With his team trailing South Carolina Upstate 1-4, Sean Godfrey made his way from the on deck circle to take his familiar place on the right side of the home plate batter’s box.
The right fielder stared toward the mound, attempting to solve the Spartan hurler who had retired him with ease in his previous two at bats. It was only the top of the fifth, but with runners on the corners, a base hit would tie the score and erase what had been a three-run Cardinal deficit.
A fastball cruised into his hitting zone, but he was ready for it this time. A screaming line drive into right field split the gap, scoring both runners and giving Ball State the lead.
With his college eligibility coming to an end after the 2014 season, the senior has made it his focus to treat each at bat as his last, even in the season’s first game against South Carolina Upstate.
Sixteen games later, he’s tied for second in the nation for doubles with 12.
“There’s nothing you can really take for granted,” Godfrey said. “This could easily be the last go-around, the last time I get to do this. … [The seniors] definitely go out there every single day, every at bat and treat it like it’s the last time you get to do it.”
In his first two seasons, Godfrey’s teams struggled, compiling a 29-71 record that resulted in a coaching change.
The university chose a familiar face, reuniting with former Ball State head coach Rich Maloney. Maloney’s presence has been important to Godfrey, and he said his coach has instilled a confidence in the players that they did not have before.
In Maloney’s first season back for 2012-13, the Cardinals qualified to play in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The team would fall to Bowling Green in the tourney championship, but the experience is one that Godfrey said has kept him motivated throughout the year.
“We were so close to winning [the MAC tournament] last year,” Godfrey said. “Coming up short in that last game made us even that much more hungry this year to go back and get it.”
With a walk-off win over Northwestern, an extra inning victory over a ranked Kentucky squad and a sweep of Bowling Green in a rematch of last season’s title game, the Cardinals have grown to be a formidable opponent.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Maloney said. “I hope he can keep it going. I always think the best hitters are the guys who can hit doubles, truthfully. Guys who can drive the baseball and even though it doesn’t get out of the park all the time, the fact that they can consistently hit the ball with authority and get extra bases is huge.”
Doubles are not the only category where Godfrey has filled the statistic sheet this year, either.
He ranks first in most of the teams offensive categories, including 19 runs scored, 31 hits, 25 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Godfrey also has the team high with 25 games played, and the senior can rest assured that his name will remain penciled into the top of the Cardinal lineup.
Despite the individual success, Godfrey remains focused on team results and said personal statistics are meaningless if the team fails.
“I could go 0-for-4 and if we win, I’m going to be happy about it,” he said. “At the end of the day, all that matters is if you get a win or a loss.”
Godfrey remembers the bitter taste left in his mouth after being eliminated by Bowling Green last season, and he remembers Ball State’s poor record over his first two years.
Every time he walks up to the mound and readies himself for the pitch, it’s easy for him to focus on the task at hand.
“[A NCAA tournament run] is our goal, that’s what we shoot for,” Godfrey said. “In our locker room, we’ve got pictures of rings, we’ve got championship pictures up. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re doing this.”