Ball State moves past Kent State with a 5-1 victory in MAC opener

<p>Ball State's Will Baker hits the ball during the game against Dayton March 18, 2018, at Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Ballpark Complex. The hit ended up being a foul ball. <strong>Briana Hale, DN</strong></p>

Ball State's Will Baker hits the ball during the game against Dayton March 18, 2018, at Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Ballpark Complex. The hit ended up being a foul ball. Briana Hale, DN

Ball State baseball traveled to Kent State Friday afternoon to play the first game of a three-game rivalry series to open up Mid-American Conference play. 

Between sophomore Noah Powell's two-run homerun and sophomore John Baker's performance on the pitcher's mound, Ball State (11-10, 1-0 MAC) walked away with the 5-1 victory over Kent State (10-7, 0-1 MAC). 

"I thought our kids played very lose and confident and we got a great pitching performance from John Baker and then we got two timely homeruns," head coach Rich Maloney said. "Noah Powell was outstanding and had a big day today."

In his second consecutive start, Baker (3-2) was on the mound through the eighth inning. In those 8.0 innings of work, Baker allowed the Golden Flashes to score their only run of the game in the second inning and allowed only two hits in the remaining six innings. Baker finished with six strikeouts to put him at 55 on the season. 

"I asked the guys before the game today and said, 'whos star is going to shine today?' Sometimes someone has to stand out," Maloney said. "If you're going to beat a good team, someone has to do something that stands out and Noah Powell did that for us today along with Baker. Those were the two real hero's of the game."

Powell sparked the offense for the Cardinals in the top of the second inning when he sent a ball over the fence to the opposite field. The two-run homerun marked the first of Powell's collegiate career and gave Ball State an early 2-0 lead. 

After Kent State's single run in the bottom half of the second inning, it became a pitcher's duel up to the seventh inning as each pitcher allowed no runs to cross the plate. 

However, it was Powell that came through again, this time with a two-out RBI single to bring in junior William Baker to extend Ball State's lead, 3-1. Powell finished the game 2-4 with a home run and three RBIs. 

Senior Colin Brockhouse tacked on a pair of runs with a two-run shot to right field to make it 5-1 in the eighth inning. Brockhouse now leads the team with six homeruns on the season. 

Kent State's Connor Wollersheim picked up the loss on the mound to move him to 1-1 on the season. The left-handed junior gave up three runs on three hits in 6.0 innings of work. 

"I just liked the way our guys were really lose today and they played well, played confidently and we definitely hit the ball better than they did today," Maloney said. "We had some nice outs too. It was definitely our day today, but tomorrow's a new day."

Ball State and Kent State will battle it out again in the second game of the three-game series tomorrow afternoon. Last year's MAC Pitcher of the Year will be on the mound for the Golden Flashes in the form of Joey Murray. 

"We're going to be facing the pitcher of the year from last year and there will be a lot of pro guys there to watch the kid pitch," Maloney said. "He's a solid pitcher and a true prospect, so we're going to have to fight and claw. When you're facing a really food pitcher, you get limited opportunities and you have to make the most of those opportunities. Timely hits are going to be critical to get another win tomorrow."

First pitch of tomorrow's game is slated for 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Kent, Ohio.

Contact Kara Biernat with comments at or on Twitter at @karabiernat.