BASEBALL: Ball State in first place after Vitek's walk-off bomb
Cardinals extend winning streak to four games
Kolbrin Vitek dug into the batter's box with the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday.
He was the last man Eastern Michigan University wanted to see, with two runners on and clinging to a two-run lead.
Vitek patiently watched two pitches go by, before crushing a 2-0 fastball well beyond the left field wall to give Ball State University a 13-12 walk-off victory. After a back-and-forth game, Eastern Michigan left fielder Ken Battiston could only hang his head as Vitek's home run soared by.
The All-American's second home run of the day capped a four-run ninth inning rally that extended the Cardinals' winning streak to four games. The victory, combined with Central Michigan University's loss at Northern Illinois University, moved Ball State (21-21, 12-4) into sole possession of first place in the Mid-American Conference by a game.
Reliever Heath Riley (1-1) picked up the victory, despite allowing the Eagles (21-22, 10-6) to get an important insurance run in the top of the ninth.
Down three runs headed into the bottom of the ninth, center fielder Cody Elliott started Ball State's rally. The sophomore singled to lead off the inning. Reliever Joe Battistelli retired second baseman Mitch Widau, but then allowed back-to-back singles. Elliott scored on right fielder Blake Beemer's single, which brought Vitek to the plate with a chance to win the game.
Ball State was able to come out with the victory despite Perci Garner's worst start of the year. The right-hander lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs.
Garner left with the Eagles holding a 7-4 lead, but the Cardinals quickly got their ace off the hook. In the bottom of the fourth, catcher Zach Dygert hit a three run home run, knotting the game at seven. Like all of Ball State's first seven runs Friday, Dygert's long ball came with two outs.
Eastern Michigan struggled against reliever Derek Grabner, but was able to get to the left-hander in the seventh inning. Grabner retired the first seven batters he faced, but gave up two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings.
Vitek led Ball State's offense, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs and four runs. First baseman Ian Nielsen helped out with a 4-for-4 day. The sophomore also drove in a run.
The three-game series will resume Saturday at 1 p.m. at Ball Diamond.