AVON, Ohio - Central Michigan senior Jon Weaver earned five of the biggest outs of his career on the mound as Central Michigan defeated Toledo, 4-3, in an elimination game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon.
Weaver came on in the bottom of the eighth inning with the game tied, 3-3, and the bases loaded. He promptly struck out Wes White on three straight pitches and induced a ground out to Nate Langhals to get the Chippewas (31-28) out of the jam.
Redshirt freshman Pat MacKenzie drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the top of the ninth and senior Tyler Hall reached on a bunt single before junior Jordan Dean moved both runners over on a sacrifice bunt. Senior William Arnold then lifted a ball to deep center field, allowing MacKenzie to tag from third and score what proved to be the game-winning run.
Weaver went back out in the bottom of the ninth and quickly closed out the Rockets (30-27) by inducing a ground out to short and getting Ben Hammer and Dan Zuchowski to both strike out looking.
With the victory, the Maroon and Gold advance to play Friday afternoon at 12:30 versus the loser of No. 6 Eastern Michigan and No. 7 Miami.
"We did a really good job of focusing on each at bat in the top of the ninth," head coach Steve Jaksa said. "Jon Weaver was just outstanding. He got a couple punch outs by throwing strikes on both sides of the plate and was able to speed it up and slow it down to close it out. It was a fantastic total-team effort."
The Chippewas looked to be in for an easy victory in the top of the first when they took a 3-0 lead. Hall led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a walk by the Rockets' Matt Kuna and scored the first run of the game on a RBI single by Arnold.
Senior Nate Theunissen followed with a RBI double off the wall in left to give CMU a 2-0 lead and tie the all-time CMU record with 252 career hits. Senior Sam Russell followed with a single of his own and Theunissen scored from second extending CMU's early advantage.
Theunissen followed his first-inning double with a single up the middle in the top of the third, surpassing Jim Geldhof to become the program's all-time hits king with 253 hits.
Junior Pat Kaminska cruised through the first four innings for the Chippewas on the mound, limiting the Rockets to just one base runner. He appeared to be out of the sixth when he induced a grounder to third baseman Eric Wrozek, but the senior's throw skipped passed junior Jordan Adams at first base to extend the inning.
The Rockets followed up the Wrozek error with three straight singles to pull within one, 3-2, and chase Kaminska after 5.2 innings. Freshman Sean Renzi came on with runners still on first and second and got a big swinging strikeout to protect the lead.
Another Chippewa error led to an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh when Anthony Smith reached and pinch runner Tyler Grogg advanced two bases on a passed ball before scoring on a RBI single by White to tie the game, 3-3.
Renzi hit the leadoff batter in the bottom of the eighth and combined with senior Ryan Longstreth on a four-pitch walk to the next batter before a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out. Jaksa elected to have Longstreth intentionally walk pinch hitter Andy Mix before turning to Weaver to get out of the jam.
Weaver (2-3) earned the win by striking out three of the five batters he faced, needing just 16 pitches in the process. Toledo's Lincoln Rassi (3-1) suffered the loss, giving up one run on one hit over 1.1 innings.
Theunissen led the way at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a run score and a RBI, while Arnold finished the game with two of CMU's four RBI.