BASEBALL: Ball State downs in-state rival Indiana State
Cardinals gather momentum for looming MAC showdown
The longest homestand of the year for Ball State University finished with a momentum building 12-5 victory against Indiana State University.
The Cardinals (17-19) scored six runs in the first two innings, and Brad Piatt (1-3) gave the team his best start of the season for the win. Ball State will take its latest success on the road to Butler University today, but more importantly, to Central Michigan University this weekend. The Chippewas lead the Cardinals by a game in the Mid-American Conference.
"It's a big momentum [boost] for us before we go on the road," right fielder Blake Beemer said. "We have Butler, and then after that we all know we have Central Michigan. So we're going to go take one from Butler at their place [Wednesday] and then we'll be ready for Central. We're all excited for it."
Ball State's confidence stems from their 4-1 record in the weeklong homestand that was capped with its best win of the set. Indiana State already has 23 wins, and coming into Tuesday had a top-100 RPI according to boydsworld.com
"Indiana State is a good ball club," coach Greg Beals said. "Our guys came out and responded very well to the challenge today."
The Sycamores jumped to an early 1-0 lead against Piatt when left fielder Kyle Burnam hit his first home run of the year. Beals said the Cardinals made a mistake on Burnam's scouting report.
"They don't hit home runs and that guy doesn't hit home runs," he said. "We pitched in, which is what our game plan was. As it turns out, our game plan was wrong for that guy."
Ball State quickly reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning by taking advantage of a wild play. Beemer tried to go from first to third on designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek's single, drawing a throw. The freshman slid in safely, but third base umpire Jeff Curtis gave a confusing call, signaling out and saying safe.
Third baseman Luke Fieser then attempted to cut Vitek down as he tried to advance to second. Fieser's throw went into the outfield, allowing Beemer to score and Vitek to advance to third.
"I was trying to get to third so [Zach] Dygert could hit me in, and I slid in safely," Beemer said. "The next thing I knew, coach was telling me to go home."
Ball State would add a more conventional four runs in the second inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with three consecutive singles from the bottom of the order, and shortstop T.J. Baumet cleared the bases with a double. He would later score on an error.
"It set everything up," Beals said. "We're sitting with the bases loaded and the top of the order coming up. The top of the order did what they do."
With a five-run lead in hand, Piatt went to work to make sure it stayed that way.
"Once they got the four runs, putting a zero on the board that next inning was big just because it keeps the momentum our way," he said. "I was able to do that and make the game a lot easier, momentumwise."
Though Indiana State cut the deficit to one run in the seventh inning, Ball State was able to respond with the final six runs of the game. First baseman Ian Nielsen and left fielder Kory Benbow each knocked two-RBI hits in the seventh, and Vitek drove in a pair of runs with a triple in the eighth.
"We had the bookend," Beals said. "We got six runs in the first two and six runs in the last two."