RECAP: Big innings cost Ball State baseball in loss to Western Carolina
Ball State baseball couldn't overcome a rough fourth inning in its 10-2 loss to Western Carolina Friday.
With a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth, the Cardinals (27-23, 12-9 MAC) got into a one-out jam when the Catamounts (25-24, 13-8 Southern Conference) loaded the bases on a pair of walks and an infield single.
Junior right-handed pitcher Colin Brockhouse forced weak contact from junior third baseman Cameron Blaquiere, but the ball found a hole on the right side of the infield for an RBI single. Senior shortstop Brett Pope followed with a line drive over second base for another RBI before Brockhouse was replaced by redshirt sophomore Evan Marquardt.
Left on base: 10
L — Colin Brockhouse (3-2)
Left on base: 12
W — Bryan Sammons (7-3)
Marquardt then fielded a high chopper down the first baseline from freshman right fielder Andrew Robinson, but his throw hit Robinson in the back and bounced into shallow right field as two more runs scored.
Senior centerfielder Bryson Bowman followed with an RBI double down the right-field line to knock in the fifth and final run of the inning.
"The big inning will always kill you, especially with the wind blowing in," assistant coach Scott French said. "We gave up five and three, and we consider three or more a big inning and they had two of those today."
Western Carolina's other big inning came after the game was well in hand, adding added three more runs in the top of the ninth to make it 10-2.
Ball State's pitchers entered the game averaging more than twice as many strikeouts (8.72 strikeouts per nine innings) as walks (4.23 walks per nine innings), but recorded just five strikeouts and eight walks against Western Carolina.
"I felt pretty good, I just felt disconnected," Brockhouse said. "Mechanically I was off a little [with] a little twist there."
Brockhouse (3-2, 3.69 ERA) was credited with the loss after allowing six runs, all earned, in 3.1 innings with three walks and one strikeouts.
Marquardt (2-4, 5.57 ERA) settled down after allowing the inherited runners to score in the fourth, allowing one run in 4.2 innings with four strikeouts and four walks.
The Catamounts scored 10 runs on 16 hits but Bowman's fourth-inning double was their only extra-base hit.
"They didn't really hit the ball hard very much; they found some holes," Brockhouse said. "But I've got to tip my hat to them because they had really good approaches, were quiet with their feet and when they got to two strikes they were a really tough out."
The Cardinals, however, didn't have any extra-base hits.
"We hit a couple at 'em balls that the wind affected, but really not enough hard contact today to get more runs out of it," French said. "Just one of those days."
It didn't help that Western Carolina starting pitcher Bryan Sammons (7-3, 3.19 ERA), a senior lefty, allowed just two runs (one earned) in eight innings. He also recorded four strikeouts.
"He threw a lot of strikes, I know that," French said. "He had four walks, but he kind of scattered them a little bit. He worked fairly quick and he was ahead in the count for the most part."
French filled in for head coach Rich Maloney, who missed the game with pneumonia. Senior first baseman Caleb Stayton went 2-4 and said Maloney's absence didn't have a significant impact.
"Obviously it's sad when [Maloney's] not feeling well, and we've been praying for him, and we like when he's out here," Stayton said. "But having him not here there's no excuse for us not playing well. He's done everything that he needs to do."
Maloney also missed Wednesday's 14-4 win at Ohio State. French said he expects the head coach to return soon.
"They're not letting him out of the hospital until he breaks his fever," French said.
Saturday's game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Ball Diamond. French said freshman John Baker (5-2, 3.31 ERA) will start on the mound.
"We hope Johnny Baker is on his game tomorrow, and then we just need some more energy as a team," French said.