May 28, 2005
OXFORD, Ohio--Powered by a remarkable complete-game performance by freshman pitcher John Ely, who earned his second win of the 2005 Mid-American Conference Baseball Championship, top-seeded Miami University defeated third-seeded Central Michigan, 5-2, to hand the Chippewas their first loss of the tourney and force a winner-take-all title game later this afternoon.
Ely, who had earned a win over Western Michigan with one and two-thirds innings of work on Thursday, fanned nine batters and allowed only five hits in improving to 10-1 on the year. With the win, Miami, which improved to 43-16, forced a second, decisive game for the Mid-American Conference Championship and ended a string of 18 consecutive Central Michigan (42-17) wins over MAC foes. The winner of the second game, scheduled for 3:10 p.m., earns the league's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
After a rough start for Miami in which Chippewa lead-off hitter Tory Moratti reached on an error and moved over to second on a wild pitch, RedHawk freshman ace Ely, making his second appearance of the week, put the clamps down on the CMU bats, mowing down the heart of the Chippewa batting order with a ground out and two Ks. Central Michigan starter Jayson Ruhlman got off to an equally fast start, retiring the RedHawks in order in the first.
CMU would string together two hits and a walk to plate the first run in the top of the second, when left fielder Bryan Mitzel crossed the plate on an RBI single from catcher Derek Schaller. Centerfielder Jeremy Crum would score from third one at-bat later on a sacrifice fly to deep center, and CMU took an early 2-0 edge.
Miami placed its first runner on base in the bottom of the second, when Ruhlman issued a lead-off walk to third baseman Brian Canada. One at-bat later, first baseman Paul Frietch made him pay with a towering, two-run blast over the right field fence that tied the score and went in the books as Miami's first hit.
While both teams were able to put runners on base over the next three innings, none would get past second base until Miami went ahead in the bottom of the sixth. Left fielder Ryne Robinson won a footrace to first on an infield single and advanced to second on a Brandon Hillier bunt. Staring down an 0-2 count, catcher John Slone ripped a single up the middle to bring the speedy Robinson all the way around from second.
Ely, who moved into third on Miami's single-season strikeout chart on the day, seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, and, in the top of the seventh, converted his first 1-2-3 inning to give him seven strikeouts and just four hits allowed through seven. In the bottom of the frame, Miami got doubles from designated hitter Jon Franzese and shortstop Eric Radley to score Franzese and take a two-run advantage into eighth.
After giving up just five hits over six and two-thirds innings, Ruhlman was replaced in favor of CMU closer Nathan Pung, who got the Chippewas out of the inning and stranded Radley.
Continuing his dominance, Ely retired the Chippewas in order again in the eighth inning, and was provided with insurance in the bottom of the inning, when Slone and Canada smacked back-to-back doubles down the left-field line, scoring Slone and chasing Pung. Canada would advance to third on a Frietch sacrifice fly, but reliever Josh Ruhlman would get CMU out of the inning.
Gunning for his sixth complete game of the year, Ely took the hill again in the ninth. The Chippewas put a runner on base with a Mitzel single, but after a diving catch in left field by Robinson robbed David Latour of a would-be single, Ely fanned Crum for his ninth strikeout of the game, finishing the complete-game five-hitter.