“We got a big dose of humble pie right there,” Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney said.
Ball State Baseball opened up its season with a four-game series against Charlotte in North Carolina. In all four games, the Cardinals gained early leads, but were only able to win the series’ opening contest.
Throughout the four games, Ball State allowed 50 walks, going through 12 different pitchers during that stretch. By comparison, the 49ers only allowed 16 walks.
“We didn't give ourselves a chance to win, unfortunately, because we were unable to throw strikes like we normally do,” Maloney said. “We know we got guys that can throw strikes because they have their whole career. I don't have an answer to that right now, meaning I don't know why that happened.”
In game one, Ball State won 2-1. Graduate student third baseman Ryan Peltier hit the first home run of the weekend. Junior pitcher Ryan Brown pitched 4 and ⅔ innings, earning the win after allowing nine walks, one hit and no runs, while striking out 10 batters.
In game two, which was game one of a Saturday doubleheader, Charlotte won 9-4. Peltier hit his second home run in as many games early on, however, junior catcher Kaden Hopson hit a three-run home run in the third inning after Charlotte had already scored three in the bottom of the first to put the 49ers up 6-1 early.
In the fourth inning, Ball State junior designated hitter Casey Turturici hit a three-run home run to make it 6-4, but it would be for naught. Four of Charlotte’s nine runs didn’t come off hits, but junior designated hitter Will Butcher went 2-3 with three RBI for Charlotte. Junior relief pitcher Evan Michelson earned the save for the 49ers, pitching three innings while allowing three hits, no walks, no runs and striking out three.
In game three, the second game of the doubleheader, three of Charlotte’s nine runs didn’t come via a hit as the 49ers won 9-5. Again, Ball State jumped out to an early lead with a five-run third inning including senior catcher Matthew Rivera’s three-run home run.
The 49ers gained control afterward with two strong individual performances. Senior third baseman Austin Knight hit a three-run home run, capping off his 2-2, five RBI and one walk performance, and junior pitcher Paxton Thompson picked up the win for Charlotte, pitching 4 and ⅓ innings, allowing two hits, no runs and two walks while striking out eight.
In game four, the 49ers (3-1) capped off their strong opening weekend with a 19-4 victory over the Cardinals in seven innings. The Cardinals were up 4-0 early, with Peltier’s third home run of the series and senior second baseman Zach Lane’s two RBI double mixed in, before giving up 12 runs in the bottom of the third inning.
From there, it was all Charlotte other than a solo home run from Ball State senior right fielder Logan Flood in the top of the seventh. Butcher, Knight, junior left fielder Josh Patrick and senior first baseman Eli Weisner all had two RBI, while Hopson had three.
While the 49ers did score 19 runs, they did so on only eight hits. In fact, while Charlotte outscored Ball State 38-15, they only outhit the Cardinals 25-23. However, Knight stood out, hitting 7-15 with eight RBIs and a home run through four games.
Going into the season, Peltier expressed discontent with how he began the 2022 season at the plate, looking to change that. In Maloney’s opinion, he changed that during this series, as the preseason All-American Third Team member hit 5-10 with three home runs, three RBIs and four walks in the series.
“He's just a complete player,” Maloney said. “The guy's a legitimate player, his confidence is great, the way he approaches the game is great, he's even keeled [and] he's just a mature player…He was the best player of the weekend.”
Maloney said all the Cardinals can do after losing three straight in the fashion they did is learn from their mistakes and sweep the losses under the rug going forward.
“Now we get back to who we are, [and] that’s a gritty bunch and we gotta pitch that way. They will, I truly believe that,” Maloney said.
The Cardinals (1-3) return to action Feb. 24-26 as a part of the Swig and Swine tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, with game one against Merrimack Feb. 24 at noon.