Sophomore pitcher TJ Harmon pitches the ball during the game against Ohio University on April 2 at theBall Diamond in First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Ball State baseball ended its nine-game losing streak after winning against Western Michigan this weekend. Emma Rogers // DN
Ball State baseball breaks out of slump, sweeps Western Michigan
Ball State baseball ended its nine-game losing streak by scoring as many runs in three games as it did in its last 12.
The Cardinals (14-18, 3-6 MAC) swept the Western Michigan Broncos (13-14, 3-6 MAC) by scoring 46 runs in three games — they only scored 29 during the losing streak.
"I don't even think you can put it into words how good it feels [to win]," senior infielder Sean Kennedy said. "We've gone nine games without winning and that's certainly something we've never been accustomed to, it's never happened to us."
Ball State vs. Western Michigan (three games)
Batting average: .423 (52-123)
Home runs: 6
Ball State during 9-game losing streak
Batting average: .207 (61-294)
Home runs: 3
The nine-game losing streak was Ball State's longest since it dropped 10 consecutive games in 2012. In 1995, the Cardinals set the program record with an 11-game skid.
"We knew in the back of our head that we have that streak, and it just took one hit after the other," redshirt sophomore catcher Griffin Hulecki said. "The pitchers have been carrying us the whole year and it was finally time for the hitters to take over. We knew coming into it that we just had a stack of hits waiting in there somewhere, and we unleashed them today, for sure."
Hulecki started the Cardinals' hot streak by hitting a three-RBI single in the top of the fifth inning of the series opener Saturday to give Ball State the 6-4 lead. Senior centerfielder Matt Eppers, who went 10-13 on the weekend with six runs, three RBIs, a double and a home run, said Hulecki's single was a turning point.
"It seemed like after that, we started hitting gaps, started barreling up a lot more balls and it really paced the weekend," Eppers said.
The Cardinals are now 8-0 this season when they record at least 10 hits, which they did in all three games against the Broncos.
"We didn't try hitting any homers, we just tried hitting balls up the center of the field," head coach Rich Maloney said. "And by golly, if we didn't hit a boatload of them."
Ball State hit .423 (52-123) with 12 doubles and six home runs against Western Michigan after hitting just .207 with nine doubles and three home runs during the losing streak.
"Our pitchers, for the first 20 games of the year, carried us," Maloney said after Saturday's doubleheader. "So you've got to win some games by the offense, you've got to win some games by your pitching, you've got to win some games a combination of both. So this day, thankfully the hitters were on."
The Cardinals are still tied for last in the Mid-American Conference West Division, but are just one game out of eighth place (only the top eight teams qualify for the MAC Tournament). With 15 conference games yet to be played, Maloney said the sweep puts the team in a better position moving forward.
"It puts you back into the playoff race," Maloney said. "We were at the bottom so we have to climb our way back. This was a good start for us."
Ball State hosts Valparaiso (12-17, 3-6 Horizon League) 3 p.m. Tuesday at Ball Diamond.