Just like that, first place in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) slips out of Ball State Baseball’s (34-17, 28-7 MAC) hands. Going into May 13-15’s series against Ohio (26-21, 18-14 MAC), the Cardinals won 21 of their last 24 games, including a four-game series sweep against former first-place Central Michigan (36-15, 28-6 MAC).
Now, after a series split against the Bobcats, Ball State is back in second place in the MAC, as the Chippewas haven’t lost a game since their sweep at the hands of the Cardinals. Central Michigan is back in first place with one series (four games) left in the regular season.
Up for grabs is a chance to host the MAC Baseball Championship Tournament that features the top four teams in the conference in a series of games to decide who earns the automatic bid to NCAA Regionals. However, after their 2-2 weekend against the Bobcats, the Cardinals have minimal room for error.
Here are three takeaways from May 12-14’s series between Ball State and Ohio:
1. Potential final home series of the season
Game four of the series on May 15 held special activities before the contest. A collection of fifth-year seniors were honored as a part of Senior Day on Ball Diamond at First Merchant’s Ballpark in Muncie, Indiana.
Said game ended in disappointment for the Cardinals, as they allowed their most runs in a game this season, losing to the Bobcats 15-10. Ohio jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning, but fifth-year senior first baseman and center fielder Amir Wright hit home runs in the first and second inning to knot the score at 5-5 after two innings.
Ball State and Ohio traded blows throughout the high-scoring game, with the Bobcats staying ahead at every junction. Senior third baseman Colin Kasperbauer hit 4-5 with four RBI for Ohio, leading his team to victory on a special day for the Cardinals.
Ball State still has a chance at hosting the MAC Tournament, however, with the series this weekend splitting and Central Michigan sweeping their opponents, the last regular-season weekend of the year (May 19-22) will be one to keep an eye on. For Cardinal fifth-year seniors honored on Senior Day, this defeat could be the final time they play organized baseball in Muncie.
2. High-scoring weekend
With the exception of game one of May 14’s supposed doubleheader, three games of the four-game series featured at least one team scoring at least 10 runs.
In game one of the series, the Cardinals defeated the Bobcats 11-5 May 13. Although Ball State ace, junior left handed pitcher Tyler Schweitzer, didn’t pitch his best game of the season, he did enough to keep the Cardinals in the game where the Ball State offense took over.
In their victory, Wright hit 4-5 with two RBI, freshman designated hitter Hunter Dobbins hit 2-5 with a solo home run and senior second baseman Justin Conant went 4-4 with two RBI.
Game two of May 14’s doubleheader may have been split in two due to a weather postponement, but the result was a 16-6 10-run rule victory for Ball State. Yes, the game was moved to resume at 10 a.m. May 15, in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Cardinals ahead of the Bobcats 13-6, due to weather.
Hitting seemed to be contagious for Ball State in this game, as they collected 17 hits in their triumph. Junior left fielder Zach Cole hit 3-4 with two RBI, junior shortstop Adam Tellier hit 3-4 with a triple and three RBI and senior third baseman Ryan Peltier hit 2-4 with two RBI and a home run.
Of course, both the Cardinals and Bobcats scored at least 10 runs in May 15’s game that saw Ohio close the series with a victory. For the series as a whole, a total of 15 home runs left the yard.
3. The Cardinals have their preferred lineup
For weeks, Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney has talked about getting his roster to the point he envisioned in the offseason. Injuries have nagged the Cardinals throughout the season, whether it be Dobbins, Tellier or fifth-year catcher Adam Christianson.
Christianson made his return to Ball State after missing 13 straight games and did so in an impactful way. On the weekend, Christianson hit 7-13 with five RBI and two home runs, including one on Senior Day.
Even in the Cardinals' 5-3 loss in game one of May 14’s doubleheader, which saw Christianson go 0-2 at the plate, Maloney had his lineup. To take a slight detour, Ohio’s starting pitcher, redshirt junior right handed pitcher Eamon Horwedel, threw five and ⅓ innings, allowing two hits, no runs, no walks and striking out two Cardinals.
Back on track, as the Cardinals move toward their final series of the year, one that will ultimately play a large part in deciding the MAC Regular Season Champions, they will be a team with their lineup at full strength. The Cardinals have already clinched a spot in the MAC Baseball Championship Tournament, now it’s about utilizing their preferred pieces to finish the season strong and secure home-field advantage for said tournament.
The Cardinals return to action May 19-21, as they face Miami (OH) (22-29, 17-18 MAC) in a four-game series in Oxford, Ohio. Game one of the series is set to begin at 3 p.m. May 19.