Ball State baseball relished its chance to play under the lights at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis Tuesday.
Though Ball State (21-20, 8-7 MAC) lost to Indiana 4-3 on a walkoff single in the 10th inning, 5,943 fans saw junior right fielder Jeff Riedel tie the game with an RBI double in the top of the ninth.
“Getting to play on a field like this, with a crowd this big, it’s something you don’t do everyday,” Riedel said. “But whenever you’re playing, you don’t look up in the stands. If you get caught up with the atmosphere, you get nervous, you get jittery and that’s when mistakes are going to happen.”
Neither the Cardinals nor the Hoosiers (22-16-2, 8-6-1 MAC) made an error in the game. On the first play of the game, IU senior left fielder Alex Krupa made a diving catch, and Riedel threw out a runner at home in the bottom of the seventh.
Junior right-handed pitcher Colin Brockhouse started for Ball State, showing a glimpse of an alternate timeline. Victory Field is home to the Indianapolis Indians, the AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates — who picked Brockhouse in the 37th round of the MLB Draft last summer. Brockhouse returned to Ball State instead of signing a professional contract.
Victory Field attendance
Ball State vs. Indiana: 5,943
Indianapolis Indians average (2016): 8,970
“I didn’t really think about it until a couple days ago,” Brockhouse said. “We were playing here and I looked up who they were with and they were with the Pirates. I thought it was kind of random a little bit, but I didn’t think about it too much.”
Brockhouse allowed one run on two hits and two walks in a two-inning no-decision. He wasn’t pulled because of nerves though — he hadn’t started since March 4 so the coaching staff is slowly ramping up his workload.
“In high school I played on a minor league field, it was kind of like this,” Brockhouse said. “I also played with the Madison Mallards [in the Northwoods League] this summer, we usually got 5,000, 6,000 fans so I was used to it.”
Madison averaged 6,039 fans last summer, but head coach Rich Maloney said Victory Field mimicked a different summer environment.
“The guys got a taste of tournament atmosphere because that’s what an NCAA Tournament would be, just like this,” said Maloney, who led Michigan to four consecutive NCAA Regional appearances from 2005-08, including a Super Regional appearance in 2007. “We’re going to have to scratch and claw, but we know we can compete at that level, it’s just a matter of getting there.”
Ball State only made the NCAA Tournament once in its history, when it won the Mid-American Conference Tournament in 2006.
This weekend, the Cardinals take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (12-27, 6-6 MAC) in a three-game series beginning at 4:05 p.m. Friday.