BASEBALL: Comeback keeps Ball State in first place
Late-inning drama gives Cardinals victory
Coach Greg Beals called the University of Toledo the toughest competition on paper in the Mid-American Conference for Ball State University.
Two games into their three-game series at Toledo this weekend, that assessment has proved correct.
The Cardinals kept their MAC regular season championship hopes alive with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings Friday. Ball State (28-26, 19-7) came from behind twice to remain in first place.
Trailing 5-4 headed into the ninth inning, shortstop T.J. Baumet hit a solo home run to tie the game. The Cardinals had also tied Thursday's game with a solo home run in the ninth, only to lose in the bottom of the inning when reliever Derek Grabner gave up a leadoff home run.
Friday, coach Greg Beals called on Grabner again. This time the left-hander was able to keep the Rockets off the scoreboard and send the game to extra innings.
Center fielder Cody Elliott, who hit Thursday‘s home run, gave Ball State the lead with an RBI-single in the 10th. With two outs in the inning, left fielder Ryan Chenoweth brought home two insurance runs for the Cardinals.
The insurance proved to be much needed in the bottom of the inning. Grabner (4-2) got the first two outs after an error by second baseman Mitch Widau started the inning. Grabner was unable to end the inning however, giving up two runs with two outs.
Beals called on Kolbrin Vitek, who is scheduled to start Saturday's game, to close out the victory. Vitek struck out Matt Delewski, who represented the winning run, to earn his second save.
Vitek, who also played as Ball State's designated hitter, seemed to snap out of his slump, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Friday was the All-American's first multi-hit game since May 9.
Chenoweth went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs. The senior added a home run.
Ball State will play its final regular season game of the year Saturday at 1 p.m. A win would give the Cardinals their first MAC regular season championship since 2001.