Bruns’ 4-hitter sends Falcons to NCAA for 1st time since 1999

Bowling Green celebrates winning the MAC baseball tournament as tournament MVP Nick Bruns (brown hat), T.J. Losby (center), and coach Danny Schmitz accept the trophy.
Bowling Green celebrates winning the MAC baseball tournament as tournament MVP Nick Bruns (brown hat), T.J. Losby (center), and coach Danny Schmitz accept the trophy.

AVON, Ohio — The Bowling Green State University baseball team will return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999 following a 7-0 win Sunday over Ball State in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship game.

Nick Bruns, named the tournament’s most valuable player, threw a four-hit shutout for the win, outdueling league pitcher of the year, Scott Baker. Bruns, who struck out four, was 2-0 with one save in the tournament.

The Falcons will learn their postseason fate at noon today. The NCAA’s baseball selection show will air on ESPNU. All NCAA tournament regional games will be on the ESPN network.

It is the third MAC tournament title for the Falcons, who won in 1998 and 1999. BG has five MAC regular-season championships (1972, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2009).

“Two months ago if somebody would have said we would be standing here today and be MAC tournament champions I wouldn’t have believed them,” BG coach Danny Schmitz said.

The Falcons qualified for the tournament only after beating Buffalo with a walk-off win in the final game of the regular season.

“Ever since then, in the lockerroom and everything, we’ve been a completely different team,” Bruns said.

At the end of the game, the scoreboard showed 17 zeros. The only numbers that were not a zero belonged to the Falcons, as they pounded out eight hits and scored all seven of their runs in the top of the fifth.

The Falcons tagged Baker for six runs in the fifth to knock him out of the game. Sunday was Baker’s third appearance in the tournament.

Brandon Howard began the top of the inning with a walk. Nick Glanzman followed with a sacrifice bunt, but would reach first base on a throwing error by Ball State’s catcher. With runners on first and third, the onslaught would begin, as Brian Bien laid down a squeeze bunt to score Howard for a 1-0 lead. Patrick Lancaster singled to score Glanzman, and Jake Thomas followed with a base knock to score Bien.

The Falcons’ offense would keep rolling after a mound visit, as Jeremy Shay singled to give Bowling Green a 4-0 lead. That would be all for Baker, as Ball State skipper Rich Maloney would make the move for the bullpen for a lefty.

T.J. Losby, a Bryan graduate, would sacrifice the runners over, and Jesse Rait would single to score another run. Logan Walker would pinch hit with the lefty in the game, and promptly delivered with an RBI single of his own. After a foul out for the second out of the inning, Glanzman would single on the infield for another run. In all, the Falcons would send 12 batters to the plate in the inning, scoring seven runs.

From there, Bruns would shut the Cardinals down. Ball State would manage just three hits over the final five innings.

“Very special feeling,” Bruns said.

In the bottom of the ninth, Bruns struck out the first batter before inducing a ground out for the second out. After a Falcons error gave the Cardinals a base runner, BG was just one out away from the title. On the first pitch, the next Ball State batter grounded to second. Howard would coral the bouncing ball, flip it to Bien at the second base bag, and set off a massive celebration on the mound.

Bruns was outstanding throughout the five-day tournament. On Saturday he pitched a perfect ninth in a 1-0 win over Toledo. On Wednesday he pitched the final 2.1 innings — allowing no runs — as the Falcons began their march with an upset over No. 3 Northern Illinois.

“We were hoping maybe three [innings], four tops,” Schmitz said. “Boy, he started getting on a role and guys played strong defensively behind him.”