With a 4-3 win at Northern Illinois Thursday, the Ball State baseball team won the Mid-American Conference Regular-Season Championship, the MAC West Division title and earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
"This is a special group of young men who play for each other and truly are a team," Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said. "Winning a MAC Championship is special. I am especially happy for our seniors who bought in to what we are doing and now will receive the prize."
Back-to-back home runs and an outstanding pitching performance from starter T.J. Weir, led the Cardinals to a victory for Maloney and the school’s first MAC Championship since 2001. In addition, with the win Maloney tied the Ball State record for wins by a head coach with 323, tying the all-time record held by Ball State deputy athletics director Pat Quinn.
After giving up one run in the bottom half of the first inning, Ball State took its first lead of the game with its 42nd home run of the season on a Caleb Stayton two run shot over the right field wall at McKinzie Field. Brandon Estep then stepped to the plate and hit a shot down the left field line for his fifth homer of the year and gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
After allowing one run in the first inning, Weir settled into his rhythm and retired the next 12 straight Huskies, including four by strikeout, and struck out seven in his 7.2 innings of work to earn the win and improve to 8-2 on the year. Zach Plesac, who was one of seven freshmen on the diamond as the game ended in celebration for the Cardinals, pitched the final 1.1 frames to earn his sixth save of the year.
Alex Call was 2-for-5 on the day, while Kyle Raleigh was 1-for-3. Stayton managed a 1-for-4 performance from the plate with two runs-batted-in and one run scored. Estep was 2-for-2 with one RBI and one run scored.
With the victory, Ball State improved to 36-16 overall and 20-4 in MAC play, while the Huskies fell to 17-34-1 overall and 11-14 in the MAC. The Cardinals will face Northern Illinois in a 3 p.m. game Friday and a 1 p.m. game Saturday to end the regular season. As the No. 1 seed, Ball State will begin MAC Tournament play Wednesday in Avon, Ohio.