Junior right fielder Jeff Riedel was almost the hero in Ball State's 4-3 loss to Indiana at Victory Field.
In the top of the ninth with the Cardinals trailing 3-2, two outs and junior pinch runner Alex Masotto on first, Riedel ripped the pitch from Hoosier junior right-handed pitcher Matt Lloyd down the first-base line, just over the outstretched glove of 6-foot-4-inch first baseman Matt Gorski.
Masotto scored on the RBI double to tie it up 3-3.
Ball State statistics
Left on base: 7
L — T.J. Baker (1-1)
Left on base: 10
W — Matt Lloyd (3-1)
“It really felt good to get that tying run in there and have a chance with one out to score the possible winning out and go back out and close it out," Riedel said. "It didn’t happen that way and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
IU, however, won on an RBI single by Gorski in the bottom of the 10th.
It was a game of almosts for the Cardinals (21-20, 8-7 MAC), who haven't beaten the Hoosiers (22-16-2, 8-6-1 Big Ten) since April 17, 2013.
“It comes down to a game of inches," head coach Rich Maloney said. "You can’t really blame anybody, it was just a great game.”
Freshman catcher Griffin Hulecki, for example, almost caught IU junior outfielder Laren Eustace stealing second in the 10th. Ball State fans erupted when Eustace, who then scored the winning run, was called safe.
“[Hulecki] made a great throw, and he just beat it by a hair. That’s what I’m saying, it’s a game of inches. If he makes that play, we’re still playing.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Ball State sophomore right-handed pitcher T.J. Baker almost got the ground ball he wanted.
Indiana senior left fielder Alex Krupa hit Baker's one-out pitch on the ground with runners on first and second, but instead of a double play it snuck through the right side of the infield.
Riedel, again, was almost the hero. He charged hard, scooped the ball in his glove and fired it home in one swift movement. The throw skipped once and beat IU sophomore catcher Ryan Fineman to the plate.
In the next at-bat, Baker almost got the last out he wanted with two outs runners on first and third.
Hoosier senior second baseman Tony Butler pulled a grounder through the hole in the left side of the infield to knock in freshman shortstop Jeremy Houston for the go-ahead run.
The first play of the game hinted at what was in store for the Cardinals. Senior third baseman Alex Maloney almost led off with a base-hit to left field, but Krupa made a diving catch.
In the top of the third, Maloney almost hit a home run. He lifted IU right-handed starter Cal Krueger's pitch to left-center field, where it one-hopped the wall in a plume of light brown, almost gray dirt for an RBI double.
Victory Field's left-center field wall is 418 feet from home plate, deeper than any part of Ball Diamond.
“In Muncie and probably IU — pretty much anywhere else in the country — it’s probably a home run," Alex Maloney said.
Lloyd (3-1) was credited with the win, while Baker (1-1) was credited with the loss for the Cardinals after allowing just one fateful run in the final 3.1 innings.
Ball State returns to Mid-American Conference play this weekend with a three-game series at Northern Illinois beginning at 4:05 p.m. Friday.