Cardinals knocked out of MAC Tournament
Ball State baseball (32-26, 15-9 MAC) finished on top of the Mid-American Conference West Division for the second time in three seasons, but was bounced from the MAC Tournament after dropping its first two games.
The Cardinals were sent to the loser's bracket after a 5-1 loss to eventual tournament champion Western Michigan (22-31, 11-13 MAC) Wednesday. They were knocked out the next day with a 4-0 loss against Central Michigan (23-37, 12-12 MAC).
With neither Ball State nor East Division champion Kent State (44-14, 20-4 MAC) winning the double-elimination tournament, no division winner has won the conference tournament since 2012.
Ball State led the MAC with 378 runs scored, and its .288 batting average was second in the conference, but were limited to one run and six hits against Western Michigan.
Western Michigan left-handed pitcher Keegan Akin limited the Cardinals to one unearned run on four hits. In 7.2 innings, he struck out seven Cardinals and allowed only one walk. Akin (7-3, 1.46 ERA) has the second-best ERA in the MAC and was named tournament MVP after throwing six scoreless innings in the championship game against Kent State.
Junior right-handed pitcher BJ Butler (6-1, 1.84 ERA), normally the Cardinals' closer, started against Western Michigan. He held the Broncos to three runs (two earned) in eight innings, racking up eight strikeouts to two walks in his second start of the season.
Western Michigan scored all five of its runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Broncos third baseman Grant Miller was 3-4 in the game with a run and two RBIs.
Losing the first game meant playing an elimination game against Central Michigan at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, but the bats never woke up. Cardinal batters only managed four hits as junior Chippewa left-handed pitcher Nick Deeg struck out eight in a complete-game shutout. Deeg didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning.
Senior left-handed pitcher Matt Haro started for the Cardinals and gave up three runs in 6.1 innings on the mound with four strikeouts and four walks.
Senior second baseman Ryan Spaulding hit .232 on the season, but led Ball State with three hits in the two tournament games.
With the season over, the Major League Baseball draft looms for the Cardinals' upperclassmen June 9-11.