BASEBALL: Walkoff victory fuels Cardinals
- Cardinals go 3-1 in Snow Birds Classic
- Alex Maloney delivers walk off single vs. Northwestern
- Improved pitching sets the tone
Heading into play at the Snow Bird Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida, the Ball State baseball team had a chance to get off to the school’s best start in 14 years.
“A whole bunch of guys are contributing,” Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. “Some days we’re getting lots of hits and scoring runs, and sometimes we are making some really nice defensive plays.”
Friday’s match ups with Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Mississippi Valley State saw the Cardinals once again put forth a collaborative effort.
Against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Ball State used a fifth inning home run by freshman Caleb Stayton to jump out to a 2-1 lead. It was Stayton’s second RBI of the game, and proved to be the difference maker.
Last season’s Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year, junior Scott Baker, bounced back from a shaky first outing and pitched eight strong innings to shut down Wisconsin Milwaukee, and earn himself and Ball State the 3-1 victory.
“It was really nice to see,” Maloney said. “[Baker] was excellent. … He certainly gave our team a big lift. Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a solid team, so we certainly needed a superlative performance.”
In the second game of their doubleheader, the Cardinals used a seven-run second inning to jump out to a commanding lead over Mississippi Valley. A grand slam by senior Sean Godfrey highlighted the offensive explosion.
Another strong performance by a starting pitcher, this time Jacob Brewer, helped the Cardinals maintain the lead throughout, as Ball State rolled to a comfortable 11-1 win.
The victory, which pushed the Cardinals’ record to 5-1, not only gave Ball State their best start since 1997, but also gave Brewer his first as a Cardinal.
“A guy with an arm like that, to have never won a game for Ball State, I don’t even know what to say,” Maloney said. “To see [Brewer] pitch so well is very, very encouraging. … He really was focused and determined. It was an outstanding game he pitched.”
A 6-16 loss to Iowa on Saturday slowed the team’s hot play, but Sunday’s game against Northwestern gave the Cardinals the opportunity to leave Florida with what they came to accomplish: three wins in four games.
Facing a 3-4 deficit heading into the bottom of the ninth, it looked as if Ball State would come up just short on their goal. A one-out single by Brandon Estep, however, gave the team new life, and after a T.J. Weir triple tied the game at four, it opened the door for freshman Alex Maloney to be the hero.
Alex Maloney delivered, knocking a single to left field that scored Weir from third, and gave the Cardinals the walk-off victory.
The win moved Ball State’s record to 6-2, and for a team that was not sure where the offense would come from, the six runs a game they are averaging is a pleasant surprise.
The weekend’s pitching performances by the Cardinals’ was a welcoming site for Maloney.
“When you get good starting pitching, it makes a big difference,” Maloney stated. “When you get quality starts ,that’s going to give you a chance to win. … It was nice to see [the starters] rebound after last weekend.”