Although Kent State Baseball (18-26,13-17 MAC) picked up a 5-4 win over Ball State (32-15, 26-5 MAC) on a walk-off single by sophomore shortstop Mike McNamara May 9 to win their first game of May 7-9’s four-game series, the Cardinals have won 21 of their last 24 games.
Coming off a weekend where the Cardinals swept then Mid-American Conference (MAC) leader Central Michigan (30-15, 24-6 MAC) to take first place in the conference, Ball State was on cloud nine. They took that momentum to win the first three games of their series against the Golden Flashes, extending their winning streak to 11.
Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said he is proud of what his team accomplished over the past 24 games and the entire season.
“We just went through two tough series against two great traditional programs and we went 7-1,” Maloney said. “So from that standpoint, I’m elated. If you'd have told me that we're going to go 7-1 against those two programs back to back weeks and have exams, I would’ve said ‘if we could do that, that would just be incredible.’”
In game one of the weekend series, Ball State ended the contest early, winning 12-0 in the seventh inning via mercy rule. Continuing his season earning him Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft buzz, junior left-handed pitcher Tyler Schweitzer threw a complete game shutout allowing two hits and striking out nine.
The Cardinals' dominant victory was helped offensively by fifth-year right fielder Nick Powell, freshman designated hitter Hunter Dobbins, fifth-year center fielder Amir Wright and junior catcher CJ Horn, who all had two or more RBI for Ball State. This was a game in which Maloney’s philosophy on how to win games consistently came to fruition.
“You have to hit on all cylinders; meaning your pitching, hitting and fielding have to really come together in most of the games, and most of the time you have to have at least two of those three components working really, really well,” Maloney said. “We’ve had several games where we played all three of them really well.”
In game one of the Cardinals and Golden Flashes Mother’s Day doubleheader, reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Week junior left fielder Zach Cole continued his hot streak, as he hit 2-4 with two home runs (the only Cardinal home runs of the weekend) and four RBI, leading Ball State to a 9-5 win where Powell also drove in two runs.
In Ball State’s series with Kent State, junior shortstop Adam Tellier made his season debut as he was sidelined with an injury and went 3-15 with four RBI. Maloney had spoken in weeks leading up to this series that he was excited to see Tellier return to the Cardinals and was pleased with his play in his first series back.
“He's an outstanding player who plays with great energy,” Maloney said. “He’s an aggressive player, he adds something to our lineup, he can go first to third like no one else, he can steal bags, and he's the leader on the infield, so it's good to have him [back].”
Game two was more of the same, as the Cardinals picked up their 11th straight win, defeating Kent State 9-3. Senior third baseman Ryan Peltier and senior second baseman Justin Conant each had three RBI in this victory as Peltier hit 4-4 with a single, two doubles and a triple.
After this contest, Ball State had outscored their opponent 30-8 in three games. However, the Cardinals' victorious run of late has yet to feature a roster at full strength, Maloney said.
“We're hoping to get [fifth-year catcher] Adam Christianson back here soon and we may have, for the first time from a position player standpoint, all of our horses in the lineup that we had envisioned at the beginning of the year that we've never had,” Maloney said. “So that's pretty exciting for us.”
The Golden Flashes ended the Cardinals' 11-game win streak on May 9 in walk-off fashion, as stated earlier. McNamara, who won the game for Kent State, finished the game 2-5 and although the Cardinals scored four runs, the only player credited with an RBI who drove that run in via a hit was Cole, who hit a RBI triple in the second inning.
A standout for Kent State on the weekend was senior center fielder Collin Matthews who batted leadoff and hit 5-12 with two RBI.
With two series left in the regular season, Maloney said he is proud of the Cardinals for how they have dealt with adversities such as injury throughout the season. He said the way Ball State has dealt with these potential setbacks helped define who the Cardinals are.
“I think it speaks to the team we are,” Maloney said. “So when we’ve had guys that got injured, other people stepped up and that's been our story. I guess the word for our team is team, and our strength is that we don't rely on one person or one pitcher or one hitter or one fielder. We have a whole slew of guys that contribute to our success and if we're going to have a chance to finish it off we're going to have to have those kinds of efforts.”
Ball State returns to action for their final homestand of the regular season, as they face Ohio (24-19, 16-12 MAC) in a four-game series May 13-15. First pitch for May 13’s game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Ballpark Complex in Muncie, Indiana.