BASEBALL: Ball State wins tripleheader at Western Michigan
Cardinals remain in first place in MAC
Ball State University waited through rain all weekend to take on Mid-American Conference doormat Western Michigan University.
When the skies cleared and the field dried out Sunday, the Cardinals didn't miss their opportunity. They won two games in a rare tripleheader to complete Friday's suspended game and make up Saturday's rainout.
The victories gave the Cardinals (24-23, 15-6) a one-game lead in the MAC and extended their conference series winning streak to nine. Ball State's 15-6 start to conference play is its best since 2005.
The Cardinals' big day began with four runs in the top of the fourth inning of the suspended game to take the lead. Kolbrin Vitek would pitch the final six innings, allowing two runs. Ball State hung on for a 4-3 victory and Vitek earned his first career save. Brad Piatt (3-3) picked up the win after throwing two innings of relief Friday after a rain delay forced starter Perci Garner out of the game after the first.
The Cardinals struck quickly in game two, beginning with Vitek's solo home run in the first inning. Ball State scored two more in the second, before Western Michigan (12-35, 5-16) cut the lead to one run in the third inning.
Ball State broke the game open with seven runs in the fifth inning. The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate and got Cal Bowling all the runs he would need for his fifth victory of the year.
Bowling (5-3) allowed three runs in the bottom of the fifth, but no one could score the rest of the way and Ball State won its seventh straight series with a 10-5 victory.
The Cardinals needed just three pitchers to get through the first two games Sunday. Derek Grabner saved the bullpen with four scoreless innings in relief of Bowling. The left-hander allowed two hits and struck out seven to lower his ERA in MAC play to 2.03.
Throwing just one inning Friday allowed Garner to start game three. Western Michigan scored the first six runs of the game to salvage the final game of the series.
Garner (5-2) allowed three runs in four innings for the loss.
Ball State used the same lineup throughout Sunday, which led to Zach Dygert catching 23 innings.
Sunday was Ball State's first tripleheader since 2007 at Ohio University. The situation was similar four years ago, when the series opener was suspended and completed Sunday in addition to the remaining two games of the series. The Cardinals lost the first two games of that triple dip.