The Cardinals began their home schedule Tuesday with a bang. Redshirt sophomore second baseman Noah Navarro tripled to right-center field to lead off the bottom of the first inning, and senior catcher Chase Sebby subsequently brought him home with a sacrifice fly.
However, things didn’t go as smooth the next few innings. Ball State (7-9, 0-0 MAC) found itself tied at two with Purdue Fort Wayne (5-10, 0-0 Summit) after five frames.
A four-run sixth lifted a weight off the Cardinals’ shoulders and propelled them to a 9-4 victory in their home opener. Head coach Rich Maloney said his team’s offensive production in the last few innings was a confidence booster.
“Runs have been hard to come by for us for a long time,” Maloney said. “I think that four-run spot was a huge one.”
It all started with a walk.
Senior center fielder Aaron Simpson took ball four with one out and the score tied in the sixth inning. Two batters later, he had made his way around to third base, now with two outs.
He was in a similar situation his previous two plate appearances. After leading off the second inning with a double, he was stranded on third base when the next three batters couldn’t bring him in. After a one-out walk in the fourth, he, along with sophomore shortstop Justin Conant, were left in scoring position when the following two guys couldn’t come through.
“It’s not the best feeling in the world,” Simpson said. “That’s my goal this year is to lead the team in runs. Every time I get on, I’m trying to get to the next base to make it easier, but it is what it is.”
Sophomore third baseman Ryan Peltier was one of the batters who left Simpson on base both times, and he said the feeling is just as sour walking back to the dugout without an RBI.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Peltier said. “Those are big runners, especially with two outs. Two-out RBIs for our team are big. I wish I could have gotten the job done.”
He got a third chance in the sixth inning with two outs and Simpson on third, but it didn’t look promising after the first two pitches. Peltier swung and missed at two breaking balls in the dirt to move the count to 0-2.
“I got down in the count, and I was kind of angry at myself for chasing pitches,” Peltier said. “I wasn’t seeing it well, but I locked in with two strikes. I told myself I wasn’t going to chase those. I’d already seen them out of his hand and wasn’t going to let him beat me with a fastball, and I got one.”
He got one, and he pelted it over the left-field wall to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead. But they didn’t stop there.
Immediately following Peltier’s homer, freshman left fielder Zach Cole walked, Navarro singled and Sebby doubled them both in to extend the lead to four.
“That’s how hitting is,” Maloney said. “Earlier in the year after one of our losses, I said hitting is contagious. Sometimes, it’s contagious in the wrong way, and then it’s contagious in a good way when you get hot.”
The Mastodons scored two more in the seventh inning, but it didn’t matter because the Cardinals kept extending the lead and wound up scoring one in the seventh and two in the eighth.
Ball State ended the game with five players who reached base at least two times — three of them reached at least three times — with Navarro’s 4-for-5 performance leading the way.
The Cardinals’ next game is Friday, March 13 hosting Dayton.