Ball State baseball capped off the weekend achieving something it hasn't done since 2008.
With its 7-2 victory over Mid-American Conference rival Kent State (11-8, 1-2 MAC) on Sunday, Ball State (12-11, 2-1 MAC) concluded the weekend series taking two out of the three games. This is the first time since 2008 that the Cardinals have a won a series against the Golden Flashes on the road.
"It's been a long time since someone in the MAC has won a series on the road at Kent," head coach Rich Maloney said. "We played solid baseball together. Noah Powell had a huge week and we had three homeruns on the weekend. John Ricotta's homerun was just huge. That and Justin Kirkpatrick's triple to clear the bases solidified that series victory."
The Cardinals opened up the series with a 5-1 victory on Friday, dropped the second game 11-0 on Saturday and recorded a 7-2 win on Sunday.
The team had a handful of key plays contribute to the comeback victory on Sunday. The Cardinals entered the fifth inning down 2-0 before junior John Ricotta put out his first home run in a Ball State jersey to even the score at two. It wasn't until the seventh inning that the Cardinals would take the lead after senior Seth Freed hit a two-out RBI single to center field.
Ball State took full control of the game in the eighth inning when Justin Kirkpatrick hit a triple to clear the bases and give the senior three RBIs and extend the team's lead, 6-2. Freed stayed hot at the plate and picked up another RBI single to close out the eighth inning.
Kent State was unable to answer to give Ball State the 7-2 win over the reigning MAC Title holder.
"We have to grind it out," Maloney said. "We faced an outstanding pitching staff and the kids battled and battled and finally broke through in that last game. We grinded it out in the first game, but really the secret to our team is going to be timely hitting, hit quality pitches, playing solid defense and for the most part, even for half of the game on Saturday, we did those things and that was encouraging."
Junior reliever Nick Floyd (2-0) entered the game and held the Golden Flashes to just one single over the final five innings to tally his second win on the season. The righty retired 11 consecutive batters during one stretch and forced Kent State into a pair of double plays.
"We had strong starting pitching which was outstanding," Maloney said. "We had a great relief appearance by Nick Floyd and John Baker was splendid. I really like the pitching that we're throwing out there right now and I feel really confident about that group."
On the offensive side, sophomore Noah Powell finished off the series strong with two hits in the last game. Powell led Ball State at the plate with a .462 batting average (6-for-13) on the weekend. The Kent State defense also couldn't keep catcher Chase Sebby off the bases as the junior reached base four times in Sunday's game and reached home plate twice.
"I think we have to keep working really hard and competing at the plate, and the guys certainly did that," Maloney said. "If we keep doing that, I think we'll be right in the MAC race."
Kent State's Brad Hamilton served as the only bright spot as the senior catcher went 3-for-4 and recorded both of the team's RBIs.
After a pair of wins over the MAC preseason favorite Kent State, a change in schedule has left Ball State with no day off before its next contest.
Ball State has agreed to a schedule change for its non-conference road game against in-state foe Valparaiso this week. Due to unfavorable predicted weather conditions, the game that was supposed to be Tuesday is now Monday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Maloney had no problem moving the game up a day, as his team is riding a wave of momentum coming off a victorious weekend.
"They're kids, they're young and resilient and they love [playing]," Maloney said. "They didn't get a whole lot of sleep before you got on the next bus, so it's kind of like minor league baseball there, that's how it is in that world. We'll give them Tuesday off, have a good practice on Wednesday, a short practice on Thursday and then they'll be ready to battle another rival in Central Michigan. It's just the way it goes."
Ball State is expected to throw junior right-hander Evan Marquardt on the mound in today's contest against Valparaiso (7-12). The Crusaders are expected to put left-hander Josh Currier on the mound to face the Cardinals.
"He's one of our strong pitchers and it's great that we have him available for today," Maloney said. "It says a lot about how the other guys pitched this weekend. We'll let him go and hopefully have a good outing and give us a chance to win. We're trying to build momentum. It was nice to win that series, which was huge. This game doesn't have a lot of barring in the big scheme of things, other than the fact that you want to get used to winning and Valpo needs this win bad, too."
First pitch is slated for today at 4 p.m. at Emory G. Bauer Field.
Contact Kara Biernat with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @karabiernat.