Facing an 8-5 deficit in the ninth inning to the 22nd-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, the Ball State baseball team rallied for three runs in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, and rallied for two runs in the 10th to defeat the Wildcats 10-8.
With the win, Ball State improved to 10-3 on the season, while Kentucky fell to 11-3. The two teams will play the second game of the three game series Saturday.
With one out in the 10th inning, Alex Maloney walked to get the offense started. Zach Plesac singled to center field and Maloney advanced to second. Alex Call then reached on an error by the third baseman to load the bases. All runners advanced on a wild pitch and then a Ryan Spaulding single scored Plesac to give the Cardinals the two run lead.
But the Cardinals would have never got to the 10th inning if not for some ninth inning heroics. With Kentucky leading 8-5, Maloney started the inning with a single. Caleb Stayton doubled and advanced Maloney to third. Maloney scored on a wild pitch, and when Spaulding grounded out, Jarrett James, who entered as a pinch runner, scored and the lead was only one. Sean Godfrey reached on a fielding error and Alex Call scored after earning his base via a walk and the game was knotted at 5-5.
Although the ninth and 10th innings decided the game, a four-run fifth inning kept the Cardinals within striking distance. After Kentucky took a 2-1 lead through three innings, Ball State rallied for four runs in the fifth frame to take a 5-2 lead.
Godfrey’s double off the wall in centerfield after battling at the plate and fouling two balls off scored Plesac and gave the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. Jarrett Rindfleish started the inning with a double to left and Maloney followed with a single through the left side of the infield. With runners on second and third, Stayton’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Rindfleish and advanced Maloney to third. Plesac’s single through the right side of the infield scored Maloney and Godfrey’s double completed the Cardinals’ offense in the fifth.
Kentucky responded with one more run in the fifth and after five complete innings, the Cardinals had a 5-3 lead on the nation’s No. 22 rated Wildcats. But UK rallied for five runs in the seventh inning and managed an 8-5 advantage through eight innings.
Nestor Bautista earned the pitching victory after throwing the final 1.1 innings and allowing no runs, while striking out two. The Cardinals used six pitchers in the game, including T.J. Weir, who started and lasted six innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out three.
Maloney was 3-for-3 with four runs scored, while Plesac was 2-for-4 with two runs-batted-in and two runs scored. Spaulding was 1-for-5, but managed three RBI to help the Cardinals to the victory.