Then-sophomore outfielder Matt Eppers throws the ball during the first game of the double header against Buffalo on March 28 at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. DN PHOTO ALAINA JAYE HALSEY
Ball State baseball drops series finale against Dayton 3-1
Ball State baseball (11-10) closed out its home opening series March 20 with a 3-1 loss to Dayton (4-14).
The Cardinals won each of the first three games of the series by at least five runs, but head coach Rich Maloney said he expected the series finale to be closer.
"With the wind blowing straight in, I knew there was a chance that there could be a tight game," he said. "Certainly, to Dayton's credit, I thought they made a lot of nice plays."
Ball State batting: 9-36, two walks
Dayton batting: 7-31, five walks
Ball State runners left on base: 12
In the bottom of the seventh, the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs. Junior shortstop Alex Maloney stepped up to the plate against Flyer senior right-handed pitcher Zach Beaver.
After working a full count, Alex dug in, his toes touching the inside edge of the batter's box.
Beaver reared back and fired a high fastball on the inside edge of the plate. Alex leaned back to avoid getting hit by what he thought was a ball.
The umpire, however, thought differently. He called strike three to end the inning with Dayton still ahead, 3-1.
Beaver (1-3) was credited with the win after giving up one unearned run in seven innings and striking out three batters.
Ball State's lone run was scored in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Junior centerfielder Matt Eppers was standing on third when junior third baseman Sean Kennedy ripped a ground ball to Dayton third baseman Connor Echols.
Echols rifled the ball to second base for what looked to be a double play, but Flyer second baseman Pat Meehan misplayed the ball and let it skip into right field. Kennedy and Eppers advanced to second and third on the error.
Dayton catcher Matt Poland started walking toward the mound when the ball was still on its way back to Beaver. Eppers, realizing the umpires had yet to call time, took off for home and crossed the plate standing up.
Rich said Eppers deserves all of the credit for the play.
"That's called instinct," he said. "He used his gift that he has, which is his speed."
Eppers finished the game 4-4 at the plate, raising his batting average to .323 on the season.
Dayton took the lead early, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning off of freshman right-handed pitcher T.J. Harmon. Harmon (0-1) took the loss in his first collegiate start after allowing three earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched.
Ball State will host Purdue University (4-12) in its next game at 3 p.m. on March 22 at Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex.