After a seventh inning that served as the decision maker of the game, Ball State baseball dropped to .500 on the season after a 6-2 loss to Butler this afternoon.
Ball State (8-8) traveled to Butler (13-2) to play its first game of the season in Indiana and gave up a handful of opportunities that the Bulldogs took full advantage of.
“The thing that was disappointing was that we got a couple opportunities on defense and didn’t get them,” Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. “We didn’t execute on a couple double play balls that we had and those extend innings and create more opportunities for [Butler].”
In a tight game through majority of the contest, Butler’s four-run seventh inning was fueled by a pair of defensive errors by Ball State that allowed the 2-2 tie to break.
Butler freshman Andy Bennett sparked the rally with a leadoff walk, followed by senior Tyler Houston’s single to left field that put him on base and Bennett in scoring position. Senior Gehrig Parker kept the rally intact reaching on a bunt in an attempt to move the runners up 90 feet. However, Houston found second base, but was nailed down by Ball State catcher Chase Sebby for an out at third base.
Redshirt senior for the Bulldogs Michael Hartnagel set up a pair of baserunners with a single to left and a pair of errors by the Cardinal defense allowed the Bulldogs to grab four runs off three hits and two errors to round out the inning.
“The defense and the walks were the nemesis and [Butler] took advantage of those mistakes,” Maloney said. “We gave it to them and that’s the hardest thing. The hard thing to swallow is when you feel like you had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s just one of those games and it’s part of the journey. You just have to do a better job of taking care of the baseball and throwing strikes.”
Junior right hander Nick Floyd started on the mound for the Cardinals. In 5.1 innings of work, he gave up six hits, two earned runs, three walks, while recording three strike outs. Sophomore righty Nolan Gazouski came in for 1.2 innings and gave up three hits, four runs, one of which was earned and struck out three.
Freshman right hander Drey Jameson closed out the last inning for the Cardinals, recording one walk in the full inning.
Overall, Ball State walked seven and struck out six. This concept is something Maloney has been working to better his team at all season.
“I think that was a key and I think we still walked seven and struck out six,” Maloney said. “You can’t walk seven guys and expect to win in a close game. We have to continue to do that and until we clean that up, we’re always going to be 50-50 and that’s how it’s going to.”
Although games like this one are tough to lose, Ball State’s offensive performance was not one to dwell on. Beyond looking at the stat sheet, the Cardinals did in fact hit the ball hard, but struggled to find a hole.
“I thought we had some good, loud outs and we had some liners at the wrong time that didn’t fall in and that’s just baseball,” Maloney said. “As far as hitting foes, I think we swung the bats pretty well. I think we got nine or ten hits and about four or five lineouts. You can’t really do much about that.”
Senior Colin Brockhouse, redshirt junior Zach Milam and redshirt senior Jeff Riedel each had two hits to lead the Cardinals at the plate, and Brockhouse and Riedel combined for the only two runs Ball State scored.
“The guys understand it’s a long season, but that’s baseball,” Maloney said. “Some days you hit them right at guys and some days you find holes. Our philosophy is that if you hit the ball hard, you win, rather than looking at your average. If you have a day where you hit it hard and you have nothing to show for it and start dwelling on it, you can’t really do much more than hit the ball hard.”
Ball State will return to Muncie for its home opener against Dayton on Friday at 3 p.m. The Cardinals will finish the four-game series with the Flyers over the weekend.
Contact Kara Biernat with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter at @karabiernat.