Leading 3-2 going into the top of the ninth, Ball State was in position to win its second straight series, this time over Central Michigan.
Roughly forty minutes later, the baseball team watched Cody Campbell fly out to right field, falling to Central Michigan 6-3 and losing the series 2-1.
“We were right there to win it, one pitch if you think about it,” coach Rich Maloney said. “We didn’t execute when we had our opportunities and we didn’t get the job done.”
For the third straight game, Ball State jumped out early on Central Michigan in the first inning. Blake Beemer was hit by a pitch and then advanced to third on Campbell’s single to right. Billy Wellman hit a hard groundball through the hole between third and shortstop, bringing Beemer home for the first run of the game.
A wild pitch brought Campbell home, extending Ball State lead to 2-0 at the end of the first.
Central Michigan threatened in the top of the third. After Ball State’s T.J. Weir struck out the first two batters, two singles put runners on first and third. With a full count to Central Michigan’s Pat MacKenzie, Weir threw a backdoor curveball that MacKenzie swung and missed, ending the threat.
Ball State loaded the bases in the bottom of the third on three walks, and Central Michigan’s starter Rick Dodridge left the game with an apparent injury. Kevin Schlotter pinch hit for freshman Sam Tidaback, but grounded out to end the inning without any damage done.
“It really hurt that we couldn’t put any runs on the board [in the third inning] after we loaded them up there,” Maloney said. “Instead, we came up with nothing when we could have put a number on the scoreboard.”
Jordan Adams for Central Michigan cut the lead to one in the top of the fourth, rocketing a home run over the fence to left center. After a walk, Central Michigan stole second and came home on a single to left field to tie the game at two.
Ball State took the lead back in the bottom of the seventh when Sean Godfrey unleashed on a pitch to deep left field over the outfielder’s head, scoring Wes Winkle to make the score 3-2.
Ball State drew a walk to load the bases, but couldn’t bring any more runs in, ending an inning that could have blown the game wide open.
“Momentum could have really been on our side, but it fell apart,” Maloney said. “We battled hard, but they came up with the big hit in the right moment, that’s the story of the game.”
The game was tied in the top of the ninth, when Joe Houlihan hit a bloop single into center, bringing in a Central Michigan run and tying it at three. Central Michigan loaded the bases later in the inning and knocked a double to deep right to clear the bases, giving the visitors the lead 6-3 that wouldn’t be relinquished.
Ball State was sent down in order in the bottom of the ninth with no chance of a rally.
The loss sent Ball State to 5-7 in conference play and ninth in the overall Mid-American Conference standings.
“We have to learn how to win, that’s part of the journey,” Maloney said. “We’ve won some and we’ve lost some; we just haven’t gotten over the hump.”