AVON, Ohio --- As they filed out of the home dugout at All Pro Freight Stadium, University of Toledo players brushed past a Kent State squad preparing to occupy that same location.The brief encounter with the Golden Flashes might have reminded UT that winning a Mid-American Conference tournament is possible despite a setback in the opening round Wednesday. Two years ago, Kent State burst through the consolation rounds with five wins after dropping its first game to capture the title, a feat UT will try to replicate after falling 5-0 to Miami.
A commanding performance by RedHawks pitcher Shawn Marquardt, a bad break or two in the field, and nonexistent hitting in the clutch contributed to an inauspicious start for the second-seeded Rockets.
They'll try to tip-toe a high-wire today in an elimination game against Central Michigan at 9 a.m. No matter the outcome, it will be the only game UT plays on the day.
"There's precedent there," UT coach Cory Mee said.
In order to get untracked and begin an improbable march toward its first MAC title, UT must find a way to start hittnig. Left-hander Marquardt kept batters off balanced with a mixture of three pitches, rarely falling behind in the count on his way to a complete game shutout. Only one of the five hits he allowed came after the fourth inning. UT was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, dousing rallies in the first three innings.
"I thought we put up some good at-bats, but he did pound the strike zone," leadoff batter Joe Corfman said.
UT's Ryan Wilkinson (7-4) couldn't match the zeros posted by his counterpart, surrendering four earned runs and 10 hits before exiting with one out and two runners on base in the sixth. Seventh-seed Miami (29-27) got after him early, plating two runners in the first inning and widening the gap with two more in the sixth. A fielding error by third baseman Wes White led to the final run in the frame.
"I felt pretty good out there," Wilkinson said. "A couple of things didn't go my way. I felt like I was executing my pitches pretty well. It just happened to be one of those days."
Corfman led off the first with a double, setting a UT record to accompany the all-time hits mark he established in the final week of the regular season. He was joined on the All-MAC first team Tuesday by starting pitcher Matt Kuna, who will be on the mound against third-seed CMU, and reliever Lincoln Rassi. Second-team selections were Wilkinson and designated hitter Matt Delewski.
"We have to win every single game, whatever it takes, whatever pitcher," Corfman said. "Everything we got. We're going to empty the tank."