After starting the season with a 5-7 record, Ball State baseball (17-9, 12-2 MAC) has begun to turn their season around in Mid-American Conference (MAC) play. Since conference play began, the Cardinals have won 12 of 14 games and now sit with the most conference wins in the MAC at 12-2.
This weekend, the Cardinals kept rolling, winning three of four over conference opponent Toledo (13-14, 7-8 MAC). After winning the first three games of the weekend, the Cardinals had won 10 straight games.
“If you asked me at the beginning of the season, ‘would you take 12-2?’ I’d say, ‘yes,'” Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. “Same if you ask me next year or if you asked any other coach.”
In the first game of the series April 1, Ball State won their eighth straight game, beating the Rockets 8-1. Starting pitcher, junior right-handed pitcher Trennor O’Donnell threw five and ⅓ innings, only allowing three hits and one run, with six strikeouts to cap it off.
Maloney said O’Donnell, as well as a litany of other pitchers on Ball State’s roster, have been showing signs of progress throughout the season after starting the season relatively inexperienced.
“I think we have several guys that give us depth that is stronger than a lot of other teams,” Maloney said. “I think our strength is depth.”
Standouts at the plate for Ball State in game one included fifth-year first baseman Trenton Quartermaine who went 3-5 with two RBIs and a home run as well as junior transfer designated-hitter Matthew Rivera who went 2-4 with three RBIs.
Games two and three of the weekend series were contested in a doubleheader which saw the Cardinals come out on top in both games by scores of 7-3 and 10-2 respectively.
Ball State outscored Toledo 17-5 in the doubleheader on a day that saw many Cardinal batters drive in runs and pitchers hold the Rockets to minimal success. Maloney said the sucess was a testament to what the Cardinals are.
“We’ve been a team,” Maloney said. “Our strength is being a team. That’s probably our biggest strength.”
Fifth-year catcher Adam Christianson went 5-7 with three RBIs and a home run over the course of the doubleheader and in game two, sophomore right-handed pitcher Ty Johnson went six innings, allowing three hits, no runs and striking out six.
In the final game of the weekend, Toledo ended Ball State’s 10-game winning streak and ran out 5-1 winners. Maloney said the result of game four was disappointing but did not want to dwell on the negatives.
“Yeah we’re disappointed, there ain’t no doubt about it, but we just won ten in a row,” Maloney said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve done that in my career.”
Junior second baseman Darryn Davis hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning and Toledo didn’t look back from there. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Camryn Szynski threw six innings, allowing three hits, one run and striking out three for the Rockets. Senior outfielder John Servello highlighted the weekend for Toledo, going 6-14 with three RBIs.
Junior outfielder Zach Cole helped lead the Cardinals to their three victories over the weekend, going 8-14 at the plate with four RBIs and a home run.
Maloney said the Cardinals feel good coming out of the weekend after the start they’ve had to MAC play. He believes teams like Central Michigan (13-10, 8-1 MAC) will make it difficult for the Cardinals this season but feels confident at this juncture.
“We’ve been at the top of the conference for a long time,” Maloney said. “We expect to compete at the top and right now, we’re in a dog fight.”
The Cardinals will return to action April 5 in a make-up game against Western Michigan (6-17, 4-6 MAC) in Kalamazoo, Mich. The two teams faced off in a doubleheader March 28 that saw Ball State win both games, 2-0 and 12-5.