Ball State kicked off the season at the Grand Canyon University Classic in Tempe, Arizona, last weekend. While the Cardinals’ 1-3 showing wasn’t ideal, head coach Rich Maloney said their record could have just as easily been reversed.
“We’re close, but at the same time, close isn’t getting it done,” Maloney said. “Overall, we showed signs in all areas but not enough to be as successful as we’d like to be.”
The first sign of light came from the Cardinals’ opening-day starting pitcher, sophomore Drey Jameson. Jameson was tasked with shutting down No. 12 Stanford, and he did not disappoint.
In six innings pitched, he struck out nine batters and didn’t allow a hit. Maloney said Jameson’s performance was a perfect example of how having good pitching allows you to compete with anyone.
“He was simply outstanding. He was as good as you get,” Maloney said. “On that particular day, Drey was as good as there was anywhere in the country.”
Stanford’s Brendan Beck seemed to match Jameson pitch-for-pitch, striking out 11 while giving up just one earned run. Stanford only managed two hits in the game, but it was able to squeak out two runs in the process, which was enough to come away with a one-run victory. Maloney said he was disappointed in the loss but was encouraged by his team’s effort.
“I thought the guys played extremely well, and they were very competitive,” Maloney said. “We ended up playing a really strong game… It showed the guys what they’re capable of when they play really well.”
The Cardinals went on to lose 12-2 against Grand Canyon and split a pair of games with CSU Bakersfield to conclude the weekend.
In those final three games, the Cardinals were able to get on the board in the first inning. However, those runs and then some were given right back in the opponents’ next turn at bat. The Antelopes scored four after the Ball State’s one-run first inning, and the Roadrunners totaled five runs in their at-bats immediately following the Cardinals’ first innings.
Maloney said scoring first is key, but his team needs more “shutdown innings” to be able to close out more games.
“Usually the team that scores first wins most of the time,” Maloney said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work for us. Nevertheless, that’s a great trait to have.”
From an offensive standpoint, Maloney said his team had multiple missed opportunities throughout the weekend. With that being said, he added that redshirt freshman Noah Navarro, redshirt senior Griffin Hulecki and senior John Ricotta were all consistent at the plate and were the bright spots in the lineup.
Navarro reached base eight times in the Cardinals’ four games, recording a .444 on-base percentage. Hulecki had multiple hits in three of the four. Ricotta came up big in Saturday’s contest with the Roadrunners, singling home two in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 9-5.
“It’s a gritty bunch,” Maloney said. “They’re not happy with the results they got so far, but they certainly are gritty, so they keep competing and they’ll keep coming at you.”
Ball State will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Friday for a three-game series with Alabama.