CMU baseball swept in weekend series at Ball State
An important series ended with a sour taste for Central Michigan baseball.
Rolling into a four-game set with Ball State, CMU had won 18 straight games and 21 straight conference showdowns. With just one loss in Mid-American Conference play, the Chippewas had plenty of cushion atop the league.
Ball State had other ideas, sweeping the four game series to reclaim the MAC's top spot.
The losses drop CMU (27-14, 21-5) into second place, while Ball State (29-14, 23-4) jumps to first. The Chippewas have played two less conference games due to the postponements of their final two games in an early series against Kent State.
Andrew Taylor was superb apart from one pitch, but CMU's bats couldn't get going in a timely fashion. A big swing from Ball State outfielder Zach Cole was the deciding factor in Friday's 7-1 Cardinals victory.
Taylor (L, 6-3) struck out 13 hitters across seven innings and allowed just three hits, but allowed Cole's three-run shot to left in his final frame. Cole's blast broke a scoreless tie with two outs in the seventh.
The Chippewa offense struggled against Ball State starter Tyler Schweitzer, who scattered one hit and five walks across seven innings. He was pulled after walking Jakob Marsee to begin the eighth, and was charged with the only run after Zach Lechnir scored Marsee with a sacrifice fly.
Ball State added four runs in the bottom of the eighth against CMU relievers Ben Vitas and Jake Jones. The latter had tossed 9 1/3 scoreless innings over his last four appearances, but was charged with three earned runs while failing to record an out.
Once again, CMU fell victim to a clutch long ball. The Chippewas took an early lead but squandered it before falling 6-4 in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.
The traditional seven innings wasn't enough to settle this showdown, as the two teams went to the eighth tied at four. Ball State's Zach Lane hit a two-run homer to left, walking it off and sending CMU to second place.
Justin Simpson gave CMU its first lead of the series with a two-run home run, the first of his career, in the first inning. Yet, the Cardinals answered back with three runs of their own in the bottom half.
Trailing 3-1, the Chippewas rallied in the fourth to reclaim the advantage. Starting pitcher Garrett Navarra tripled to drive in a run, but was picked off of third base with Robby Morgan at the plate. On the very next pitch, Morgan drilled a solo homer to give CMU a 4-3 lead.
Navarra went four innings before Jordan Patty (L, 4-3) entered in relief for the first time of the season. Patty would pitch the remainder of the game, allowing two runs.
Hunter Dobbins brought Ball State back to even with a fifth-inning RBI single charged with Navarra, who was pulled after allowing two hits and a walk. This set the stage for extras, as neither team scored again until Lane's decisive dinger.
Ball State fell behind, then rallied in the bottom of the sixth against CMU's Ryan Palmblad to secure a sweep of Saturday's doubleheader. The Cardinals claimed game three of the series 10-7.
Chippewa left-handed reliever Ryan Palmblad (L, 2-1) entered the game having tossed 19 1/3 scoreless innings to start the year, but allowed four in one inning as the deciding margin. Cole, who was the hero in game one, punched a three-run triple then scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth as the difference.
Simpson, hitting in the three spot once again, gave CMU an early spark with a two-RBI double. After Ball State answered with a run, leadoff hitter Mario Camilletti hit a solo home run to make it 3-1.
Three Cardinal hitters hit home runs, including Trenton Quartermaine launching a two-run shot in the third to tie the game. Against reliever Ryan Insco, who stepped in for starter Logan Buczkowski, Dobbins and Cole hit back-to-back shots to give Ball State a 6-5 lead in the fifth.
Marsee tripled to drive in a run in the sixth, then scored on Simpson's sac fly to help CMU regain the lead, but Cole provided the winning spark for the Cardinals in the bottom half.
A valiant effort from freshman starting pitcher Adam Mrakitsch kept the Chippewas' victory hopes alive, yet it wasn't enough to stop another Cardinal walk-off victory. Ball State won 4-3 to secure the series sweep Sunday.
Dobbins singled with one out in the ninth, scoring Lane with the bases loaded against Jones. This thwarted a rally from CMU, which scored two in the top of the eighth to tie the game at 3 apiece.
Camilletti began the rally in the eighth with an RBI double, driving in Adam Proctor. Simpson, who had been clutch all series, tied the game with a single.
Mrakitsch, meanwhile, tossed six innings of one-run ball before being replaced by Jones (L, 4-2), who allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings.
The Cardinals scored each of their first three runs on home runs, with Cole going yard against Mrakitsch and Lane and Quartermaine going deep against Jones. The big flies made it 3-1 Ball State heading to the eighth, when CMU made its rally.
CMU returns home to Theunissen Stadium, where it will host a four-game series with Western Michigan.