BASEBALL: Ball State uses big inning to beat Eastern Michigan
Cardinals have three-game winning streak for first time this season
T.J. Weir began Ball State's biggest inning of the season with a home run just to the right of the batter's eye in center field. It would end 10 batters later when Blake Beemer struck out to end the fourth inning Friday. In between, seven runs came home and nine straight Cardinals reached base.
The big inning proved to be all the offense Ball State needed to defeat Eastern Michigan 8-4 Friday afternoon at Ball Diamond. Ball State (10-25, 5-9) has now won a season-high three straight games, the latest coming against the team that entered the weekend leading the Mid-American Conference West Division.
After Weir provided the spark in the fourth inning, coach Alex Marconi said the hitting bug spread through the rest of the Cardinals.
"I just told the guys, 'Hitting is contagious,'" Marconi said. "Not that we had 20 hits today, but when you have good at bats and you walk and let them walk you and then you get a couple hits and then let them walk you and then you let them walk you, that's what happens."
The Cardinals actually only drew two walks in the fourth inning - also mixing in a hit by pitch - but for a team that began the week ranked 287th in the country in walks, two in one inning is a lot.
In addition to the walks and Weir's home run, Mitch Overly and Mitch Widau each hit two-run singles, Sean Godfrey drove in a run with a double and Weir added an RBI-groundout.
"We got good pitches and we hit them," Widau said.
All of the runs came against Eastern Michigan starter Neil Butara, who appeared rattled as he got hit around.
"You could tell after [the home run] he was a little shaken," Marconi said. "I don't think he ever settled down after that."
Ball State led 8-1 after the fourth. Though it wouldn't add to its lead, Weir and reliever Miles Moeller were able to make it stand up. Weir was making his second start on in the opening game of a series, filling in for Cal Bowling, who remains out with a broken hand. Weir (2-6) allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings, pitching well enough to win.
Moeller followed Weir and while he gave up one run in three innings and allowed the Eagles to load the bases with one out in the ninth, he earned his first career save and kept Marconi from needing to go back into the bullpen.
"That's what we've been waiting for from Miles and he can do that," Marconi said. "I was very happy to see that two times in a row from him."
The lone bit of bad news Friday for Ball State came in the fifth inning when Godfrey, playing right field, attempted to make a diving catch in the outfield. He injured his shoulder and had to leave the game. The extent of Godfrey's injury isn't known, but he has been one of Ball State's best hitters this season. The sophomore leads the Cardinals with a .405 slugging percentage and is second with a .288 batting average.
"We don't think anything's torn, but it might keep him out," Marconi said. "We'll just have to see how he feels in the morning."
Ball State and Eastern Michigan will continue their three-game series Saturday at 1 p.m. Right-hander Chris Marangon will start for the Cardinals.