For the first time this season, the Ball State men’s baseball team finished a game on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
“It was unfortunate we weren’t able to pull it out,” Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. “The guys played hard; we just missed out on a few opportunities we had. … To Dayton’s credit, they battled and found a way to win the game.”
Monday’s contest marked the final game in Spartanburg, S.C., for the Cardinals and was the team’s fourth game in three days.
The first two innings proved to be uneventful, as Cardinal’s senior starter Clay Manering and Dayton’s Charlie Dant allowed only one runner between them to reach base.
Ball State’s offense came alive in the top half of the third, when singles by sophomore catcher Sam Tidaback, freshman shortstop Alex Maloney and sophomore second baseman Ryan Spaulding loaded the bases for senior right fielder Sean Godfrey. Godfrey came through, ripping a double to left field to make the score 2-0 and to give Godfrey his fourth and fifth RBIs of the season.
The score remained at 2-0 through the fifth, as Manering continued his strong pitching performance and kept the Flyers from getting on the board. He ran into trouble in the sixth, however, as three consecutive hitters reached base for Dayton. With the score 2-1 and runners on second and third for the Flyers, the coach decided it was time to go to his bullpen and brought in senior right hander Tyler Jordan.
Jordan, however, was unable to get Ball State back to the dugout with the lead, as back-to-back doubles by Dayton gave the Flyers a 4-2 edge heading into the final three innings.
After being retired 1-2-3 in its half of the seventh, it looked as if the game might slip away from the Cardinals when the Flyers loaded the bases with only one out in the bottom of the inning. Senior left hander Chris Lovejoy, who had just entered the game for Ball State, made sure the score did not get out of hand by recording back-to-back strikeouts to leave the bases loaded.
The Cardinals crept one run closer in the eighth, when junior Brandon Estep’s pinch-hit home run down the left field line made the score 4-3, already Estep’s second home run on the season.
For a moment, it looked as if Ball State would add another come from behind win to the early season résumé when Godfrey led off the ninth inning with a single to right center and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Dayton’s Bryce Lahrman closed the door on a comeback after that, retiring the next three hitters for a 4-3 victory.
Dant picked up the win for Dayton, while Manering took the loss for Ball State.
The loss dropped the Cardinals to 3-1 for the year, but Rich Maloney wasn’t discouraged.
“Anytime you’re 3-1, that’s solid,” he said. “We look forward to getting back home and learn from some of the things we didn’t do as well and stay positive. We did so many things well that there’s a lot to be excited about.”