Ball State baseball open spring season, scooping up three wins at Swig & Swine College Classic

<p>A Ball State baseball player swings at a pitch during a practice scrimmage Jan. 26 at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Andrew Berger, DN </p>

A Ball State baseball player swings at a pitch during a practice scrimmage Jan. 26 at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Andrew Berger, DN

Editor's Note: Trinity Rea contributed to the coverage of the Swig & Swine College Classic but did not contribute to the writing portion of coverage

Ball State concluded its cross-country trip to Charleston, South Carolina, Feb 18 with a 4-1 victory against Michigan State University to begin its spring season. 

The Cardinals faced a four-game slate of opponents at the Swig & Swine College Classic, highlighted by 20th-ranked Iowa, which delivered Ball State its only loss of the competition. 

“We always go into a weekend trying to win a series, so winning three out of four games accomplished that for us,” head coach Rich Maloney said. “That’s part of our tradition, and that is our first goal.”

Pitching highlighted the entire event for the Cardinals, who tallied a total of 32 strikeouts during their final two outings in the form of consecutive victories against Merrimack and Michigan State.

“I was very pleased with the pitching,” Maloney noted. “I wasn’t totally sure what to expect because we had so many new guys, but I thought they did a great job.”

The reigning MAC (Mid-American Conference) champion’s opening bout came against Lehigh. Coming out swinging, the Cardinals racked up three home runs en route to an 8-4 victory.

“I thought we played really well,” Maloney said. “We came out smoking with our hitting early, with a couple home runs in the first inning.”

Ball State followed up its highest-scoring game of the series with the lowest against a ranked Iowa team that was dominant on the mound.

“In game two, we knew we were going to be facing a high-end pitcher, a guy who is going to be taken high in the (MLB) draft,” Maloney said. “He had his stuff; we couldn’t afford to make many mistakes, and unfortunately, our defense wasn’t very solid in that game.”

Ball State baseball players lean out of the dugout during a practice scrimmage Jan. 26 at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Ball State baseball plays their first game Feb. 16. Andrew Berger, DN

The pitcher in question was Iowa-native Marcus Morgan, who retired 12 consecutive batters to begin the game with nine strikeouts to lead the Hawkeyes to a 5-0 shutout over Ball State. 

“Good pitching is going to beat good hitting most of the time,” Maloney said. 

Proving Maloney’s point in the Cardinals third contest, dominant pitching propelled Ball State to its second victory of the series against Merrimack.

Making their collegiate debut for the Cardinals, two freshman pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts against the Warriors. Keegan Johnson, a player Maloney noted would be an “immediate impact guy,” received the start. Johnson retired nine Merrimack batters in the first four innings, followed by his replacement, Zach Kwansy, who struck out eight Warriors to close the game for Ball State.

“Our two rookies were up to the task, and they pitched marvelously,” Maloney said.

Maloney noted how impressive it was to see Kwansy's grit against Merrimack. He mentioned that last week Kwasny pitched against his fellow Cardinals at a team practice and was “lit up,” so it was very encouraging to see him answer back the way he did in his first collegiate outing. 

Despite the freshman duo’s dominant pitching showcase, the game was decided in the bottom of the 9th inning when sophomore Dylan Grego sank a walkoff single to propel the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory. 

The Cardinals closed out their east coast trip against their second B1GTEN opponent of the Swig & Swine Classic in the form of Michigan State. 

Debuting in his first start as a member of Ball State since transferring from East Carolina this past offseason, junior Merritt Beeker impressed with 10 strikeouts over the game’s first five innings. 

“Merritt Beeker was outstanding,” Maloney said. “Today we had a chance to play another B1GTEN team, and we came out ready to play.”

Senior Decker Scheffler led Ball State in scoring with three total hits, delivering in the second half of the game with a pair of seventh-inning RBIs. 

“I’m proud of our team,” Maloney said. “We’ve definitely got some work to do, but for opening weekend, we did a good job.” 

The Cardinals continue their spring campaign in Conway, South Carolina, on Feb. 23 when they take on Cincinnati in game one of a three-game series.

Contact Nick Shelton with comments via email at or on X @NickS9954


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...