Hopes for the Mid-American Conference West Division title slipped away from the Eastern Michigan University baseball team after its 5-2 loss against Central Michigan in the season finale Saturday at Oestrike Stadium.
The Eagles (34-20 overall, 16-11 MAC) entered the three-game series with the Chippewas on Thursday by winning an extra-innings thriller, 11-10, in 14 innings gaving them the outright lead in MAC West.
The Eagles needed to win one of the last two games against the Chippewas to earn their first division title since 2008, but couldn’t hang on as they lost 14-2 Friday and 5-2 Saturday to slip back to second place.
EMU used seven pitchers, including right-hander Brian Valente who got the win in relief and improved to 4-0 after going 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and no earned runs.
CMU used five pitchers with Ryan Longstreth getting the loss in 1/3 innings after giving up the game winning run in the bottom of inning 14.
EMU had 19 hits in the contest with Tucker Rubino leading the way with 4 hits and tied with Brent Ohrman with a team-high three RBI.
CMU scored in the top of the first and third innings, taking an early 2-0 lead on four hits off of Eagles’ left-hander Rob Wendzicki.
The Eagles responded back with five runs in the fifth inning. After Kyle Peterson was hit by a pitch and Ken Battiston single through to left field, Ohrman hit a three-run homer, but the Eagles weren’t done as Rubino and Sam Ott each recorded an RBI single to give the Eagles a 5-2 lead.
The Eagles added another run in the sixth inning before the Chippewas’ offense ignited in the eighth much like the Eagles did in the fifth.
William Arnold’s lead off double for the Chippewas caused the Eagles to pull Wendzicki after seven innings, but replacements Steve Weber and Kristian Calibuso gave up five runs before Tim Combs came in to close out the inning.
The Eagles trailed 8-6 heading in to the bottom of the ninth inning when Ohrman doubled down the right field line and Zack Leonard reached on an error to put runners on first and second for Rubino. A double from Rubio scored Ohrman and Leonard to send it to extra innings.
Innings 10 and 11 were scoreless. Innings 12 and 13, each team scored one run. Inning 14 left the Chippewas scoreless and the Eagles took advantage.
Wally Gerbus doubled to left center with one out, then Peterson hit a double of his own to score Gerbus and end the Eagles’ longest game of the season with a win.
The second matchup between these teams wasn’t as close.
The Eagles scored their only two runs of the game in the first inning when Leonard singled up the middle before a Ben Magsig single to right advanced him to third base. Rubino walked to load the bases and Leonard scored on a passed ball before Ott singled to bring in Magsig.
The Eagles held a 2-1 lead until the Chippewas scored two runs in the fourth inning and three more in the sixth.
CMU wouldn’t stop there as they tallied seven more runs in the seventh inning to push the lead to 13-2.
The Eagles couldn’t find a way to score off of Chippewas’ Zach Cooper as he pitched eight innings with eight strikeouts, giving up two runs on six hits.
Joe Battistelli picked up the loss for the Eagles after pitching 5 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on eight hits.
The Chippewas added another run in the ninth inning on their way to reclaiming the West Division title from the Eagles and setting up the tie-breaker for game three to determine the division champion.
The series finale took place on senior day and it was a battle between senior pitchers Corey Chaffins and Jake Sabol.
Chaffins pitched 6 2/3 innings, striking out four and giving up five runs on 11 hits. Sabol went the distance, striking out seven and giving up two runs on 6 hits.
The two teams remained scoreless until the Chippewas tallied four runs off four hits in the third inning with the help of two Eagle errors.
CMU added another run in the top of the fourth inning to push the lead to 5-0 before the Eagles offense decided to join the game in the bottom of the sixth.
After Leonard was hit by a pitch, a Magsig single put runners on first and second base.
Rubino hit a double down the right-field line to score Leonard and Magsig, then scored on a throwing error at first base for the Eagle’s only runs of the game.
It was all Sabol after the two-run sixth inning by getting the Eagles to go three-up and three-down in the final three innings to successfully defend the Chippewas’ MAC West Division title.
The 2011 MAC Tournament starts Wednesday, May 25, at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. The No. 5 Eagles will face the No. 4 Northern Illinois Huskies. The game is slated to start at 9 a.m.