An early Ball State University lead on the road at No. 10 University of Louisville evaporated as the hosts scored four times in the fourth and fifth inning.
Louisville staved off a Ball State (5-12) rally for an 11-7 victory in the opening game of the three-game series. Starting pitcher Brad Piatt (0-2) took the loss after allowing five runs on six hits in four innings. Louisville ace Thomas Royse (4-0) had his worst start of the year, but picked up the win. The right-hander allowed seven runs in 6 2/3 innings, raising his ERA a full run from 0.74 to 1.74.
Ball State started quickly against Royse, as shortstop T.J. Baumet led off the game with a double. He would score on second baseman Kolbrin Vitek's flare up the middle.
Louisville (16-1) tied the game in the second inning, but first baseman Ian Nielsen put Ball State back in front with a solo home run. In the bottom half of the inning, Louisville solved Piatt.
The hosts sent eight batters to the plate and scored four runs. Two of the runs came on back-to-back home runs to lead off the inning from designated hitter Ryan Wright and third baseman Phil Wunderlich.
After Ball State got one run back, Louisville teed off on reliever Scott Brothers. Once again it sent eight hitters to the plate, scoring four runs. Wunderlich went deep again, and right fielder Stewart Ijames added a two-run home run.
It appeared Louisville was fully in control of the game, but Ball State recaptured the momentum with a four-run seventh inning. Vitek, catcher Zach Dygert and Nielsen each drove in a run to bring the deficit to 9-7 and chase Royse from the game.
During the rally, third baseman Stephen Claypool left the game with an ankle injury.
The freshman was attempting to go from first to third on Baumet's single, but stumbled going around second. He got back to the bag safely, but had to be replaced by Mitch Widau.
Claypool is listed as day-to-day.
Louisville threatened in the seventh, but three Ball State pitchers combined to leave the bases loaded. They wouldn't be as lucky in the eighth, and Louisville added two insurance runs to hold on to the victory.
Reliever Neil Holland pitched the final two innings, retiring five straight to end the game and earn his fourth save.
Vitek and Nielsen each had two hits and two RBI for Ball State, but Vitek had an opportunity to do even more damage. With the bases loaded and just one out in the fifth inning, the junior struck out chasing a slider off the plate. Dygert flied out to end the inning, and Louisville escaped a huge jam unscathed.
The two teams will continue the series today at 1 p.m. It is possible the two coaches will decide to move Sunday's game to today because of impending weather.
Check back with The Ball State Daily News for any changes in the schedule for this weekend's series.