BASEBALL: Ball State loses first conference game to Ohio
Mental miscues lead to Cardinals loss to Bobcats
For the second time in consecutive games, Ball State's offense provided late inning heroics versus the Ohio Bobcats.
But a cluster of mental blunders cost the Cardinals their second Mid-American Conference win, falling 5-4 to the Bobcats.
Ball State (3-18, 1-1 MAC), suffered its first conference loss of the season.
According to coach Alex Marconi, the Bobcats outplayed the Cardinals.
"They played a solid game," Marconi said. "We did not. That's the bottom line. We screwed up six times on situational offensive plays. Six times we did that and we gave up two earned runs today. Three unearned runs [and] there's the ballgame."
The Cardinals were sloppy on the bases against Bobcats lefty Brent Choban, who picked off two Cardinals in his 6 2/3 innings of work.
Senior shortstop T.J. Baumet was picked off at first base in Ball State's first at-bat. One batter later, junior second baseman Mitch Widau was caught stealing second.
Marconi said mental errors led to the miscues on the base paths for the Cardinals.
"There's no reason for us to get picked off," Marconi said. "The thing that's frustrating is [is] that's our one and two-hole hitters and they're seniors and juniors."
After taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second, sophomore outfielder Wes Winkle was caught stealing on a failed hit-and-run.
Junior centerfielder Cody Elliott was picked off at first base in the third inning, adding to the mistakes.
"One of our guys got picked off on a hit-and-run and they know never to get picked off on a hit-and-run," Marconi said. "Our other guy wasn't going anywhere and decided he wanted to get picked off. He wasn't stealing, he wasn't running, he wasn't doing anything. He just fell asleep."
Choban's move to first base was very deceiving, causing confusion for Ball State's base runners.
"He has a very good move," Marconi said. "He had different looks with his move, so it wasn't just one move. He had two or three different ones. Our guys were told to stay still [and] don't go anywhere until he pitches."
The carelessness on the base paths carried over to Ball State's starting pitcher, lefty Derek Grabner.
The senior cruised through the first three innings before hitting a wall fifth.
After surrendering a leadoff single to first baseman Taylor Emody, Grabner threw a ball in the dirt that snuck past sophomore catcher Kevin Franchetti, allowing Emody to advance to second.
Shortstop Garrett Black followed with an RBI single to right field, cutting the Ball State lead in half, 2-1.
Grabner walked two more Ohio hitters in the sixth en route to yielding two more runs before being pulled by Marconi.
The 6-foot-3 starter lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowed three runs, one earned, walked four and struck out one.
Grabner said his outing wasn't what he anticipated.
"It was a rough day out there on the mound [being] able to keep the fastball down, but off-speed, my fingers kept getting numb," Grabner said.
Ball State's luck didn't change when Grabner was lifted for sophomore reliever Jon Cisna, who committed a costly mistake with the bases loaded in the sixth inning when Emody tapped a ground ball back to Cisna who overthrew Franchetti for the force out at home. The error enabled two runners to score to give Ohio a 3-2 lead.
Marconi said Franchetti should have had blocked the ball.
"It's the same stuff we've been over and over again with our guys," Marconi said. "We've talked to our catcher about blocking the ball and if you ask me, it's two passed balls. It's not a past ball and a wild pitch."
The Cardinals tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth following first baseman Blake Beemer's RBI sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Widau from third.
Marconi said he was pleased with how his team battled back.
"The one good thing we did and we've done all year is we haven't given up," Marconi said. "No matter what the score is, no matter who we're playing, we're always in the game working hard to get back in [it] and not giving it up with our at-bats or on the mound."
Both teams traded runs in the eighth before the Bobcats capitalized on freshman third baseman T.J. Weir's error on a routine ground ball, ultimately capping the game for Ohio.
What it comes down to, Marconi said, is playing fundamentally sound baseball every game.
"These guys need to start executing the things they need to execute," Marconi said. "Whether they're a freshman, a junior or senior. They are going to be asked to execute certain things, [like] to block the baseball, to throw strikes, to do their situational hitting. Up until this point, we've been very average."