Freshman pinch hitter Rhett Wintner hit a walk-off infield single in the 11th inning for Ball State, who evened up its record at 20-20 (8-8 MAC) on Friday afternoon.
Senior center fielder Colin Brockhouse hit a one-out double earlier in the inning, and third baseman Zach Milam hit a long fly ball to the wall to left center that allowed Brockhouse to tag to third, setting up the wild finish.
"I didn't know it was going to be an infield hit," Wintner said. "I thought he was going to make a throw and throw me out, but I guess he didn't take his time and make a good throw."
It was a pitching duel throughout, with both teams heading to extras deadlocked at two. The Huskies got both of their runs in the top of the second, but the Cardinals struck back with a pair in the bottom of the third.
Northern Illinois junior starting pitcher Tanner Foster lived up to his 2.52 ERA coming in, going eight innings and just giving up two earned runs on seven hits.
For the Cardinals, sophomore John Baker was just as good. Baker went 7 & 2/3 innings and gave up just five hits and the two runs in the third.
Foster was good at getting out of jams for the Huskies, as he allowed 10 baserunners over the seven innings. His eight strikeouts aided his team's defensive effort, however.
"The two runs - we kind of gave them to 'em," Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. "I think our pitchers were the stars today. Our pitchers nearly held them to a shutout."
Ball State also had chances to score in the second and eighth inning, but Northern Illinois' defense got it out of each jam in the first nine innings.
Ball State threatened in the bottom of the ninth with a baserunner but was unable to get the winning run across the plate.
The two teams will meet again at 1 p.m. Saturday for the second matchup of their three-game series.