You might as well paint flames on Ross Messina’s bat at this point because in Ball State’s last 11 games, he’s been on fire. The junior transfer out of Seminole State College has batted .422 over that span with five multi-hit games and 12 RBIs.
His explanation: pizza.
“You can put that all on the pizza,” Messina said. “Me and my roommate Aaron Simpson — we eat a lot of pizza, so I think that’s the key.”
Messina’s hot streak over the last two weeks comes after struggling to get anything going in the first two weeks. Going into the first matchup with Notre Dame March 2, he was batting .115 on the season. He has since raised his batting average to .310 and has solidified himself in the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup.
“I felt like I was letting the team down at the start. I was trying to do too much, putting more pressure on myself,” Messina said. “They guys had my back. I just got to play hard, and however it goes, it goes. That’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s going pretty good.”
Messina was one of many who contributed to Ball State’s (10-9, 0-0 MAC) 11-6 win over Dayton (6-10-1, 0-0 A-10) Saturday. He finished the game with a single, double and triple in five at-bats, a home run shy of a cycle. He was due to bat second in the ninth inning, but the Cardinals shut down the Flyers in the top half before he could have a crack at the cycle.
“Me and some of the guys were talking about it in the last inning,” Messina said. “I told them if I got another at-bat I was definitely swinging for it.”
The Cardinals ended Friday with 17 team hits. Senior Will Baker drove home two runs in the second inning to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Ball State added two more in the fourth, and senior John Ricotta connected on a two-run home run to left center in the fifth.
The biggest blow the Cardinals dealt came in the seventh inning when junior Aaron Simpson belted a three-run shot to right field. After a subsequent walk, Messina tripled home another to give Ball State a four-run inning and a 10-2 lead.
“I thought our hitting was one of the better days we’ve had, which was encouraging,” head coach Rich Maloney said. “We had a couple home runs, but more importantly, I thought we had a lot of two-out hits and good at-bats.”
Junior John Baker pitched the first five innings for the Cardinals, and he said it was nice to see his offense provide insurance runs behind him.
“It was definitely really good to see putting up a bunch of runs,” Baker said. “When we do put up some runs, it’s important for the pitchers to get back out there the next half inning and make a shutdown inning.”
It turned out the Cardinals needed that four-run seventh inning because the Flyers came back in the eighth with a grand slam to make the score 10-6.
The Cardinals added another run in the bottom of the eighth for good measure. Head coach Rich Maloney said piling on the runs is always good, and it helps both the offense and pitching staff.
“It’s also important to the fact that we didn’t have to use Kyle Nicolas,” Maloney said. “In getting that extra run, even in the eighth inning, was huge because you got to 11-6. Therefore, if you give up a couple runs, you can still hold Kyle back, which is important. He’ll be good to go tomorrow, and that helps us.”
Ball State will play Dayton one more time for the rubber match of the series at Dayton tomorrow at 1 p.m.