Sophomore pitcher T.J. Baker came in for the Cardinals in the ninth inning during Ball State’s game against Bowling Green on April 14 at Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Baker was credited with the save. Paige Grider // DN File
7-game win streak puts Ball State baseball back at .500
Ball State baseball sure has turned its luck around.
The Cardinals (18-18, 6-6 MAC) completed their second consecutive sweep, beating Bowling Green (9-22, 4-8 MAC) in three straight games.
"You've got to remember, two weeks ago we were 0-6 [in MAC play]," head coach Rich Maloney said. "Everybody else was counting us dead, and — to the guys' credit — they stayed the course and they fought back. Plus we got a little help from Chuck, our mascot."
Chuck Cardinal, Ball State's new wooden dugout totem, was introduced before Ball State's sweep of Western Michigan on the heels of a 9-game losing streak. Since then, the Cardinals have won their last seven games.
In Saturday's 23-5 win, senior second baseman Sean Kennedy set the single-game record for total bases with 17. He went 5-5 with three home runs, a double and a triple in the game.
Kennedy said the Cardinals have been working on driving the ball to centerfield instead of overextending themselves.
"That's kind of opened the gates for me," Kennedy said. "I've been staying in control, I've been hitting the ball up the middle and then when the ball gets in on me I've been able to extend and get it out of here."
Kennedy leads Ball State with a .343 batting average, seven home runs and 31 RBIs. Over the last seven games, he's hit .567 (17-30) with five home runs and 20 RBIs. Senior first baseman Caleb Stayton, who usually hits third, said having Kennedy behind him in the lineup takes pressure off him.
"He's always been one of our best hitters, one of our most consistent for the last four years," Stayton said. "I couldn't be more happy with the way he's performing. If he's hitting the home runs, all I'm trying to do is get on base before him and score with him."
Stayton hit his first home run of the season in the 23-5 win and is on a 10-game hitting streak. He leads the Cardinals with a .434 on-base percentage, but he missed the first four games of the losing streak. Last season, Stayton was named first-team All-Mid-American Conference.
"Just the presence that he brings to your lineup — I mean, he was a projected player of the year," Maloney said. "We went through 13 games without him, that's hard. ... That's asking a lot of other guys."
Ball State is hitting .401 as a team during the winning streak, nearly 200 points higher than its .207 average during the losing streak.
"That's the offense that we knew we had that wasn't coming out," Stayton said. "It's everybody. It's not just Sean, it's not just [senior outfielder Matt] Eppers, it's every single person up and down. And it's fun."
Eppers raised his batting average a full 100 points — from .238 to .338 — by going 20-28 (.714) in Ball State's win streak.
The Cardinals are back the middle of the MAC standings after a winless start, and Stayton said the last seven games are more indicative of how Ball State will perform moving forward.
"We expected to be the team that was just going to streak with wins, and then we started streaking with the losses and that was completely bizarre," Stayton said. "This is who we expected to be, this is who we are and this is how I believe we'll stay."
Ball State travels to Purdue for a mid-week non-conference matchup 6 p.m. Tuesday.