WILMINGTON, N.C. - The Ball State baseball team battled back to earn a 7-6 11-inning victory over host UNC Wilmington at Brooks Field Tuesday afternoon. The victory improves the Cardinals to 4-8 on the season, while the loss drops the Seahawks to 4-7 on the year.
UNC Wilmington scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extra innings after BSU held a 6-2 lead. Ball State did not back down though as it scored the game-winning run in the 11th inning as junior shortstop T.J. Baumet (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) drove in freshman Wes Winkle (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown), who led off the inning with a single.
UNC Wilmington struck first in the bottom of the third inning against senior right-hander Brad Piatt (Galveston, Ind./Lewis Cass). The Seahawks led things off as Ben Thielsen reached on a single and moved into scoring position after a sacrifice bunt. Cody Stanley drove in the game's first run as he singled into right field and Thielsen beat the throw home to give UNCW a 1-0 lead.
Ball State answered back in the top of the fifth inning against Seahawk starter Daniel Cropper. Freshman Blake Beemer (Clayton, Ohio/Northmont) led off the inning with a single and moved to third as fellow freshman Kevin Franchetti (Highland, Ind./Andrean) singled through the left side.
Winkle drove in the tying run as he grounded out to short to plate Beemer. Sophomore second baseman Mitch Widau (Richmond, Ind./Richmond) gave the Cardinals the 2-1 lead as he singled into right field to plate Franchetti.
UNC Wilmington tied the game back immediately in the bottom of the fifth inning as Thielsen and Mike Rooney led off with back-to-back singles. Grayson Evans tied the game with a double to plate Thielsen and move two into scoring position. Redshirt sophomore right-hander Perci Garner (Dover, Ohio/Dover) came on in relief and worked out of the jam as he got three outs to strand both runners in scoring position.
Ball State retook the lead in the top of the eighth inning as Baumet started things off with a one out single to chase Cropper from the game. Baumet moved to third base as he stole second and advanced on a UNCW throwing error with two outs.
After an intentional walk to junior Kolbrin Vitek (Bryan, Ohio/Bryan), senior third baseman Zach Dygert (Angola, Ind./Angola) came through in the clutch. Dygert ripped the first pitch he saw into left field to plate Baumet and move Vitek to third. The Cardinals executed a double steal that brought home Vitek and gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead.
Ball State picked up two insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning as Franchetti reached on a one out walk. After the second out of the inning, Widau reached on an infield single and Baumet drew a walk to load the bases. Freshman Kirby Campbell (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown) came through with some two-out lightning as he ripped a 2-2 pitch up the middle to score two runs and put Ball State ahead 6-2.
UNC Wilmington fought back and tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning as it scored four runs with two outs. Garner started to tire and walked two batters before getting two outs. Right-hander Seth Hobbs (Marseilles, Ill./Seneca) come on in relief and allowed back-to-back two-run singles by Evans and Ridge to tie the game at 6-6.
Ball State battled back in the top of the 11th inning as Winkle led off the inning with a single off of Ryan Walker. Widau followed with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt to move Winkle into scoring position. Baumet continued his strong play as he ripped a fastball down the left field line for a run-scoring double giving the Cardinals a 7-6 lead.
UNW Wilmington made the game interesting in the bottom of the 11th inning as the Seahawks got the game-tying run to third base. Senior right-hander Aaron Hammons (Greenfield, Ind./Greenfield Central) came out of the bullpen to make his first appearance of the year after battling an injury. Hammons was able to get the final out of the game as he induced a fly ball to right field to strand the bases loaded and earn his first save of the season.
Piatt lasted 4.0 innings in the no decision for BSU as he allowed two runs on six hits while striking out three batters. Garner turned in strong work out of the bullpen as he went 4.2 innings and allowed just two runs on three hits while striking out six batters. Hobbs (2-0) picked up the victory in relief as he went 1.1 innings and allowed two runs on four hits.
Cropper went a season-high 7.1 innings and allowing just three runs on six hits in the no decision. Walker was charged with the loss as he allowed one run in 0.2 innings of relief in the 11th inning.
The Cardinals continue their spring break trip Wednesday afternoon when they travel to the College of Charleston. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.