Caleb Stayton, a junior catcher and first baseman for the Ball State Cardinals, attempts to hit the ball while up to bat in the game against Ohio on April 1. Ball State will play against defending national champion Coastal Carolina on Feb. 24 in Conway, South Carolina. Grace Ramey // DN File
RECAP: Stayton leads Ball State baseball vs. Northeastern, Chicago State
PORT CHARLOTTE, FLORIDA — Senior first baseman Caleb Stayton stepped up to the plate in the top of the third with Ball State baseball leading Northeastern 2-0 Saturday.
With junior second baseman Seth Freed and sophomore outfielder Roman Baisa on first and second, the big lefty sat back and ripped the ball to the left-field corner for a 2-RBI double and the 4-0 lead. Stayton scored two batters later on an RBI double from senior infielder Sean Kennedy.
Stayton finished 3-4 with two doubles, two runs and three RBI in the Cardinals' 6-5 win, but he entered the day hitting .214. Head coach Rich Maloney, though, said Stayton was due for a big performance.
Game Statistics vs. Northeastern
W — Evan Marquardt (2-1)
L — Mike Fitzgerald (1-1)
S — Brendan Burns (1)
Caleb Stayton — 3-4, 2 doubles, 2 runs, 3 RBI
Game statistics vs. Chicago State
W — Colin Brockhouse (2-1)
L — Josh Perkins (1-1)
Matt Eppers — 4-4, 1 run, 4 RBI
"Sometimes [batting averages are] not really a fair indicator of what a guy's doing, because you could be hitting balls at people and other guys are hitting dinkers," Maloney said.
Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Evan Marquardt (2-1, 2.76 ERA) got the win, allowing two earned runs in six innings with six strikeouts.
"I felt alright," Marquardt said. "Didn't really have my best stuff, but I battled. I just need to get ahead a little more."
In the seventh, Stayton hit a shot to the fence for a stand-up double with the bases loaded and knocked in redshirt junior outfielder Jeff Riedel.
But Freed was thrown out at home. Senior third baseman Alex Maloney, who was on first, had rounded third and was thrown out trying to get back for the double play.
Rich Maloney said Freed would have scored if he didn't try to tag up from second.
"[Freed] just made a blunder," Rich Maloney said. "He would have scored easily if he was following the system. But hey man, that's part of it. We're going to make some mistakes — and we made a mistake—and we played through it. That's what matters most."
Kennedy usually plays third and Alex Maloney plays shortstop, but the pair switched positions against Northeastern. Senior Matt Eppers, normally the center fielder, also shifted to right field, and sophomore Roman Baisa played center.
"We're trying to win games," Rich Maloney said. "We're just trying to find what the best place is for our team to compete moving into the Mid-American Conference season when we get there. So all of this is for learning and giving those guys opportunities."
Junior right-handed pitcher Brendan Burns came on in the top of the eighth, with Ball State leading 6-3, and allowed two unearned runs in the two-inning save.
"It was just good to see him finish," Rich Maloney said. "He's been out for a little while here, and he's just getting his arm back to where we need it to be for him to compete for us."
Stayton stayed hot in the second game of the day, scoring two more runs with an 8-6 win over Chicago State — and his glove warmed up too.
In the top of the seventh, Stayton caught a screaming line drive from Jacob Vanitvelt at first and turned to tag Zach Thomas to end the inning.
"He's a great first baseman, and there's no question that when he's not there we take a hit," Rich Maloney said.
Ball State jumped out to an 8-1 lead, but Chicago State scored five in the top of the eighth to pull within two, 8-6.
Sophomore righty Nick Floyd stepped onto the mound with one out in the eighth, and although he allowed two inherited runners to score, he struck out Vanitvelt before getting Matt Paciello to pop up to center field to end the inning and preserve the lead.
Floyd then pitched a scoreless ninth and sealed the game with back-to-back strikeouts.
"I was pretty pumped about that," Floyd said. "I'm not as much of a strikeout guy — I pitch to contact — but I think they were starting to sit on my curveball, because I was throwing that quite a bit. So I was able to sneak a couple of fastballs by them at the end."
Junior right-handed pitcher Colin Brockhouse (2-1, 1.04 ERA) was credited with the win after allowing one unearned run in five innings.
The Cardinals (7-3) are back in action at 10:30 a.m. Sunday against Georgetown in Port Charlotte, Florida.