BASEBALL: Issler belts game-winning home run for Ball State
Cardinals beat Miami for the second day in a row
When Tim Issler drove a foul ball off the left field fence in the fourth inning, coach Alex Marconi knew his third baseman was going to get a first-pitch fastball in his eighth inning at-bat.
Sure enough, when Issler stepped up to the plate in the eighth, he got a first-pitch fastball and launched it over the left field fence for a two-run home run. The hit proved to be the game-winning hit for Ball State (7-20, 3-5) in its 4-3 triumph over Miami Saturday afternoon at Ball Diamond.
For Issler, who has been plagued by a serious eye infection for the majority of the season, it was a well-deserved home run, his first of the season and third of his four-year career.
"It's a great feeling," Issler said. "It's just good to get out here and help the team out. It's frustrating, especially my senior year, it's my last year to play baseball. It's frustrating being on the bench, watching everybody else play. But, it's just nice to go out there and do something good for the team."
The home run proved how Important Issler is to the team. He's been there before and knows what to expect in tight situations.
"He takes veteran at-bats," Marconi said. "Even though it doesn't show up on the stat sheet, and he's had the eye problem all year, he's hit the ball well. That was just a veteran at-bat by a veteran player, who's been here four years. He got a good pitch and didn't try and do too much."
It was sophomore right-hander T.J. Weir who put on a stellar performance on the mound for Ball State. In his 6 1/3 shutout innings of work, Weir struck out seven RedHawks and walked just one.
Over his past two starts, Weir has tossed a combined 13 2/3 innings, yielding a pair of earned runs off 14 hits while striking out 11.
"Early on, he was successful, but would always have a tough inning or two and the wheels kind of fell off," Marconi said. "He hasn't had that the last three or so outings. We made sure that his arm slot got back down and he's gotten a lot more sink on the ball, getting a lot more ground balls, and the ball is just playing a lot better."
Weir exited the game with a 2-0 lead in favor of left-hander Jon Cisna in the seventh inning, who inherited runners on first and second with one out.
After Miami's leadoff man Ryan Brenner fouled off a pair of pitches to stay alive with a 2-2 count, Cisna got him to chase a high fastball for strike three.
With two outs, Cisna induced a fly ball off the bat of Matt Honchel to retire the side, preserving the Cardinals two-run advantage.
"Big situation, just wanted to make sure to get the first guy, maybe a little popup or something easy, anything to not [let] those two guys score," Cisna said. "What'd we do, strike out the first guy and the next guy, we just [went] right after with two outs."
In the eighth, Cisna pitched in and out of trouble. Needing only three pitches to record the first out, Cisna issued back-to-back walks with the go-ahead run at the plate. But Cisna battled back, striking out pinch-hitter Nate Bowles and getting a fly ball out from pinch-hitter Jacob Wolf to end the inning.
Cisna said he was trying to be too fine with his breaking balls, which lead to the jam.
Following Issler's home run, the Cardinals held what appeared to be a comfortable 4-0 lead, needing only three outs to win.
But the RedHawks didn't go quietly in the ninth. After allowing a single and another walk, Marconi went to his bullpen, bringing in junior right-hander Chris Marangan.
After working a combined 5 1/3 innings over the last four days, fatigue appeared to get the best of Marangan against the RedHawks.
Marangan gave up a run, and Marconi didn't hesitate to go back to his bullpen, bringing in sophomore lefty Devin Wilburn. After surrendering a two-run single to right field off the bat of Kevin Bower, Wilburn induced a ground ball from Cory Klenke to end the game.
"It's a little nerve-racking, but at the same time, a win is a win," Marconi said. "Our bullpen is tired, so we were trying to manage that a little bit. At the end of the day, it's a W."