MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State baseball team mounted a late rally and had the potential game-winning run at the plate in the ninth inning, but dropped the regular season home finale to Mid-American Conference foe Western Michigan 9-7 Sunday afternoon at Ball Diamond.
The Cardinals recognized their senior class prior to the game in Ross Overstreet (Greenfield, Ind./Lincoln Trail), Tim Issler (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier), Mitch Widau (Richmond, Ind./Richmond) and Cal Bowling (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown).
First baseman Billy Wellman (Portland, Ind./Jay County) was the offensive catalyst for the Cardinals as he hit a career-high two home runs in the loss while posting three hits and driving in three runs. Wellman, who leads the team with four home runs, is the first Cardinal this season to post multiple home runs in a game and the first since Kenny Mahala did last year against Bowling Green (April 10).
Western Michigan (20-24, 10-10 MAC) came out of the gate quickly against sophomore right-hander Jacob Brewer (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's). Brewer last just two thirds of an inning before exiting as he was charged five runs on three hits while walking three batters as the Broncos scored five run in the first frame.
The Cardinals (11-32, 6-15 MAC) struck for their first run in the bottom of the second inning against WMU right-hander Will Nimke. Wellman led off the inning by drilling the first pitch he saw high over the left field wall to make it a 5-1 contest.
The Broncos tacked on two runs in the top of the fourth inning against left-hander Devin Wilburn (Selma, Ind./Wapahani). After a leadoff walk, Wilburn allowed three straight singles including run-scoring hits by Jack Scanlon and Ryan McMillin to make it a 7-1 WMU lead.
Ball State answered back in the bottom of the fourth inning as once again it used the long ball. Freshman Brandon Estep (Selma, Ind./Wapahani) led off the inning with a single before Wellman crushed the second pitch he saw over the left center field wall for his second home run of the afternoon and fourth of the season to make it a 7-3 deficit.
After WMU added a run in the seventh, Ball State pulled within two by scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth. Estep led off the inning with a walk and moved to second as Wellman singled through the right side. Sophomore T.J. Weir (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo) posted the Cardinals' third home run of the game as he crushed one over the scoreboard in left center field to make it an 8-6 contest. The three home runs are the most in a single game this season for the Cardinals and the most since hitting four against Bowling Green (April 10).
The Broncos tallied an important insurance run in the top of the ninth inning to take a three-run lead and would need all of the runs to claim the victory. The Cardinals tried for a walk-off rally in the bottom of the ninth inning as Issler was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Kevin Franchetti (Highland, Ind./Andrean) singled to put two aboard.
After two outs, Estep lined a run-scoring single into left field to narrow the gap to 9-7 with his second hit of the afternoon. Western Michigan went to the bullpen to face Wellman in a potential walk-off situation and left-hander Matt Nestor got him to fly out to the warning track in straight away center field to record his first save of the year.
Brewer (0-5) picked up the loss as he only last two-thirds of an inning and allowed five runs. Five Cardinal relievers combined to work the final 8.1 innings and allowed four runs. Bowling returned from injury to make his first appearance since April 6 and tallied 1.1 innings of no-hit baseball while striking out two batters. Nimke (3-3) picked up the victory as he allowed four runs on eight hits in 7.1 innings of work.
Ball State closes out the non-conference portion of the schedule Wednesday afternoon as it travels to Valparaiso to take on the Crusaders at 3 p.m. (CT).