Ball State's T.J. Weir was the only player in the game with multiple hits as the pitching staffs combined to allow only nine total hits at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
The game went scoreless into the eighth inning before Middle Tennessee (1-0) broke through with a Johnny Thomas RBI single to grab the lead.
Ball State (0-1), playing the first game of Rich Maloney's second stint as head coach, put the leadoff runner on base in the ninth with a Wes Winkle walk. But Winkle was then caught stealing and Middle Tennessee reliever Paul Mittura retired the next two batters to close out the game.
Mittura took over for Middle Tennessee starter Hunter Adkins, who pitched into the ninth inning, allowing four hits and striking out seven batters to earn the win.
Ball State starter Chris Marangon did not surrender a run either. The senior right-hander scattered four hits over six and one-third innings. The Cardinals used three pitchers in relief of Marangon with Tyler Jordan suffering the loss after allowing the eighth-inning run.
Weir gave the Cardinals their best chance to score. The junior third baseman worked his way into scoring position in the fifth inning with a one-out double and again in the seventh with a two-out single followed by a wild pitch. But Adkins managed to strand him at second base both times.
Middle Tennessee scored the game's lone run with a two-out rally in the eighth. Ball State intentionally walked power hitter Trent Miller, who then stole second and scored on the single from Thomas.
Ball State right fielder Sean Godfrey had one of the Cardinals' four hits on the day, while freshman catcher Sam Tidaback recorded his first collegiate hit in his first career game.
Ball State and Middle Tennessee will be back in action Saturday for the second game of this weekend's three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT (3 p.m. ET) with a live radio broadcast by WCRD on ballstatesports.com.