After taking three out of four games against Toledo, the Cardinals took a break from Mid-American Conference play this weekend for their final non-conference series of 2021.
Traveling less than an hour west to Indianapolis, Ball State (15-9, 6-2 MAC) began its three-game series against Butler (5-9, 0-0 Big East) Friday afternoon. In game one of the weekend series, the Cardinals defeated the Bulldogs 7-2 off of five runs in the final two innings.
Making the quick trip back to Muncie, Friday's momentum stayed in Ball State's favor Saturday. In their nine-inning doubleheader, the Cardinals defeated the Bulldogs 10-1 and 16-10 in games one and two, respectively, sweeping the three-game series.
Here are four takeaways from this weekend's action.
The last of their five non-conference opponents, the Bulldogs were the only Indiana-based team on Ball State's schedule this season. Friday's matchup against Butler was the Cardinals' first against a fellow Indiana-based squad since Ball State faced Purdue Fort Wayne March 10, 2020 — a 9-4 victory Cardinals' victory — in the team's last game before COVID-19 concerns canceled the 2020 season.
Geographically, Butler is also the closest squad the Cardinals will have faced by the time the 2021 regular season ends. After this weekend's series, Ball State is now 72-48 all time against Butler and 17-5 under head coach Rich Maloney.
Scheffler knocks on the door
Freshman outfielder/first baseman Decker Scheffler made an impact for the Cardinals over the weekend. In the first two games against the Bulldogs, Scheffler hit 4-for-7. However, it wasn't until Saturday's series finale when Scheffler propelled Ball State to victory.
Scheffler began Saturday's second game pinch-hitting for senior center fielder Aaron Simpson in the sixth inning and drew a walk. One inning later, he singled to left field and scored sophomore outfielder Mack Murphy, giving the Cardinals a 10-8 lead. While the Bulldogs tied it up at 10 apiece half an inning later, Scheffler anchored Ball State's six-run eighth inning with a 3-RBI home run to right field.
The home run was Scheffler's first of his Cardinal career. He his batting average from .212 to .310 over the three-game series.
No shortage of arms
Thirteen of Ball State's 18 arms saw action against the Bulldogs, with each game progressing in a different fashion.
In Friday's series opener, senior John Baker got the start and pitched three innings before freshman Ty Johnson went the next 4.1 innings. Pitching in his hometown of Indianapolis, Johnson struck out six batters while allowing just two hits.
Junior Chayce McDermott pitched four hitless innings while striking out eight batters in game one Saturday. Senior Lukas Jaksich built off of McDermott's excellence, pitching four innings himself before freshman Trennor O'Donnell closed the gap in the ninth inning in his first-ever Ball State appearance.
Saturday's series finale saw Ball State use eight of its 18 arms. Freshman Tyler Ruetschle earned the start and pitched just two innings before the Cardinals put their bullpen to work. Sophomore Andre Orselli ultimately earned the win, improving his record to 2-1.
Delivering in the 8th
The Cardinals plated the game-winning runs in the eighth inning in two of their three wins. Ball State broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth Friday off of an RBI single from Simpson. Senior outfielder Ross Messina's 3-RBI home run then anchored a four-run rally in the ninth inning.
Tied at 10 apiece in the series finale, junior catcher Adam Christianson broke the tie with a 2-RBI single before Scheffler's home run gave Ball State some extra insurance. Through 24 games this season, the Cardinals have outscored opponents 34-9 in innings 8-9.
Up next for Ball State is a four-game series against Akron April 9-11.