Ninth-inning meltdown leads to Ball State baseball loss

<p>Then-sophomore John Baker pitches during the game against Dayton March 16, 2018, in Muncie. Baker pitched eight innings before Drey Jameson took over. <strong>Rebecca Slezak, DN</strong></p>

Then-sophomore John Baker pitches during the game against Dayton March 16, 2018, in Muncie. Baker pitched eight innings before Drey Jameson took over. Rebecca Slezak, DN

Ball State baseball let one slip away Friday afternoon as Bowling Green rallied to score five runs in the ninth inning, handing the Cardinals their third consecutive loss.

Coming off a 9-8 loss to Indiana on a walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th inning Wednesday, Ball State (17-19, 5-8 MAC) was looking to get back on track against Mid-American Conference foe Bowling Green (10-23, 5-6 MAC).

Like Wednesday, the bats were working early for the Cardinals. Sophomore Noah Powell scored the game’s first run after redshirt senior Jeff Riedel reached base on an error. Redshirt junior Griffin Hulecki followed with an RBI double, and senior Seth Freed subsequently drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0.

Freed would drive in Riedel again in the fifth inning on a single. A few batters later, freshman Rhett Wintner brought home Ball State’s fifth run with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly. The score would stay 5-1 until the ninth.

The Cardinals scattered 12 hits on the day, but still left 10 runners on base. Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said consistent hitting has been a problem as of late.

“We just got to get the timely hit and sometimes just need somebody to break through and do that,” Maloney said. “We have trouble getting those two-run hits that we need. We just got to keep swinging it.”

MAC strikeout leader John Baker started on the mound for the Cardinals, and through eight and a third innings pitched he was nearly untouchable, retiring 14 consecutive batters stretching from the fourth inning to the ninth. 

“[Baker] has been outstanding,” Maloney said. “He wouldn’t have let me take him out if I wanted to… They had one big, huge hit at the right moment, and that was the deal.”

It was a Dylan Dohanos single with one out in the bottom of the ninth that sparked things to go south for Baker. The Falcons would score their second run of the game on a Randy Righter double, forcing Maloney to come out for a mound visit. Baker would stay in the game, and Neil Lambert took Baker’s 118th pitch over the wall for a game-tying three-run homer.

Freshman Cody Freed was then brought in to pitch for Ball State. Bowling Green would reel off its fifth and sixth consecutive hits to walk it off 6-5.

Bowling Green’s Kody Brown shut down Ball State’s offense the last four and two-thirds innings, allowing no runs on just three hits.

Maloney said his team is close to putting it all together, but they just can’t get over the top yet.

“Losing games like that is painful, but the pains of today can be the joys of tomorrow if we survive it and get through it,” Maloney said.

Ball State will play game two of its weekend series with Bowling Green Saturday, April 21 at 1:05 p.m.

Contact Zach Piatt with comments at or on Twitter at @zachpiatt13. 


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