Ball State baseball closed out its eight-game spring break road trip with a three-game sweep over Western Carolina (1-14). The Cardinals (8-7) outscored the Catamounts 36-20 in the series.
Ball State scored 27 of those runs in Friday's doubleheader where the team outscored Western Carolina 7-4 and 20-8. In a performance at the plate that seemed to spread through the team in all three meetings, Ball State head coach Rich Maloney credits the sweep to the offense.
"We've struggled up to this point and our offense has been very inconsistent," Maloney said. "We worked diligently on hitting the ball up the middle and the other way and the guys' hard work finally paid off. We started getting some hits and once a few of them started getting hits, it started spreading like a wildfire."
The Cardinals took the first game against the Catamounts 7-4 followed by an offensive breakout in the second game behind senior outfielder Jeff Riedel's performance at the plate. Riedel tied an NCAA Division I record in the second game with five doubles. From Cookeville, Tennessee, Riedel tied the national mark with a two-run double in the top of the seventh inning. He became the seventh Division I player to register five doubles as he finished the game 5-for-6 with six RBIs and three runs scored.
"I had no idea it was a record, I just knew he was having one heck of a day," Maloney said. "I don't think anyone realized it or talked about it being a record. I doubt he even knew it was going to tie the record until we told him after the game. It was an incredible thing. He had two huge days for us and I think it sparked our team."
Sparked by the offensive rhythm added to the team, fellow senior Seth Freed had a day at the plate in the second contest of the day as well. The infielder recorded a pair of home runs for a personal high of five RBIs on the game.
Sophomore Noah Powell, who was in the number nine spot for the Cardinals, tied a record of his own. With five scored runs, the shortstop equaled a Ball State record becoming the 14th Cardinal to score five times in a game and the first to do so since Alex Maloney hit the mark in 2016 against Western Michigan.
The Cardinals locked down the second game early with a 7-0 lead after a six-run third inning. Freshman Rhett Wintner had a pinch-hit base-clearing double to keep the inning going alive for next batter freshman Drey Jameson, who recorded his first collegiate home run to make it 6-0. Junior William Baker closed the inning with an RBI single to make it a seven-run lead. The Cardinals would go on to win the game 9-8.
Ball State recorded a pair of season highs in 20 runs and 16 hits in the second game. After the offensive performances Maloney saw from his team over the weekend, he can only hope his team can bring the momentum back to Indiana.
"I think it's real important to stay on our plan," Maloney said. "I think it's one thing to teach something and it's another thing to get everyone on board staying consistent. What we need from offense and pitching is consistency. The one thing that has been consistent is our defense. It's been solid and that's been encouraging."
The Cardinals' bats weren't the only thing that gave them momentum that they hope to bring back. After sophomore right-hander John Baker recorded six strike outs and scattered seven hits in a seven-inning complete game to mark the first of his collegiate career, Maloney is pleased with his performance and hopes it leads to a trend on the mound.
"John Baker gave us two quality starts which was something we desperately needed," he said. "He's definitely our best pitcher and there's no doubt about it. We're happy for John and the lift he's given our ball club without question."
In those seven innings of work, Baker (2-1) allowed four earned runs and just two walks. On the season, Baker holds a 4.48 ERA and boasts 35 strike outs and just six walks in 23.1 innings of work.
With the spring break trip under its belt, Ball State will return to Indiana to face an instate foe in Butler on Wednesday. The team will then host Dayton for its home opener in a three-game weekend series. Until then, the team will continue to improve in spots where Maloney deems it necessary.
"The biggest thing we have to work on is two things," Maloney said. "From an offensive standpoint, you have to strike out less. We have to get under seven times a game and when we do that, we're pretty successful. From a pitching standpoint, we need to get closer to three walks a game instead of around six. Those are very significant improvements that we need to make as a team if we want to be a major player in the MAC this year."