BASEBALL: Cardinals miss golden opportunity
Ball State leaves bases loaded in ninth inning, loses to Kent State in the 10th
After Ball State pushed across a run in the eighth inning to tie Friday's game at Ball Diamond, coach Alex Marconi said he felt like Ball State was going to beat Kent State, the three-time reigning Mid-American Conference champions.
"I thought, 'We're winning this baseball game,'" Marconi said. "I sat there and thought we're winning this baseball game either this inning or next."
While Ball State had an excellent chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, Kent State staved off the threat and went on to win 7-4 in 10 innings.
Ball State (4-17, 1-3 MAC) tied the game at four in the eighth inning. Cody Campbell led off the inning with a double. His older brother, Kirby Campbell, replaced him at second as a pinch runner. Kirby Campbell then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Blake Beemer's sacrifice fly.
The bottom of the ninth inning had a similar start for the Cardinals. This time, Mitch Overley doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Wes Winkle. With the winning run just 90 feet from home plate and just one out, Kent State coach Scott Stricklin called for back-to-back intentional walks of Mitch Widau and T.J. Weir before summoning Casey Wilson, his closer, from the bullpen.
Kirby Campbell was the first batter Wilson faced and got ahead 2-0 in the count. Wilson evened the count before getting Campbell to hit a chopper to third baseman Sawyer Polen who fielded the ball cleanly and threw out Overley at the plate. Wilson then struck out Dominic Catanzarite on three pitches to escape the inning.
Though Ball State failed to score, Marconi said he did not regret having Winkle, who leads the Cardinals in batting average and slugging percentage, bunt. Marconi said even though he knew Stricklin might walk the bases loaded, he wanted Winkle to bunt because he is a pull hitter and wanted to avoid him hitting a groundball to the left side of the infield that would have forced Overley to stay at second, while still giving Kent State an out.
"If you give me that same situation again, with bases loaded and one out, to win a baseball game, I'll take it," Marconi said. "And really, probably eight times out of 10 you're going to win the baseball game. We didn't do it tonight.
"We had everything in our favor except the result."
Kent State quickly took advantage of its second opportunity. David Lyon, the Golden Flashes' three-hole hitter, stepped to the plate with two outs and two on in the 10th inning. After a first pitch strike, right-hander Chris Marangon left a fastball up and out over the plate enough for Lyon to belt it over the wall in right center for a home run.
While Marconi characterized the pitch to Lyon as a mistake, Marangon said he had no regrets about throwing it.
"It was a good pitch," Marangon said. "It was away and I, honest to God, don't know how he got around on it. I tip my cap off to him."
Except for the pitch to Lyon, Marangon pitched effectively out of bullpen for four innings. He struck out five and allowed four hits and three walks. Marconi said he was confident in using Marangon against Lyon, a switch hitter, even with left-hander Jon Cisna warming up in the bullpen.
"We're either going to win or lose with our best guy," Marconi said. "And [Marangon] is our best guy, right now, out of the bullpen."
Marangon threw 75 pitches and pitched through a 62-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth inning. He will not be available out of the bullpen tomorrow or to start on Sunday, which he has done the last three weeks, Marconi said.
Ball State and Kent State will resume their three-game series Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. Weir is scheduled to start on the mound for the Cardinals. The Golden Flashes will counter with right-hander Ryan Bores.