BASEBALL: Walk off wins fuels Ball State’s weekend sweep

The Daily News

Senior Billy Wellman swings at a pitch against Eastern Michigan during a game on April 22, 2012. Wellman had a walk-off hit in the game against IPFW. DN FILE PHOTO DYLAN BUELL
Senior Billy Wellman swings at a pitch against Eastern Michigan during a game on April 22, 2012. Wellman had a walk-off hit in the game against IPFW. DN FILE PHOTO DYLAN BUELL

Ball State stood tied with IPFW 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth Friday afternoon. With sophomore Jarrett James on third, senior Dominick Catanzarite stepped to the plate.

Catanzartie and James ran a risky play. Catanzartie bunted, and James sprinted home, beating the throw and scoring to get the 3-2 win off the play known as the suicide squeeze.

Just a day later, James stood at third base in the bottom of the ninth again. This time, junior Billy Wellman singled and brought James across home plate for the Cardinals’ second walk-off win in 24 hours.

This season, Ball State coach Rich Maloney has advocated to his team that one of the keys to victory was getting the timely hit each game.

To him, that makes two walk-off wins this weekend against IPFW even sweeter.

Ball State swept IPFW and Taylor University in its four game series, increasing its record to 10-8 on the season.

“Having contributions from a lot of different people was pretty important,” Maloney said. “That’s what it’s going to take. A team effort and everyone executing, just like we’ve been able to do.”

Just a few weeks ago, Ball State was in a similar situation against both Ohio State and Coastal Carolina. Leading in both games, Ball State failed to tack on additional runs.

They lost both games, a stark contrast to the big plays they produced this previous weekend. 

Maloney believes the close losses may have taught his players how to handle intense pressure in the future.

“I think the more you’re in those games, the better chance you’ll have a positive result,” Maloney said. “The more you play in those, the more you’re confident and relaxed, and that leads to success.”

Maloney stressed the weekends walk-off wins were huge for his team’s confidence. He said for a team that hasn’t had much winning, being able to experience it is a great feeling. Once a team learns what it feels like to win, they don’t want to go back to how losing feels. 

Having two seasons consisting of a combined 29-100 record gives players a lot more negative feelings then positive ones.

“To see the team celebrating the two walk-off wins was just huge,” Maloney said. “Huge for our team building and it’s huge to win close games like that. It was excellent.”

Maloney said a lot of players have stepped up on offense since he saw them for the first time last fall.

Wellman stuck out to him, saying that he’s made a number of clutch plays, including his game winning RBI on Saturday.

Maloney said although he loves the teamwork on the field and in the clubhouse, his players don’t play as individuals, but as a collective unit.

That can translate into more wins as the season progresses. 

Players that value the team more than themselves usually win more because playing unselfishly can put the team in more opportunities to score.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who are very competitive and want to win badly for Ball State,” Maloney said. “They’re just finding ways and learning how to win, and they like it.”

With just one game remaining before heading into conference play, Maloney said he hopes the confidence built up this weekend continues against Butler on Wednesday, then Akron this weekend.

With the entire starting lineup contributing to the wins, it’s hard for opposing teams to find a player to focus on stopping to halt the Cardinals offense. They can’t just focus on one player, they have to focus on the entire team.

Although there might be a little more focus on James, especially if he’s standing on third in the bottom of the ninth.


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