After Ball State Baseball swept Eastern Michigan in a three-game Mid-American Conference (MAC) weekend series, head coach Rich Maloney used the same word to describe the Cardinals as he has done every weekend this season.
“I thought our guys really competed [and] we showed a lot of grit,” Maloney said. “We just play pretty good baseball. We get timely hits and we make the majority of the plays.”
Grit. No matter what the final score is to any game Ball State has won this season, Maloney said it has come down to grit.
“It's our identity. It's who we are,” Maloney said. “It's why we do early morning lifting [and] it's why we have competitions throughout the fall…It's just part of our culture to develop competitive fire.”
All three games of the series in Ypsilanti, Michigan, were different. Game one was a pitcher’s duel that came down to the final inning, where senior shortstop Adam Tellier hit an RBI single to put Ball State over the Eagles 2-1.
Junior right handed pitcher Ryan Brown picked up the win for the Cardinals who, after missing last weekend’s series against Toledo, returned and gave up one hit, two walks, no runs and struck out four in two innings of work. Senior right handed pitcher Trennor O’Donnell got the start for Ball State, where after striking out a career high 13 batters in his last outing, struck out seven and gave up five hits, one run and one walk in seven innings against Eastern Michigan.
Graduate student right handed pitcher Thomas House pitched the first six innings for the Eagles, giving up one run, two hits, four walks and struck out eight batters. Senior right handed pitcher Luke Russo was credited with the loss after giving up the game winning hit in the ninth inning.
Game two of the weekend was a different story, as there were 25 combined hits and 21 combined runs scored. Ball State put up two runs early, but Eastern Michigan responded with three in the bottom of the first.
However, the Cardinals punched right back with five runs in the second, and held the Eagles scoreless until the sixth inning. Ball State put up three runs in both the sixth and eighth inning, while scoring two in the ninth, finishing with a 16-5 victory.
Junior right handed pitcher Ty Johnson also made his return to the Cardinals pitching staff after missing the Toledo series and, like Brown, was credited with the win. He pitched five innings, gave up four hits, three runs, four walks and struck out four. Junior right handed pitcher Nick Chittum was given the loss for Eastern Michigan after allowing seven runs, six hits and two walks in one and ⅔ innings of work.
Graduate student third baseman Ryan Peltier had a two run home run in the contest, his seventh of the season, and finished 2-for-3 with four RBI. Tellier, sophomore catcher Hunter Dobbins and senior second baseman Justin Conant each had triples.
“I think, as a leader, guys kind of lean on me to help spark us, but our lineup is so deep anybody can get it going,” Peltier said. “We all feed off of each other and we all push each other to be better every weekend. That just shows how strong we are and how close we are.”
Graduate student designated hitter and 2022 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Player of the Year Matt Kirk had a home run for Eastern Michigan, his fifth of the season.
In the third and final game of the weekend series, Ball State and Eastern Michigan fought tightly for the first seven innings before the Cardinals scored five runs in the final two innings to complete the series sweep.
The Eagles again got out to an early lead with a run in the first inning, before Dobbins hit a solo home run to tie the game 1-1 in the third. Eastern Michigan struck back in the bottom of the fifth to lead 2-1 before Ball State tied the game 2-2 in the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of that inning, the Eagles grabbed their lead back after senior third baseman Glenn Miller hit a solo home run. The lead changed for the final time in the eighth inning, as Ball State put up three runs to get back on top 5-3 before scoring twice more in the ninth to emerge victorious 7-3.
Junior right handed pitcher Sam Klein earned the win for Ball State after pitching the final two and ⅔ innings, allowing no runs, no walks, four hits and striking out two. Five Cardinals collected RBIs in the contest, including two from Dobbins.
“[Everyone] passed the baton on to somebody else, and we get contributions from a lot of people,” Maloney said. “That's the sign of a good team.”
Peltier piggybacked off those sentiments, saying everyone who isn’t in the starting lineup stays prepared and is always ready to contribute off the bench.
“They're just always ready to come through for us with whatever we may need,” Peltier said. “Whether that's pinch running, getting a bunt down or just up there swinging, it just shows how mature the guys we have are on the bench, and they really understand the importance of helping the team.”
Maloney said it’s “huge” to be able to come out on top in every game of a weekend series where no two games were similar.
“If you really want to be a true outstanding team, a national type of a team, you got to win in all different ways,” he said. “You got to find ways to win when you're not playing well, but yet you squeak it out.”
Ball State has now won eight games in a row and 11 of its last 12. Maloney said with the exception of sophomore right handed pitcher Jacob Hartlaub, Ball State has its entire pitching staff healthy, and if the Cardinals can stay healthy down the stretch it’ll help them continue their winning ways.
Peltier, who finished the weekend 4-for-11 with a home run and four RBI, felt the same.
“The things we can accomplish this year could be really special,” Peltier said.
The Cardinals return to action March 28 at 3 p.m. against Southern Indiana (7-16, 0-2 OVC) at Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Ballpark Complex in Muncie, Indiana.