CMU baseball slugs three home runs, beats Ball State in series opener
In his first game in nearly a month, Central Michigan baseballs Danny Wuestenfeld did not begin his return to his team’s lineup ideally, as he struck out looking in his first at-bat, followed by a flyout. However, the third time's a charm.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Wuestenfeld, a junior first baseman known for his power at the plate, sent an offering from Ball State’s pitcher deep into right center field, as it deflected off of the scoreboard for his second home run of the season and his first hit since March 15.
With the help of his efforts, the Chippewas (19-13, 8-5) won its series opener against Ball State (23-10, 10-3) 9-1 on Friday.
“It felt good,” Wuestenfeld said of his highlight at-bat. “Coming back (in my) first game since the injury. I got my pitch I was hoping for and didn't try to do too much and good things happened.”
After one time through its lineup, CMU had compiled two runs on just two hits. This was thanks to a two-run home run from freshman infielder Christian Mitchelle, which left the yard to left field in a hurry. Mitchelle also scored graduate outfielder/pitcher Garrett Navarra, who reached base on a single to leadoff the frame.
Friday’s series opener saw a handful of batted balls leave the yard. In addition to Mitchelle and Wuestenfeld, junior outfielder Marquis Jackson also put a charge into a ball to lead off the bottom of the third. Jackson’s at-bat resulted in a deep fly ball to right field, which bounced off of the top of the wall and over for a solo home run.
The Chippewas weren’t the only ones in on the fun, as Ball State senior infielder Adam Tellier hit a leadoff deep shot to left field for a solo home run in the top of the fourth following Jackson’s the frame before. It was the only run surrendered by CMU starting pitcher Adam Mrakitsch.
Mrakitsch, a sophomore left-handed pitcher, built on his previous start in which he pitched seven scoreless innings against Northern Illinois and struck out nine. On Friday, he threw a complete game for the Chippewas - the first by a CMU pitcher this season. He also struck out a season-high 10 batters with only two hits.
“Sometimes when pitchers give up a run, people say they only made one mistake and it’s not always true,” Bischel said. “But I don’t know that (Mrakitsch) made more than one or two today. He was sharp, but the biggest thing was no free passes and the defense behind him.”
The Cardinals, meanwhile, rolled out senior right-handed pitcher Trennor O’Donnell as their starter. O’Donnell struggled to keep the Chippewas out of the scoring column, giving up five earned runs in his six innings pitched. However, he also managed to punch out eight batters from CMU’s lineup.
The four home runs on the day accounted for six of the contest’s 10 RBI’s. It was the second time this season that the Chippewas’ lineup hit three home runs, with the other one coming in CMU’s second game of the season against Baylor.
While the Chippewas lineup has been heating up of late, so has the Michigan weather. Friday reached a high of 84 degrees during play, which likely contributed to the offensive production.
“A couple of those balls that we hit would have been outs a week or two ago (which) were hit awfully hard,” Bischel said. “The wind wasn't even blowing out today, but just warmer air carries the ball better. I think all three (home runs) were extremely hard-hit balls, but when it’s 38 degrees, those are probably outs.”
Up 6-1 following Wuestenfeld’s home run, CMU got back into the scoring column in the following inning. Redshirt sophomore infielder/outfielder Robby Morgan IV drove in junior outfielder Jacob Donahue on a single to center field.
After the late score from Morgan, the Chippewas didn’t slow down, scoring the game's final two runs in the eighth inning. The first was via an RBI double from junior catcher Nick Dardas, scoring Mitchelle. In the following at-bat, junior outfielder Jacob Brill - who was pinch hitting - scored Dardas on a single to right field.
CMU’s lineup featured 10 total batters - of which, nine recorded hits. The only Chippewa shut out in the hit column was redshirt freshman infielder Luke Sefcik, who struck out in three of his four at-bats. Navarra was the only batter with multiple hits.
CMU is back at Theunissen Stadium tomorrow on Saturday, April 15 for a double-header starting at 12 p.m. to close out the series.