On a 37-degree day in March, senior pitcher BJ Butler pitched a complete-game shutout to give Ball State baseball (10-8) their ninth win of the season in the Cardinals' home opener.
The last time a pitcher from Ball State’s roster pitched a complete-game shutout was March 26, 2016 by Zach Plesac for a 9-0 victory over Miami.
"BJ was electric and he wanted to finish the game," head coach Rich Maloney said. "When he's pitching that well and he's a leader in his senior year, you have to let him finish the game. I think he would have fought me if I would have tried to take him out."
This time around, Butler pitched a 6-0 victory over Dayton (5-10) to give Ball State their first home game win of the season at the Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex in a double-header. While Butler picked up his fourth win of the season, head coach Rich Maloney was awarded with his 400th win at Ball State.
"This means I've coached a lot of great players and worked with a lot of great assistants," Maloney said. "It's been a privilege and it means I've been coaching for a long time too. We've won a lot of games and I think it's a testament to the consistency that we've had. It's a tribute to Ball State and I'm thankful for it."
Pitching the full nine innings, Butler only allowed four hits and two walks, and finished the game with nine strikeouts. Butler now holds a 1.04 ERA on the season. Totaling for 111 pitches thrown in the game, Butler had no desire to stop pitching.
"I wanted to stay in," Butler said. "I didn't have to lobby or anything for it though. I think [Maloney] was planning on keeping me in. I finished the game at about 110 pitches and they're trying to keep me under 120 right now."
Facing the cold, Butler was able to hold off all Dayton players that reached base for nine innings.
"It was good and I got through the first three innings pretty quickly without a lot of pitches because they were putting the ball in play early and our fielders were making plays," Butler said. "Then, I was able to get some punch-outs late in the game."
The Cardinal’s offense worked behind Butler, getting the bats going early. Sophomore outfielder Roman Baisa crossed the plate in the first inning to give the Cardinals their first run while playing at home.
Reaching base on a walk, Baisa advanced to second on a base hit to left field from senior third baseman Alex Maloney. Senior first baseman Sean Kennedy wanted in on the action, as he doubled down the left field line to grab his first RBI of the game.
Although going scoreless for the next three innings, the Cardinals kept a 1-0 lead with Butler’s performance on the mound.
Freshman outfielder Joe Gunn started off the bats for the Cardinals in the fifth inning with a single down the right field line. The Cardinal’s offense rattled the Flyer’s second pitcher of the game, Petar Rozman, as he walked Ball State’s next three batters to load the bases for Kennedy.
Kennedy pushed a base hit through the left side to pick up his third RBI of the game and give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead. Kennedy went 2-2 with two hits and a walk, putting him at a .312 batting average for the season.
Running into trouble on the mound in the eighth inning, Dayton retired their fourth pitcher of the game after giving up two lead-off walks to put two on for sophomore Griffin Hulecki. Doubling down the right field line, Hulecki collected two RBIs to give the Cardinals their last two runs of the game for a 6-0 victory.
After a quick 30-minute turnaround, the Cardinals faced the Flyers again for the second game of today’s double-header.
Hanging on to the momentum from the first game, Ball State’s bats came out hot in the first inning, putting two on the board right away. Baisa came up to the plate with one out, nailing a double down the left field line. Maloney hopped on board with a single to right, putting runners at the corners.
A balk by Dayton’s Tyler Henry gave the Cardinals their first run, while an RBI single from Hulecki gave Ball State an early 2-0 lead.
Dayton managed to score their first run of the day against senior left hander Evan Korson in the bottom of the second. However, the run was unearned coming form an error from Ball State’s defense.
Dayton went on to score another run in the top of the fifth after a solo shot from sophomore catcher Bailey Montoya, to make it a one-run game in the fifth inning. Korson was removed from the game, allowing junior right hander Brendan Burns in to get the Cardinals out of the inning.
Burns got out of the inning, only allowing one run for a 3-3 tie headed into the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Maloney hit his second double of the game, allowing Baisa to score after reaching base on a bunt. The Cardinals closed out the fifth inning with a 4-3 lead over the Flyers.
"Alex had a great day," Maloney said. "He went 4-4 in the second game and that was really good to see because we need him to do that."
Maloney finished the day with five hits and 2 RBIs on the day, putting him at a .329 batting average this season.
The Cardinals' offense rallied again in the sixth inning after a pair of hits from Hulecki and junior second baseman Seth Freed. However, the Cardinals left the bases loaded scoring no runs. The Cardinals held off the Flyers in the final inning to ensure a 4-3 win.
"We did enough today on offense, but we're still a work in progress," Maloney said. "But, we found a way to win and that's what it's about. Our base running was pretty atrocious today unfortunately, but we haven't been on base enough to practice as much as I'd like to."
Burns got the win, putting him at four wins this season. Freshman right hander John Baker got the save today.
"Hopefully, this is the beginning and we can hit the ball well tomorrow and get our guys' confidence going," Maloney said.
Going 2-0 today, Ball State will return to the road tomorrow when they finish the four-game series at Dayton with another double-header. First pitch is set for noon at Spectrum Stadium.