As Ball State head coach Rich Maloney put it, the baseball season is like the stock market; it goes up, and it comes down.
After winning 10 games in a row, including their first four in Mid-American Conference play, the Cardinals (20-11, 5-2 MAC) dropped the first two games of a weekend series to Central Michigan (23-8, 7-2 MAC) before salvaging the third to avoid a sweep.
“You’re winning all those games, and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Then the reality sets in — it’s hard to win all those games,” Maloney said. “Streaks are made to be broken, and they do get broken. You had a long one. Ten is a long streak.”
One more inning
Friday Cardinal fans didn’t see the Drey Jameson they were used to. The sophomore, who was coming off an eight-inning, 13-strikeout performance in his last start, pitched into the fifth inning but was taken out after giving up his fifth run of the day. Jameson also walked five batters, the most he’s totaled this season.
“He just didn’t have his command,” Maloney said. “He couldn’t find it. It’s just one of those games, and sometimes that happens.”
Senior Nick Floyd came in relief with a 5-1 deficit and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings to keep the struggling Cardinal offense in the game.
Ball State’s bats came to life in the seventh as the Cardinals scored three to make it a one-run game. Maloney said that inning shifted momentum, and with the middle of the order due up had there been extra innings, that may have been all they needed.
“It was like a tale of two games,” Maloney said. “The first five innings were theirs, and the last couple innings were ours. It was a good battle. Our kids showed fight, but they came up just a hair short.”
Pitchers’ duel gone wrong
There was little offense to be seen through the first six innings Saturday. The Chippewas’ Cameron Brown had only given up three hits, striking out six in the process. Junior John Baker was just as good, striking out seven through six innings.
Still, with six hits and four walks, Maloney said Baker wasn’t at the top of his game.
“He pitched six innings without his best stuff and didn’t give up a run, and that’s all you can ask,” Maloney said. “He pitched out of a lot of jams, kind of like a bend don’t break. He’s got steel nerves, and he relishes the opportunity to compete.”
Baker came out after the sixth, and sophomore Kyle Nicolas entered. Nicolas came into the game with a 3.46 ERA and five saves on the season. He left with a 5.06 ERA and his second loss.
“It was tough for him, tough for the team,” Maloney said. “You know what, you move forward. I know he’s going to have a great impact like he already has on this team. He’s going to have an even greater impact later as we move forward.”
Central Michigan’s pitching staff kept rolling, and the Chippewas won the series, taking the first two games.
When it all comes together
After getting outscored 10-4 in the first two games, the Cardinals came back Sunday to take a 10-0 victory. Maloney said everything started to fall into place in game three, and it was important to play with the lead after trailing for the entirety of the first two games.
“[The Chippewas] had so much momentum on their side from the last two days that getting ahead of them was critical,” Maloney said. “The guys knew it was a big game. Nobody wants to get swept. If you want to try to win a championship, you got to avoid that, and we did.”
As good as the offense was, drawing eight walks to go along with eight hits, redshirt freshman Chayce McDermott was equally good on the mound. He pitched six innings of scoreless baseball and struck out eight batters.
After his first two starts of the season, McDermott had given up six runs in eight innings. He’s allowed only five runs in his last six starts, and his ERA is now second on the team at 2.83.
“He gave us a lift when we had to have it,” Maloney said. “Watching him continue to improve — the more he’s out there, I think he’ll only get stronger.”
Ball State will be back in action Tuesday hosting Butler at 3 p.m.