In his second at-bat of the bottom of the ninth inning, Blake Dunn doubled home Western Michigan’s (6-16, 0-3 MAC) 15th run of the game and its eighth of the inning. The only problem was Ball State (15-9, 3-0 MAC) scored 20.
The teams shook hands afterwards as the Cardinals walked away with a series sweep to begin Mid-American Conference (MAC) play. However, as players were packing up, Ball State head coach Rich Maloney was nowhere to be found.
“We have a tradition,” Maloney said in a phone call. “If you sweep on the road, then we get ice cream. That’s our tradition, so I got to honor that tradition.”
Even after going into the bottom of the eighth inning with a 20-3 lead and nearly letting the Broncos come all the way back, Maloney said he was looking forward to enjoying his ice cream while soaking in his team’s performance over the weekend.
“All I know is we swept. That’s what I focus on,” Maloney said. “It was a heck of a series for us … We won three games, we scored a boatload of runs and I’m very happy for that. Let’s be honest about it — we dominated the series, and that’s the bottom line.”
Sunday, the Cardinals recorded 28 hits, one shy of tying the school record for team hits in a single game and doubling their combined hits for the first two games of the series.
Four Cardinals finished the final game with at least four hits. Junior Ross Messina led them all with five including a pair of home runs and five RBIs. He was a triple away from the cycle, the second time this year he’s been one hit away from the achievement.
“I’ve been close to a cycle the past three years, and I just can’t seem to do it,” Messina said. “Maybe one day. It was a good day either way.”
Messina batted .600 at the plate with nine RBIs on the weekend. He said he hopes to keep up his hot hitting for a while.
Another Cardinal with four hits was junior Aaron Simpson. After going 10 for 15 against Western Michigan, Simpson raised his batting average to .396.
The Cardinals had their leadoff man reach base in eight of nine innings Sunday. Six of those times the leadoff man ended up scoring. Simpson led off five of those innings and came around to score in four of them.
“It’s important because I got to set pressure on the pitcher,” Simpson said. “When I get on, everyone’s going crazy because usually when I get on, I score. I create problems on the bases. It gives other guys opportunities to get good pitches.”
The amount of runs the offense was scoring took some attention away from what redshirt freshman Chayce McDermott was doing on the mound.
McDermott gave up three runs on just four hits and struck out a career-high 13 batters, the most a Ball State pitcher has recorded in a single game this season. His previous personal best was seven strikeouts, and Maloney said his performance was overshadowed by the high-powered offense.
“The offense was really rolling. There’s no doubt about that,” Maloney said. “But what a day he had. I didn’t realize he had 13 strikeouts. That’s amazing.”
Ball State will play a home game against Valparaiso Wednesday at 3 p.m. before hosting MAC-favorite Kent State next weekend.