With the tying run at the plate for Middle Tennessee State and starting pitcher Cal Bowling tiring in the eighth inning, coach Alex Marconi had a choice to make. Should he go to his bullpen, which had been inconsistent this season, or stick with Bowling even as his pitch count steadily climbed?
Ultimately, Marconi did neither. He called on right-hander Chris Marangon, who had been scheduled to start Saturday. Marangon got the final five outs of Friday's game, earning his first career save and giving Ball State a 5-4 victory in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Cardinals (3-7).
The bullpen was a familiar place for Marangon. In the first three weeks of the season, he had made three relief appearances and become Ball State's most dependable reliever. That status had, in turn, earned him a promotion to the rotation this weekend, replacing the struggling Nestor Bautista.
But with Friday's game hanging in the balance, Marconi couldn't resist the temptation to use Marangon. He entered the game with one on and one out, but quickly retired the next two batters to end the eighth inning.
The ninth wasn't quite so easy for Marangon, a junior college transfer. Trent Miller popped up in foul ground to start the inning, but first baseman Cody Campbell dropped it. Miller made the most of his second chance, singling up the middle. Johnny Thomas followed with a double giving the Blue Raiders runners on second and third with no outs.
Marangon settled down and was able to get out of the jam with only one run scoring. Three fly outs later – including a sacrifice fly from Matthew Drake – and Ball State was celebrating its third victory of the season.
Bowling (2-0) once again turned in a solid start. He allowed three runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings and struck out six. Ball State's hitters did just enough to make sure he won his second straight start.
The Cardinals scored their first run when T.J. Weir drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the third inning to bring home Kirby Campbell. Weir would drive in Ball State's next two runs with a bases-loaded single in the fifth inning. Both innings could have been bigger for the Cardinals, but they left the bases loaded each time.
Still, Ball State was able to scratch out a run in the sixth and seventh inning, giving Bowling and Marangon just enough insurance. The Cardinals had 11 hits Friday and all nine starters had at least one hit.
Ball State and Middle Tennessee State will continue their three-game series Saturday at 3 p.m. Marconi said Weir, who had been slated to start Sunday, will take the hill for the Cardinals.