Senior second baseman Sean Kennedy leads off the second during the Cardinals’ game against Indiana University on April 25 at Victory Field. Kennedy was thrown out at first. Paige Grider // DN
RECAP: Ball State baseball wins on Senior Day
Ball State baseball sent its seniors out with a 13-6 win over Western Carolina on Senior Day.
All four senior position players — third baseman Alex Maloney, center fielder Matt Eppers, first baseman Caleb Stayton and second baseman Sean Kennedy — recorded two hits in the game.
Kennedy also hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to reach the final score.
W – Brendan Burns (4-2)
L — Tristan Baker (4-3)
"I was reflecting back last night on my four years here and it's kind of an emotional day today," Kennedy said. "When you're a freshman you don't think this day is ever possible and now it's here I'm looking back and wondering, 'Where did the last four years go?'"
Though the seniors were celebrated before the game, a junior broke the game open in the first.
With the Cardinals (28-24, 12-9 MAC) ahead 2-0 after a pair of bases-loaded walks, shortstop Seth Freed hit a three-RBI double to left field for a 5-0 lead.
Two batters later, sophomore left fielder Roman Baisa hit another RBI double to make it 6-0 after the first inning.
"It was certainly welcomed and definitely lets your starting pitcher relax a little bit, settle in," said assistant coach Scott French, who's filling in while head coach Rich Maloney is out with pneumonia. "We knew that six, on a day like today where the wind was blowing a little bit and they're a good offensive team, that wasn't going to be it but it was a good head start, for sure."
Baisa was the ninth and final batter faced by Western Carolina (26-25, 13-8 Southern Conference) starter Tristan Baker (4-3, 6.87 ERA). The sophomore left-handed pitcher allowed six runs, all earned, in two-thirds of an inning.
Junior right-handed pitcher Brendan Burns (4-2, 3.27 ERA) got the win for Ball State after relieving senior Evan Korson (1-1, 5.40 ERA) in the fourth inning. Burns allowed just two hits and a walk in 5.1 scoreless innings.
"For my off-speed stuff, if it wasn't in the strike zone they didn't swing at it," Burns said. "So I had to really spot up on the outside, keep it knee high and rely on my defense."
Korson, a lefty, pitched 3.2 innings with three strikeouts but gave up a 3-run home run to Catamounts senior first baseman Matt Smith in the third and allowed three more runs in the fourth. He was also at the center of a controversial call in the second when he hit Western Carolina sophomore left fielder Matthew Koehler with a pitch.
Instead of awarding Koehler first base, home plate umpire Lyle Travis ruled that Koehler leaned into it, resulting in a full count. Catamounts head coach Bobby Moranda protested the call, but to no avail. Korson struck out Koehler on the next pitch to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Moranda came back out to argue when Ball State freshman catcher Erek Bolton was hit by a pitch and awarded first base.
"I thought [Travis] got both of them right," French said. "Bolton just kind of stands still — Bolton gets hit by a lot of pitches, actually — and their guy did lift his elbow a little bit."
Moranda didn't sway the umpires, and Baisa followed with his first career home run, a 2-run shot that made it 8-3. Baisa said he was happy, both to make them proud and to cut down on the ribbing he gets from Eppers.
"Matt Eppers always tells me he has infinite more home runs than me, so the last home game, that one was for him," Baisa said with a laugh. "But no, it feels good."
Ball State added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 11-6 before Kennedy's seventh-inning home run.
The Cardinals travel to Terre Haute for their next game 3 p.m. Tuesday against Indiana State.