BASEBALL: Ball State barrages Huntington on Military Appreciation Day
Cardinals erupt for 18 runs, 16 hits to earn 20th win of season
Anticipation mounted in the crowd at Ball Diamond, as the fans waited for the Navy trainer jet to flash overhead Wednesday afternoon.
With the final strains of the national anthem fading away, the flyover still had not happened. The plane was still lurking high above Ball State University when World War II veteran Ed Williams threw out the first pitch.
And then, as the Cardinals ran out to their positions wearing camouflage hats for Military Appreciation Day, Maj. John Carroll zoomed over the diamond, waving the wings on his T-45 as he went.
Soon after, it was Ball State zooming by Huntington University for an 18-1 victory.
While the game went off without a hitch for the Cardinals (20-21), the flyover could have been just a bit better if it had happened at the end of the national anthem like it was supposed to.
"I know by his standards, [Carroll] didn't like how it went," coach Greg Beals said. "Of course, he's got precise standards. It ended up working great."
Ball State scored six runs in each of the first two innings, staking Brad Piatt (2-3) to a big lead. The senior did his job, holding NAIA member Huntington off the board for five innings to earn the victory.
The Foresters (19-20) had runners on first and second with one out in the first inning, putting Piatt in a bit of a tough spot. But third baseman Travis Frantz grounded into a double play to end the inning and Huntington's best threat against the Ball State starter.
"For us to get out of the gates well like we did, it allowed everybody to relax and allowed Brad to settle in," Beals said.
The Cardinals quickly got to work on offense. First baseman Ian Nielsen delivered a bases-loaded single that brought home two runs. Left fielder Kory Benbow followed with an RBI double and third baseman Stephen Claypool cleared the bases with his fourth home run of the year.
In the second inning, Ball State removed all doubt from the game, Designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek hit a three-run homer and Claypool drove in another run. Center fielder Kirby Campbell hit his first career home run to left field to put the Cardinals up 12-0.
"It felt great to hit it," Campbell said. "I think it was a good one for my first home run."
Beals quickly began removing his starters, replacing almost the entire lineup in the third inning. The new-look Cardinals added six more runs in the final six innings.
Ball State's bullpen also cruised the rest of the way. Four relievers combined to allow just three hits and Huntington's only run came on shortstop Eric Shultz's home run off Michael Sandman in the sixth inning.
For Beals, it was a perfect day to reward a player like Campbell, who had put a lot of effort into getting better in practice. The freshman has not gotten regular playing time since Spring Break but said he has just tried to stay sharp.
"Everyday coming in and taking your drill work seriously, knowing that your turn might be right around the corner," Campbell said. "You've got to capitalize on it."