Pitcher’s duel ends in loss for Ball State baseball

Ball State's baseball team faced Dayton March 18 at Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark. The Cardinals won 3-2.

Runs were hard to come by in Friday’s game between Ball State baseball (14-14, 3-4 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (9-17, 4-3 MAC) in Ypsilanti as Ball State fell, 1-0. 

Jeff Riedel started the game quickly for Ball State with a double, but the Cardinal bats were silenced the rest of the inning by Eastern Michigan’s starter Justin McMurtrey. 

Neither pitcher backed down as Ball State’s John Baker cruised through the first three innings, not allowing a baserunner. The first Eastern Michigan hit came in the bottom of the fourth when Zachary Owings notched an infield single to shortstop. 

The next Cardinal to reach base was catcher Chase Sebby when he struck out but reached first on a wild pitch. He was left on base to keep the game scoreless through five innings. 

Baker continued to cruise in the sixth for Ball State, striking out two of the three batters he faced.

“He pitched as he has all year,” coach Rich Maloney said after the game. “He did a great job attacking the hitters, and he was really in command of his pitches, especially his fast ball and slider.”

Ball State’s greatest scoring opportunity came in the seventh when Colin Brockhouse singled to right to start the inning. However, Griffin Hulecki lined into a double play to clean the bases. With two outs and nobody on base, sophomore Noah Powell singled to center to spark a two-out rally. Sebby followed him with a double, putting runners at second and third. McMurtrey worked out of the jam by forcing John Ricotta to fly out and end the threat. 

Eastern Michigan applied pressure in the bottom of the frame, but Baker capitalized by stranding a runner. 

McMurtrey went three up, three down in the eighth before his Eagles finally put the first run of the game on the board in the bottom of the inning.

Kolton Schenker singled to start the inning and advanced to second due to a throwing error before Baker struck out the next two batters. With two down, Eli Gora hit a double down the right-field line to Schenker to score and give Eastern Michigan a 1-0 lead. 

With two outs in the ninth inning and Ball State at the plate, Hulecki walked. Noah Navarro ran in place of Hulecki and stole second. With a man in scoring position, Powell flied out to left to end the game. 

“Baker’s performance was significant. Rhett Wintner really crushed the ball as well; on a good wind day those would have been big plays,” Maloney said. “It was just one of those games that we couldn’t capitalize on a couple of opportunities.”

McMurtrey earns his third win of the season after tossing eight scoreless innings, while Thomas House picks up his first save of the season. Baker went eight strong while not giving up an earned run but is tagged with the loss.  

When asked about the upcoming games this weekend, Maloney stated, “We need to have better at-bats, keep hitting the ball harder than them, and we have to get the timely hits. Middle of the lineup struggled. We just need to keep working at it and turn the corner.”

Contact Gabi Glass with comments at grglass@bsu.edu or on Twitter @gabiglass 

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