For the first time since 2014, Ball State Baseball (38-17, 32-7 MAC) are Mid-American Conference (MAC) Regular Season Champions. Heading into their May 19-21 series against Miami (Ohio) (23-33, 18-22 MAC), the Cardinals were in second place in the conference, however, they swept the Redhawks in four games while Central Michigan (38-16, 30-7 MAC) lost the first game of their series over the weekend.
With their regular-season championship, Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Complex at Ball State will play host to the MAC Championship Tournament, held May 25-28 between the top four teams in the MAC. The winner of said tournament wins the MAC outright and earns an automatic bid to NCAA Regionals.
In their four-game series, the Cardinals and Redhawks only played 31 innings, as game one of their doubleheader May 20 was scheduled for seven innings, however, Ball State 10 run-ruled Miami (Ohio) in games three and four of the series in eight and seven innings respectively. The Cardinals fired on all cylinders in the four-game set, with dominant hitting and pitching performances scattered throughout all games, not wanting to risk a chance at holding home-field advantage during the MAC Championship Tournament, something Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney and players have talked about throughout the season and leading up to this series.
In game one, Ball State defeated the Redhawks 7-4, backed behind a four-RBI game from fifth-year first baseman Trenton Quartermaine. Sophomore right handed pitcher Sam Klein returned to action on the weekend, and first did so in this game, capturing his 10th save of the season behind two and ⅔ innings pitched, allowing no hits, no runs, no walks and striking out two batters.
On the same day, Central Michigan lost their game against Toledo (32-23, 23-16 MAC), meaning the Cardinals jumped back into first place in the conference. For the remaining three games of the series, it was Ball State’s MAC to lose.
In game two (game one of May 20’s doubleheader), the Cardinals picked up their second victory of the weekend, 4-2. Ball State scored four runs and won the game, however, the only Cardinal credited with a RBI was senior third baseman Ryan Peltier, who hit 2-3. Graduate student shortstop William Escala hit a solo home run for the Redhawks, but to no avail as Miami (Ohio) came up short.
Game three saw the first of two 10 run-rules courtesy of Ball State, when the Cardinals defeated the Redhawks 11-1 in eight innings. The contest was scoreless heading into the fourth inning, however in the fourth and fifth inning, the Cardinals scored a combined eight runs and they never looked back.
The Cardinals had twelve hits, including two home runs, one courtesy of freshman designated hitter Hunter Dobbins and the other from junior left fielder Zach Cole. Cole hit 5-5 in the game with five RBI and a triple along with his home run, and senior second baseman Justin Conant hit 2-3 with two RBI. Junior right handed pitcher Trennor O’Donnell pitched six innings for Ball State, allowing two hits, one run, four walks and striking out a career-high 11 batters.
May 21’s regular-season finale was the contest that would play a big factor in determining whether or not the Cardinals would hang on to their first place spot and win the MAC, or whether they would need to hold their breath depending on how Central Michigan’s game against Toledo turned out. In the end, Ball State put an end to the discussion, defeating Miami (Ohio) 13-2 in seven innings to clinch their MAC Regular Season Championship.
Freshman right handed pitcher Nate Dohm pitched all seven innings, allowing four hits, two runs, two walks and striking out 13 batters in the best pitching performance of his rookie campaign. Cole hit 2-4 with three RBI, Quartermaine hit 2-3 with two RBI and Peltier hit a three-run home run for Ball State.
Four of the last five full seasons featured Ball State finishing second in the MAC in the regular season, however, in 2022, the Cardinals accomplished what they set out to do, not only in their series against Miami (Ohio) but for the season in general. Going into the season, Maloney said becoming MAC Regular Season Champions was one of his goals, however, his biggest goal was to win the MAC Championship Tournament and advance to the NCAA Regionals.
As mentioned earlier, Ball State will host the MAC Championship Tournament May 25-28 on Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Complex in Muncie, Indiana. The tournament bracket can be found here (times subject to change): https://getsomemaction.com/tournaments/?id=164&path=baseball
The Cardinals return to action May 25 in game one of the MAC Championship Tournament against Ohio (28-22, 20-15 MAC). First pitch is (tentatively) scheduled for 10:30 a.m.