BASEBALL: Clutch hitting evades Cardinals in 7-4 loss
To start the ninth inning at Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, Ball State batters hit three consecutive singles. As Elbert Devarie walked to the plate representing the tying run, the four-run advantage the Blue Raiders held looked precarious.
Starting with Devarie, the Cardinals sent hitters No. 2 through 5 in their lineup to the plate. While Devarie did bring home a run on a sacrifice fly and T.J. Weir drew a one-out walk, the heart of the Ball State order failed to get the timely hit it needed. The Blue Raiders (9-6) escaped the jam, using Daniel Palo, their top draft prospect, to get the final two outs of a 7-4 victory.
The Cardinals (3-8) struggled with timely hitting all afternoon. They went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position with two sacrifice flies, two walks and a hit by pitch.
Middle Tennessee, meanwhile, largely skipped the need for timely hits by hitting four home runs. The Blue Raiders' first three runs all came on solo home runs against Weir, the Cardinals starting pitcher, in the fifth and sixth inning.
Ball State fought out of the 3-0 hole with a run in the seventh before tying the game in the eighth. But after tying the game, the Cardinals couldn't keep the Blue Raiders off the scoreboard.
Other than the home runs, Weir (0-3) had been efficient in the first seven innings and had a relatively low pitch count. He would not be able to keep the game tied for long, however. After a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt, Hank LaRue hit an RBI double that prompted Alex Marconi to bring in reliever Jon Cisna.
The Blue Raiders greeted Cisna with a singles, but he could have been out of the inning unscathed if it weren't for a defensive mishap. Justin Guidry followed with a ground ball that might have been a double play, but second baseman Mitch Widau bobbled the ball as he attempted the make the turn. Trent Miller mad the Cardinals pay for the miscue, hitting a three-run home that proved to be the winning runs in the next at bat.
Weir's start was bumped up a day because Marconi used Chris Marangon, Saturday's scheduled starter, to close out Friday's 5-4 victory. Weir responded with perhaps the best start of his career, despite taking the loss. He allowed five runs on nine hits in a career-high 7 /13 innings. He also struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Ball State was unable to solve Middle Tennessee State starter Jonathan Frebis, who allowed just two hits in seven innings. Devarie went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run to lead the Cardinals' offense.
The two teams will play the final game of their three-game series Sunday at 2 p.m. Marconi said he is still deciding on a starting pitcher, but it will likely either be Marangon or left-hander Miles Moeller. Neither has started a game for the Cardinals, who will be attempting to win their first series this season.