Ball State junior center fielder Aaron Simpson, left, senior first baseman John Ricotta, freshman designated hitter Andre Orselli, and freshman left fielder Mack Murphy celebrate Ricotta's home run in the first during the Cardinals' game against Purdue March 19, 2019 at Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex in Muncie. Ricotta's home run put the Cardinals up 3-0. Paige Grider, DN
Big 5th inning, Nicolas propel Ball State Baseball to win over Western Michigan
With wind gusts blowing upwards of 15 mph to right field, Friday was not an ideal day for pitchers as Ball State (13-9, 1-0 MAC) and Western Michigan (6-14, 0-1 MAC) squared off. Each team connected for a pair of home runs, and the Cardinals wound up on top, 8-5.
Sophomore Drey Jameson started on the mound for the Cardinals, and he entered Friday’s contest leading the Mid-American Conference with 50 strikeouts.
He added another six before leaving with cramps in his throwing hand after four innings of work. The Broncos were able to muster one run on three hits off of Jameson.
“Having Drey only be able to go four innings was going to test us,” head coach Rich Maloney said.
Junior Ross Messina got the Cardinals on the board with a solo home run in the first inning, and senior John Ricotta poked one out in the fourth. However, it was the half inning before Jameson’s departure where Ball State’s offense exploded.
Junior Noah Powell led off the fifth with the first of three singles in a row for the Cardinals. After Messina singled home the inning’s first run, freshman Andre Orselli found himself with the bases loaded.
“I was just looking for something I could hit the other way to score all the runners,” Orselli said.
Orselli found what he was looking for as he lined a bases-clearing triple to the gap in right field. Ricotta subsequently doubled in Orselli to round out the inning, giving the Cardinals a 7-1 lead.
“They were hitting the ball well and just executing really well in all facets,” Maloney said. “When Andre got that big hit, that was huge for our ball club.”
When senior Nick Floyd came on in relief for the Cardinals, Western Michigan’s bats started to heat up.
Jimmy Roche knocked a two-run home run over the wall in the sixth inning, and Ethan Hajdukovic drove in a couple more in the seventh on a homer of his own, bringing the score to 7-5.
“You got one of the best pitchers in the country pitching for you. Then, all of a sudden you have someone else come in there,” Maloney said. “It is what it is, but I’m not surprised by that.”
Maloney brought in sophomore closer Kyle Nicolas, who had four saves and an opposing batting average less than .100, to try to close the door for the final 2. 1 innings.
“Having him in the back end of the games is pretty huge,” Maloney said. “We’re fortunate to have a guy like that. He sure pitched outstanding today, and he’s been pitching outstanding.”
Nicolas didn’t allow a baserunner in his appearance while striking out four of the last seven batters. With Maloney’s expectations and confidence in him, Nicolas said he enjoys his role.
“I kind of like the pressure,” Nicolas said. “Just being up against the wall and just being able to show that I can do this in any situation under any pressure. I kind of like that just to prove people wrong.”
The Cardinals added another run in the ninth to walk away with an 8-5 victory. Game two will be played Saturday at 1 p.m.