Three times in the first four innings senior John Ricotta came up to bat with two outs and runners on base. Three times he came through with an RBI hit.
“When there’s runners on and two outs, I just try to keep it simple and try to hit the ball hard,” Ricotta said. “I don’t try to get too big or try to do too much. Just stick to the plan and try to hit the ball hard, and good things happen.”
Ricotta finished the game 4 for 5 with four runs driven in, and his performance at the plate highlighted Ball State’s (14-9, 2-0 MAC) 10-3 win over Western Michigan (6-15, 0-2 MAC) Saturday.
The win marked the sixth game in the last eight Ricotta has had multiple hits. After the Cardinals’ game against St. Joseph’s March 9, he was batting .146. He’s seemed like a new man since, hitting his first three home runs of the year and driving in 15 runs.
“It’s a game changer. When you got Ricotta hitting, it changes our whole team,” head coach Rich Maloney said. “A few weeks ago, we said, ‘We got to get a couple guys to get hot’ … Ricotta over the last two weeks has been on fire.”
Ricotta followed his first three at-bats with a leadoff double in the sixth inning to make him 4 for 4 on the day. The Bronco pitching staff was finally able to retire him in the eighth when he popped out to the third baseman.
“Any time I can help the team out is a good thing,” Ricotta said. “Our whole offense is doing really well. Everyone’s contributing, and they’re doing a really good job.”
Every batter in Ball State’s lineup reached base Saturday, and only one finished without a base hit. Junior John Baker started on the mound for the Cardinals, and he said watching the offense put up runs is always a good feeling.
“It kind of takes some weight off your shoulders,” Baker said. “But still, every time I go out there, I want to treat it like a 0-0 game and keep battling no matter what.”
Baker tossed seven innings of three-run ball to pick up his second win of the season. Only two of his three runs given up were earned, but he said he still wasn’t happy about letting the Broncos score.
Baker also notched his 200th career strikeout Saturday, ending the game with 11. He said he had no idea about it coming into the game, and he brushed it to the side afterwards.
“To be honest, I don’t really care about it,” Baker said with a laugh. “I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to help the team, but that’s pretty cool.”
The win clinched Ball State’s first Mid-American Conference series of the season, and they will have a chance to sweep Western Michigan Sunday at 11 a.m.
“It’s nice we won the series, but to finish the series is the big thing,” Maloney said. “We have an opportunity here to take a sweep, and that’s hard to do. But you’re going to have to sweep some teams if you want a chance to win the league. It isn’t the end of the world one way or another, but this is a great opportunity for our ball club.”
Contact Zach Piatt with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.