With Jarrett James on second with just one out, Ball State’s baseball team was looking to tie the game at six against Miami of Ohio, and then win a crucial series to help its potential playoff positioning.
It wasn’t meant to be for the Cardinals, as Dominick Catanzarite pinch hit for Elbert Devarie but struck out, and Wes Winkle popped up to the short stop to end the rally.
For Ball State, it was its fourth series loss of the season out of five, and the team dropped to 6-9 in the Mid-American Conference, fourth in the MAC West.
“At some point we have to move from close ones to getting over the top,” Ball State coach Rich Maloney said. “We haven’t been able to do it on a daily basis yet, we haven’t been able to gather enough steam to propel us to winning these series this year.”
Every time Ball State scored, Miami seemed to have an answer.
After Ball State’s Cody Campbell singled in the top of the first to give his team a 1-0 lead, Miami tied in the bottom of the frame when a run came home during a double play.
The Cardinals Sean Godfrey scored on a wild pitch during the fifth inning to tie the game at four. Miami regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth just minutes later after taking a walk, advancing on a wild pitch, then hitting single and double to stretch the lead to 6-4.
Godfrey had four steals, leaving an impact on Maloney’s mind.
“The way he’s played, the passion and energy he brings to the team is undeniable,” Maloney said. “He stands out on the field and it’s fun to watch, he made a few diving catches, he was really impressive.”
The lead was cut to one on a Billy Wellman RBI in the eighth, but Ball State couldn’t muster a hit after that to continue the inning, or bring James home in the ninth.
It was the same story on Friday, when Scott Baker picked up his first loss of the season, falling to 8-1, despite pitching his third straight complete game and allowing just one run off five hits, striking out eight.
Ball State had just seven hits on Friday and didn’t draw a walk, leading to its first of two, one run losses over the weekend.
Offense and pitching came together on Saturday, when Ball State won its only game of the series, 5-2. Winkle, Godfrey, Wellman and Kevin Schlotter all picked up RBI’s as Ball State scatted 12 hits across the field, while T.J. Weir picked up the win, throwing eight innings and allowing just two earned runs.
The close wins and losses may end up defining Ball State’s season. The team sits just half a game behind Toledo for the final tournament spot.
The Cardinals still have four more MAC series to be played, meaning the half-game lead means virtually nothing at this point.
Regardless of the number of games remaining, Rich Maloney isn’t likely to be happy with this team dropping the series to Miami.
“They’re still there, they’re on the cusp, just falling a hair short here and there,” Maloney said. “We just haven’t been able to finish it, and that’s the journey of learning how to do it.”
Ball State will need to start winning its MAC series’ soon if it wants to make the playoffs. That means driving home the potential game tying run when he’s on second and there’s only one out, in the bottom of the ninth.