For the second straight day, Ball State’s baseball team used ninth-inning heroics to defeat the Kent State Golden Flashes and remain in the top spot in the Mid-American Conference.
With the victory, Ball State improved to 35-16 overall and 19-4 in the MAC, while Kent State fell to 30-20 overall and 14-10 in league play.
"Great series for our boys," Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. "It was a total team effort. The comeback wins against an outstanding reliever was nothing short of incredible. Anyone who watched this series had to leave the park exhausted from the level of intensity that could be felt by all who were there. Two excellent teams pouring their heart into competing against each other. We feel very fortunate to sweep such a quality team."
With the MAC’s top closer, Eric Dorsch, taking the mound with a three-run lead in the ninth, Ball State’s offense responded with a four-run rally to secure the victory.
Caleb Stayton led off the ninth with a pinch-hit single and was followed by an Alex Call single to left. With one out, Sean Godfrey was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Jarett Rindfleisch responded with a double to center to score two runs and pull the Cardinals within 8-7.
With runners on first and third and one out, Sean Kennedy smacked a single right back to the mound that bounced off Dorsch’s thigh and scored Godfrey to tie the game at 8-8. Then with two outs and runners on the corners, Maloney’s single scored the game winner and gave Ball State a sweep of Kent State in the weekend three-game series.
Ball State scored four earned runs in one-third of an inning off Dorsch, who entered the game with a MAC-best 10 saves but could not close out the Cardinals in the Saturday or Sunday game of the weekend series.
Matt Johnsen was credited with the win Sunday after pitching the final two-thirds of the ninth and allowing no runs. Clay Manering started for the Cardinals, while Nestor Bautista pitched 3.1 frames and limited the Flashes to one earned run on two hits.
Call was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, while Spaulding was 2-for-4 with three runs-batted-in and one run scored. Rindfleisch was 3-for-5 with three RBI, while Kennedy was 2-for-5 with two RBI. Maloney’s game-winning hit was his second base hit of the game and completed his day with a 2-for-5 showing from the plate and the game-winning RBI.
Sunday’s win marked the second straight come-from-behind ninth-inning victory for Ball State, which tallied a 5-4 Saturday win after entering the ninth trailing 4-3.
The Cardinals will complete the regular season with a three-game series at Northern Illinois Thursday through Saturday. Ball State and the Huskies will play at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday before the regular season finale at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Cardinals enter the final weekend of MAC play with a 2.5 game lead over Central Michigan for the MAC West Division title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.