BJ Butler pitches the ball toward home plate at the game against Kent State on March 24 in First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Grace Hollars // DN
RECAP: Ball State baseball drops both halves of doubleheader against Ohio
Ball State baseball's losing streak extended to seven games after the Cardinals dropped both legs of Saturday's doubleheader against Ohio, 6-4 and 7-4.
Head coach Rich Maloney, though, said he's still confident the streak will end soon.
"I just see a team that's trying really hard, that's giving great effort, and that's just not getting the result," Maloney said. "It just seems like no matter what we try, it doesn't go our way. It's like everything that could be against you seems to be against you, at least in this moment."
Ball State statistics (Game 1)
Left on base: 3
L — BJ Butler (2-4, 1.97 ERA)
Ohio statistics (Game 1)
Left on base: 2
W — Cory Blessing (2-1, 1.35 ERA)
S — Jake Roehn (5 saves, 3-1, 1.53 ERA)
Ball State statistics (Game 2)
Left on base: 8
L — Evan Marquardt (2-4, 4.50 ERA)
Ohio Statistics (Game 2)
W — Tom Colletti (2-1, 2.86 ERA)
S — Jake Rudnicki (1 save, 0-2, 2.00 ERA)
In the top of the eighth inning of the first game, Ball State (11-16, 0-5 MAC) led 4-3 when Ohio sophomore first baseman Rudy Rott stepped into the box against senior right-handed pitcher BJ Butler with runners on first and second.
Rott connected with the 0-2 pitch and shot a hard ground ball to the right side of the infield. Senior first baseman Caleb Stayton dove, but the ball glanced off his glove and bounced into right field.
Bobcats senior Matt Vakuda scored on the play to tie the game, and Ohio (13-12, 2-0 MAC) took the 5-4 lead when junior designated hitter Michael Klein singled through the left side in the next at-bat.
"That's the way it's been for this losing streak," Maloney said. "We've just go to keep grinding it out. I still believe in this team, I'm not changing my tune. I believe at some point these guys will turn it around, but we're in a dogfight right now, no question."
Butler (2-4, 1.97 ERA) allowed six runs (five earned) in the complete-game loss. He struck out four batters against one walk and gave up eight hits.
Ball State trailed 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning when junior third baseman Alex Maloney stepped with runners on first and second and junior right-handed pitcher Cory Blessing on the mound for Ohio.
Alex Maloney worked a 3-1 count and hit a line drive to centerfield. Sophomore centerfielder Devon Garcia, however, missed the ball on a rare Ohio error — the Bobcats entered the weekend third in the nation with a .985 fielding percentage.
All three runs scored on the little-league-style home run, though it was officially ruled an RBI single with one runner and Alex Maloney scoring on the error. Alex Maloney finished 2-4 with a run and an RBI.
Blessing (2-1, 1.35 ERA) was credited with the win after allowing one unearned run (the first two runners of the inning were inherited from starter Gerry Salisbury, a junior lefty) in three innings. Junior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn got his fifth save of the year after pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
Cardinals junior designated hitter Colin Brockhouse hit a home run in the bottom of the third inning. Brockhouse, also a pitcher with a 1.04 ERA in 17.0 innings, finished 2-3 with a walk, a run and an RBI in his first three at-bats of the season.
"We're trying to get our best lineup that we can out there," Rich Maloney said. "Brockhouse is a great athlete and we're trying anything that we know. We're trying to think of everything with the personnel we have to do the best that we can. It's certainly not lack of effort, it's just a timely hit here, a pitch here, a play here."
Ball State jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings in the second game, but Ohio scored five in the top of the sixth to erase the lead.
Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Evan Marquardt (2-4, 4.50 ERA) struck out six batters in five innings, but was pulled after loading the bases in the sixth with no outs and Ball State leading 4-2.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher T.J. Baker (0-0, 3.44 ERA) took over, striking out the first batter he faced before walking a pair of Ohio batters to tie the game.
The second walk, though, came on a pitch close to the outside corner against the left-handed Rott on a full count. The Cardinals chirped at home plate umpire Jon Milesky from the dugout as Rott jogged to first.
"We all thought it was a strike, obviously, and it was a game-changer," Rich Maloney said "So if you really think about that moment, if that call goes our way the momentum shifts back to us. That would've been two outs, instead it's walked in the second run."
Bobcats senior second baseman Ty Black then hit a 2-RBI double to give Ohio the 6-4 lead. Junior catcher Nick Bredeson followed with an RBI single for the final 7-4 margin. Marquardt was credited with the loss after allowing five runs (all earned) and eight hits in five innings.
Ball State had a chance in the the bottom of the eighth inning when Stayton hit a double down the left-field line that bounced into the bullpen with Alex Maloney on first. The ground-rule double put runners on second and third with no outs.
But after a strikeout by Brockhouse and a line out to second base by senior centerfielder Matt Eppers, Rich Maloney was ejected by Milesky for arguing balls and strikes during junior second baseman Seth Freed's at-bat. Freed struck out to end the inning.
Rich Maloney said the ejection was his frustration boiling over from calls throughout the day — especially the call on the game-tying bases-loaded walk in the sixth.
"I don't take pride in that, but the reality of it is the team's got to know you're fighting for them," Rich Maloney said. "And I believe in this team. I'm not giving up on this team at all, and I believe there's a lot of season to be had here."
The Cardinals host the Bobcats at 1 p.m. Sunday in the series finale.