The Ball State Cardinals (36-17, 20-5 MAC) finished their regular season Saturday with a three-game win streak over the Toledo Rockets (17-36, 4-21 MAC) at the First Merchants Ballpark Complex.
On Thursday the series began with sunny conditions and a one run lead by the bottom of the first inning from the senior Chase Sebby. His triple into left center field allowed for both William Baker and Ross Messina to run home for the score. The Ball State fielding crew would help to only increase that lead throughout the game by keeping the Rockets scoreless through eight consecutive innings.
More action for the Cardinals would come in the bottom of the fifth and sixth starting with another hit for Chase Sebby, which allowed Baker and Messina to score once again. After John Ricotta advanced to third on Sebby’s double, Senior Griffin Hulecki’s fly ball out to right field rounded up another RBI for the Cardinals and a lead of 6-1.
Baker would come around to score again in the sixth, but not before his triple into left center allowed the freshman Ryan Peltier and junior Noah Powell to score bringing Ball State’s run total to nine. A home run by Aaron Simpson in the bottom of the eighth closed out the victory for the Cardinals 10-1.
Friday’s game was a little more dicey for the home team, who found themselves at a four run deficit following 4 innings. Toledo got to work early with a home run from Zach Schwartzenberger and the Rockets would continue their domination through the inning with a total of 5 RBI’s.
Ball State would slowly work their way back to a better position on the scoreboard beginning with two home runs in back-to-back innings by Messina and Peltier respectively. As the Cardinals approached the bottom of the ninth all eyes were on Hulecki when his single into left brought Drey Jameson in all the way from second to tie the game. A walk-off single by Orselli brought in Powell for the winning run, 7-6.
As the finale to the regular season came to a close on Saturday, the senior Cardinals were honored on the field for their dedication to the team.
“Without question…they are some of our most major contributors,” said Head Coach Rich Maloney.
Those contributors along with the rest of the Cardinal lineup would start the day with Baker beating the Toledo pitcher to home plate. That total would increase for Ball State in the bottom of the second inning with three runs from Peltier, Baker and Simpson.
Toledo would refuse to go down without a fight, by the bottom of the fifth they had a runner on first and second which caused the Cardinals to switch pitchers. The decision to substitute junior Lukas Jaksich for sophomore Kyle Nicolas at the mound did not immediately pay off as a line drive to right field brought in two Rockets and advanced an additional one to third base.
After a pair of scores in the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth brought Toledo within one run of a tie game at 6-5, the Cardinals found the wave of offense that would carry them to the conclusion of the weekend.
After the Rockets substituted placed Jamie Myers on the mound Ball State came up with three home runs from Simpson, Ricotta and Sebby, bringing the tally to 11.
Toledo batted and fielded well through the seventh and eighth inning allowing no additional runs for Ball State while adding three scores of their own. Nolan Gazouski would finish the game striking out two Rockets in the top of the ninth to complete the sixth straight win on the Cardinal’s calendar.
The collection of players which included William Baker, who scored three times on the day would all exit the Ball Diamond with their eyes on the MAC Championship.
“They have been prepared through the schedule we played throughout the year as well as any team I’ve coached entering this tournament,” Maloney said.
The best chance Ball State has going into next week would be beating their first two straight opponents and head straight for the finals. If that does not happen, they would have to battle a little more for their chance at a ticket to the NCAA tournament. Maloney feels confident about where the team is at and where they are headed.
“The guys have developed through the year, through the different adversities we have went through and just continued to find ways to win,” Maloney said. “I think they are ready for their moment.”
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