The offensive breakout that started in the first inning didn't end until the eighth inning, as Ball State baseball exploded at the plate in a 13-5 victory over Valparaiso Monday afternoon.
Fueled by a stellar performance by redshirt junior Evan Marquardt (1-0) on the mound, Ball State (13-11, 2-1 MAC) combined for 13 runs off 15 hits, while Marquardt kept Valparaiso limited at the plate.
Marquardt threw a shutout in his 5.0 innings of work, while limiting Valparaiso (7-13) to just two hits to pick up his first win of the season. Marquardt recorded nine strikeouts and just one walk.
"I think it all started with Evan Marquardt today, who set the tone for the game," head coach Rich Maloney said. "He had three pitches working. His fastball was good, his slider was good and then he threw his curveball, which typically can be sometimes his best pitch, and he threw that well too. When you have all three of them working, you're going to be pretty good and it certainly showed today."
Ball State's offense showed up to support Marquardt on the mound this afternoon and were unaffected by the schedule change that eliminated the team's day off.
Scoring in seven of the nine innings played, the Cardinals wasted no time getting on the board as they took advantage of Crusader left-hander Josh Currier's control issues on the mound. Currier not only walked a pair of batters, but also hit two batters. Ball State redshirt junior Griffin Hulecki added a single to the mix to give Ball State an early 2-0 lead.
Freshman Drey Jameson led off the second inning for the Cardinals with a ground-rule double and would later come in to score after senior Colin Brockhouse reached first base on a fielding error and then stole second. Hulecki punched an RBI single through that scored redshirt senior Jeff Riedel, who reached on a walk. The pair of runs knocked out Valparaiso starter Currier, who gave up three hits and five runs, four of which were earned, in just 1.1 innings of work to get the loss.
The Cardinals exploded for three runs again in the fourth inning that started with a leadoff double down the left field line from sophomore Noah Powell. Junior catcher Chase Sebby singled to left center to move Powell to third, who would come in on junior John Ricotta's RBI groundout.
Senior shortstop Justin Kirkpatrick capped off the inning with a two-run homerun, while Riedel led off the top of the fifth with a solo shot to left field to extend Ball State's lead 9-0.
"Offensively we got a fair share of hits and it was nice to see that so many guys are contributing," Maloney said. "Kirkpatrick had a nice game following his big hit in the eighth inning against Kent, he followed that up with a three-hit game today and a homerun, so that was really nice to see."
Kirkpatrick led the Ball State roster with three hits and two RBIs, while Powell stayed hot at the plate with two hits and two RBIs. Hulecki also sat atop the leaderboard with a pair of hits, and a RBI.
Powell was named MAC Player of the Week earlier today for his recent success at the plate.
The Crusaders' offense didn't get a run on the board until sophomore left-hander Lukas Jaksich came into pitch in the seventh inning. Valparaiso's Christian Barczi hit a solo homerun to spark a rally and Jaksich went on to give up four earned runs on three hits before coming out of the game.
Freshman right-hander Cody Freed came in to get the Cardinals out of trouble, but gave up one run off two hits before ending the inning.
Ball State tacked on another run in the eighth and went on to hold Valparaiso, resulting in a final score of 13-5 in the Cardinals' favor.
"We're gaining confidence, which is huge," Maloney said. "Momentum is huge. Now we got Central who was picked second and we were picked third. It's going to be a weekend where we're going to have to battle, buckle down and find ways to win. Now we do have some momentum, so that's nice."
After four consecutive days of play, Ball State will take the rest of the week off until it returns to MAC play and hosts Central Michigan on Friday. First pitch of the three-game series is scheduled for 3 p.m. at First Merchants Ball Park.
"We have to continue doing the things that it takes to win," Maloney said. "We have to keep throwing strikes, getting the timely hit, moving runners while we have to and I'm pleased that we're doing a lot of those little things very well right now. "