CMU baseball steals series finale from Ball State for first series sweep of the season
Nearly two months into its season, Central Michigan baseball (21-13, 10-5) picked up its first series sweep this weekend by winning both games of its Saturday doubleheader over Ball State (23-12, 10-5).
The Cardinals did not offer much resistance in the first game of the day, falling to the Chippewas by eight runs - as it did on Friday. In the series finale, however, CMU trailed Ball State through six innings before breaking through and eventually sending the Cardinals back to Muncie winless for the weekend.
With a 5-1 early lead, junior transfer Marquis Jackson stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second with one out. After working the count to 2-0, Jackson got his pitch and crushed it down the right field line giving CMU an 8-1 lead in the third inning.
The Chippewas (20-13, 9-5) won game two of its weekend series against visiting Ball State (23-11, 10-4) 13-5 giving them the overall series victory.
The Chippewas got on the board first as redshirt sophomore first baseman Robby Morgan IV drove in junior outfielder Jacob Donahue on a sacrifice fly giving CMU a 1-0 lead.
The lead wasn’t long lived as in the top of the second BSU junior outfielder Nick Gregory doubled, knotting the game up at one apiece.
In the Chippewas half of the second, they answered back as junior catcher Drew Stengren singled to right field, scoring sophomore infielder Luke Sefcik. Stengren came around to score on an error by a Cardinal to put CMU up 2-1.
In the third Stengren singled scoring Sefcik again, while junior outfielder Jake Brill placed a bunt perfectly to score freshman Christian Mitchelle while also reaching base. CMU led 5-1 until Jackson’s home run which he celebrated with an emphatic bat flip.
BSU attempted a comeback in the eighth when it walked the bases loaded and Gregory stepped up to the plate and cleared the bases on a double to the right center field gap cutting the lead to 8-5.
CMU put any word of a comeback to sleep as it scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth, with all the runs coming on pitching miscues by the Cardinals as the Chippewas didn’t register a hit in the inning.
Graduate left-handed pitcher Garrett Navarra, who is usually CMU’s pitcher in the series finale got the start in game one of the doubleheader. The southpaw gave the Chippewas 5 2/3 innings, striking out five, and allowed two runs on five hits and a walk.
“Garrett obviously has been playing the outfield when he doesn’t pitch,” head coach Jordan Bischel said. “With it being an 80-degree day, I didn’t love the idea of standing out in the outfield for three hours and then getting on the mound. I thought it would be easier for his arm and his body to pitch first and then move to the outfield.”
BSU started sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Schulfer who started in his fourth game of the season. Schulfer was a quick exit as he only pitched 1 1/3 innings allowing two runs on two hits and two walks, while the Cardinals had four pitchers enter in relief.
Sefcik led CMU in the hits and in runs scored category with three apiece, while Jackson led the way with four RBI’s.
With a count of no balls and two strikes, CMU infielder, Justin Simpson was looking to salvage an at-bat in which he had watched two strikes and fouled off another two. Behind in the count, the goal was to put the ball in play.
Simpson did that and more, sending the fifth pitch of the at-bat into right center field, where it hit off of the scoreboard for a three-run home run, giving the Chippewas a 7-3 lead and Simpson his first long ball of the season.
CMU won its series finale against BSU, 9-6, giving the Chippewas their first series sweep of the season.
With the win, CMU pulls ahead of the Cardinals in the Mid-American Conference standings. The Chippewas move into third place in the MAC.
“I felt like we were building towards (first sweep) for a little while here,” Bischel said. “Last week we had the lead in the ninth at Northern Illinois, they did a couple things well and we made a couple mistakes.”
While the final score may suggest otherwise, the Chippewas took a while to pick up in terms of offensive production. CMU junior starting pitcher Keegan Batka gave up three quick runs in the top of the first due to an RBI sacrifice fly and a two-run home run in the following at-bat. However, after the early scores, the Cardinals didn't score again until the fourth inning.
Up until the fourth inning, the Chippewas did not register a single hit. Meanwhile, BSU had already compiled seven before CMU’s first, when Simpson singled on a grounder through the right side of the infield. Later in the frame, Sefcik scored Simpson on a sacrifice fly to right field.
Simpson did not register a hit in game one of the day, but drew four walks. In the finale, he went 2-for-3 with three RBI’s and another walk.
Despite the final scoring tally, the Chippewas were outhit by the Cardinals 16-7. Additionally, Ball State had an OPS of 1.015 compared to CMU’s 0.783.
Batka pitched a total of two and a third innings, giving up three runs on six hits. In the top of the third, he was pulled for freshman southpaw Evan Waters, who threw a career-high four and two thirds' innings.
Waters allowed two runs on four hits, while walking two and striking out three.
“(Waters) was ready for the moment and did a great job attacking the zone,” Bischel said.
CMU also got RBIs from junior catcher Nick Dardas and freshman DH Cole Prout, both in the sixth inning - the same inning in which Simpson hit his home run. The Chippewas posted six total runs in the frame.
Heading into the eighth inning, CMU held an 8-4 advantage. Freshman infielder/pitcher Christian Mitchelle was called upon to pitch but gave up two runs to the Cardinals before getting out of the frame.
Though it was threatening late with its eighth inning offense, BSU was unable to drive in any more runs. A final score for the Chippewas via sacrifice bunt from Navarra in the eighth was enough to guarantee CMU the sweep of both the day and the series overall.
The Chippewas will have two midweek games this week. On Tuesday, CMU will face off against Northwood at 3 p.m. followed by a Wednesday game against Madonna - also at 3 p.m. Both games will be played at Theunissen Stadium.