A sloppy start spiraled out of control for Ball State University Tuesday afternoon as it lost 11-5 at the University of Notre Dame.
The Cardinals (6-14) couldn't capitalize on a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the top of the first, as Ian Nielsen grounded into an inning-ending double play. Let up off the mat, the Fighting Irish (8-11) scored eight runs in the first two innings and never looked back.
Starting pitcher Brad Piatt (0-3) took the loss, but most of the damage was done in the second inning with reliever Michael Sandman on the mound. The freshman allowed six runs on six hits while retiring just one batter. Coach Greg Beals said Sandman left the ball up in the zone and Notre Dame was able to take advantage.
With the Mid-American Conference season set to begin Friday, Beals wanted to get work for many members of his pitching staff. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the first four pitchers all allowed at least one run before the game settled down.
"It was a disappointment," Beals said. "Our pitchers all knew they would only get an inning or two at the most, and the fact they didn't pitch sharp is disappointing."
Ball State's defense also faltered early. In the six-run second inning, shortstop T.J. Baumet rushed himself trying to turn a double play and wound up getting no outs. Center fielder Cody Elliott also committed an error in the fourth run, which led to an unearned run.
The large deficit was too much for the Cardinals to overcome.
"Especially being down 8-0 after two innings, it was disheartening," catcher Kevin Franchetti said.
Ball State had the bases loaded in both the first and third innings but was only able to score once. The Cardinals stranded at least one runner in each of the first eight innings and 11 overall.
In Ball State's upset at No. 10 University of Louisville on Saturday, it was able to get timely hitting. Beals said that was the difference in the two games.
"I was very disappointed with the offense," he said. "With the pitching we saw today, we should have been more offensive. The bats have to fight our way back into the game."
Franchetti led the Cardinals offensively. He went 2-for-4 with his first two career RBI. His first RBI came on a two-out double in the fifth, and he added a two-out triple in the seventh.
Franchetti said the RBI felt even better because of the work he has put into his swing.
"It felt good to come up big," he said. "Especially working with coach the last couple months."
For the sixth time this year, the Cardinals failed to win back-to-back games. Ball State has two days to get ready for their conference opener at Ohio University on Friday night.
With MAC play starting so soon, Beals isn't taking the loss lightly.
"It does give you some concern," Beals said. "I said we needed to play good baseball and we didn't. I would have liked to have a good game going into conference play."