conference. That three-game series begins on Thursday.

Impressively, five Chippewas are batting over .315 on the season and a sixth player is hovering just below .300. Junior outfielder Zach Gilles leads the team with a sizzling .364 average.

CMU, which has already clinched one of the top two seeds in next week’s MAC tournament, is currently 19-5 in the MAC, one game ahead of second-place Ball State — a team the Chippewas defeated in two of their three meetings during the regular season. The Cardinals are 17-5.

Two of Ball State’s three games against Kent State in late March were cancelled due to inclement weather, so both schools will complete the regular season this weekend having played two fewer conference games than the other MAC teams.

The Mid-American Conference tournament, featuring the league’s top six teams, will take place at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio, on the southern shore of Lake Erie, beginning next Tuesday. Sprenger Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 5,000, is the home of the professional Lake Erie Crushers of the independent Frontier League.

The MAC’s top-two seeds will receive a first-round bye and will play their tournament openers on Thursday, May 23.

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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