If not to extend a five-game win streak, Friday’s game against Toledo was especially important in strengthening a hold on the Mid-American Conference-West’s No. 2 spot.
The Ball State baseball team was able to do both in a 4-0 victory over the visiting Rockets. With the win, Ball State improves to 25-20 overall and 12-10 in league play.
Sophomore pitcher Scott Baker improved to 10-1 on the season in a complete game. Baker allowed just three hits in what head coach Rich Maloney called “a great performance.”
Baker’s tenth win in the circle ties the second-best single season total in Ball State history. It was an all-around team effort that helped him secure that tenth victory, something this team has lacked at times this season.
Just two full weeks ago, the Cardinals’ record in the MAC was a modest 6-9. Behind solid pitching and great play on the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals have been able to turn things around.
“They’ve won six in a row now. Really, when they’ve had to,” Maloney said. “It’s nice to see them grow as a team.”
The Cardinals have had several players step up in key moments. On Friday, it was an impressive pair of grabs at third base by Billy Wellman.
He first caught a ball that bounced up from the dirt in front of third base just as it edged the foul line, and followed that up with a snag between second and third base that prevented a potentially dangerous hit from Toledo.
It was Wes Winkle’s diving catch at center field to cap off a solid shutout performance by the Ball State defense.
Offensively, it was a pair of home runs from T.J. Weir and Sam Tidaback. The Cardinals got things going with singles from Blake Beemer and Wellman to open the second inning.
Tidaback followed up with his second homer of the season, to give Ball State a 3-0 lead. Weir scored the team’s fourth and final run one inning later with a long ball of his own.
When asked what, if anything, the team needed to improve upon moving forward, Maloney seemed to believe that most of Ball State’s improving was behind them.
“We just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Maloney said. “We’re in a good place right now, we’re playing as a team, a lot of different guys are contributing, and we’ve really played great baseball.”
Ball State will host Toledo in the second of a three-game series on Saturday, with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.