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September 21, 2023

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Falcon baseball wind MAC Championship despite early season struggles

Just a little over a two weeks ago, the Falcons’ Baseball team was only two outs away from their season being over. After a walk off win and a deep run into the MAC tournament, they can now call themselves 2013 MAC champions and have earned themselves a bid to the NCAA Tournament, a place no Falcon squad has seen since 1999.

“I think these past couple games we did a lot of growing up as a team,” senior pitcher Nick Bruns said. “At the beginning of the season we started out a little shaky on defense but we continued to get better as the season progressed.”

The Falcons last regular season game against the University at Buffalo, they found themselves going into the 9th inning down 4-3. However, with the help of Bruns’ pitching and two RBIs [runs batted in] from senior Matt Pitzulo and junior Patrick Lancaster, the Falcons pulled off the walk-off win, securing their spot for the MAC tournament.

“It all really started on Saturday against Buffalo when we were two out away from not even making the tournament,” Bruns said. “After that victory, it was like a different team. On the field, off the field and in the locker room, we just had some new life in us.”

The Falcons started their tournament run against the 3rd ranked Northern Illinois Huskies. The team fell behind quickly 4-0 in the first four innings.

“I pulled them in after that fourth inning and asked them what the score was in that last game against Buffalo at this point, and they said 4-0,” said head coach Danny Schmitz. “I told them, exactly.”

The next opponent would look familiar to the team as they matched up against Toledo. The Falcons knocked off the Rockets 4-3, with the possibility of having to play them again due to the double elimination style of the tournament.

Toledo handled Buffalo in the next game, meaning the Falcons needed to beat their closest rival once out of a double header to advance to the MAC championship. In game one, the Falcons took an early one run lead but Toledo came back to win 5-2.

The Falcons, facing elimination from the tournament, turned right around for game two that same afternoon.

“We came here to win one game because that’s all it took to get to the championship game and that’s what we wanted,” Schmitz said.

It was a close game throughout. Yet, it only took an RBI sacrifice fly from Lancaster to give the Falcons the win and with it their first trip to the MAC championship game in 14 years.

The next day in the championship game against the Ball State Cardinals, the Falcons didn’t want any doubt left.

Falcon hitters got seven runs out of 13 hits as Bowling Green topped Ball State 7-0 to win their third MAC title.

“Once we jumped out to the lead, the rest of the game just flew by,” catcher T.J. Losby said. “It was actually pretty relaxing and comfortable just like a normal game.”

The real outstanding performance came from Bruns allowing only three hits and no runs. His championship outing, plus another win and save during the tournament, also earned Bruns MAC tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

“Nick hit his spots and really had Ball State off balance throughout the whole game,” Losby said . “I’m extremely happy that Nick got the ball and was given the chance to give us that performance in what could have been his last game of his great career.”

With their MAC title came an automatic qualification for the NCAA tournament, only their fourth in school history. The Falcons got no favors from the selection committee as they were put into a regional group with traditional college baseball powerhouses Miami, Oklahoma State and their first game match-up, 15th ranked Louisville.

“We were extremely excited going to the regionals there in Louisville,” Schmitz said. “We knew we were going up against some of the best college baseball teams. I told them they put their uniforms on the same way we do.”

The Falcons took an early lead with a first inning home run from junior Jeremy Shay. However, with a two-run third inning and a four-run fifth inning, the Falcons were no match for the Cardinals as they pulled away for an 8-3 win.

The loss meant the team would be forced into an elimination game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Cowboys put the Falcons behind early and didn’t look back as the Falcons lost 7-3, ending their season.

“The guys played very hard. I’m very proud of them,” Schmitz said. “I think they did the program and tradition proud.”

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