BASEBALL: Ball State loses game, MAC title in Toledo
Rockets score five runs in last two innings to down Cardinals
Six outs separated Ball State University from the regular season Mid-American Conference championship at the University of Toledo.
The Cardinals held a four-run lead in a game they needed to win to bring home their first regular season title since 2001.
That wait will continue for Ball State (28-27, 19-8). Toledo scored five runs in the final two innings to win 8-7 Saturday, becoming the first MAC team in more than a year to defeat Ball State in a series.
Ball State's loss opened the door for Central Michigan University to win the conference championship, and it finished its end of the deal with a 10-2 victory against Eastern Michigan University.
The Cardinals will be the fourth seed in next week's MAC Tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio. Ball State will open the double-elimination tournament against fifth-seeded Bowling Green State University at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Toledo took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning, but Ball State scored seven unanswered runs. Cody Elliott hit a three-run home run to tie the game in the fifth inning. It was Elliott's second game-tying home run of the series.
Starting pitcher and designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek helped his cause with a pair of home runs. He gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning and provided what appeared to be all the insurance they would need with a three-run blast in the eighth.
But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead for Vitek.
Brad Piatt, who was Ball State's Opening Day starter, coughed up two runs in the eighth inning. The Cardinals took a two-run lead into the ninth, but the Rockets were able to work around a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Kirby Campbell.
Seth Hobbs relieved Piatt in the ninth and allowed a leadoff home run. He walked the next hitter, who advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Hobbs was lifted in favor of Derek Grabner, who had pitched multiple innings both Thursday and Friday. A sacrifice bunt attempt led to a pair of errors on Ball State and Toledo scored the tying run and advanced the winning run to third base.
Two intentional walks and a ground out later, Jim Vahalik lifted a sacrifice fly to right field for the winning run.
For more on the MAC Tournament and Ball State's loss at Toledo continue to check bsudailynews.com this weekend and read Monday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.