BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - The Ball State baseball team improved to 6-1 in Mid-American Conference play Friday as the Cardinals downed two-time defending MAC regular season champion Bowling Green 12-6 at Stellar Field. The Cardinals pounded out 18 hits, including seven for extra bases, to earn their first win in Bowling Green since 2004.
Senior catcher Zach Dygert (Angola, Ind./Angola) was the offensive catalyst as he finished the day 4-for-4 before coming out for a substitution. Dygert tallied a double, a triple and two singles as he drove in two runs and scored a pair. . Freshman Stephen Claypool (Dearborn, Mich./Divine Child) added three hits and drove in three runs to continue his strong play.
Redshirt sophomore right-hander Perci Garner (Dover, Ohio/Dover) continued his stellar play on the mound as he improved to 4-0 on the year and 3-0 in MAC play through the first three weeks of the conference season. Garner tossed 6.0 solid innings while limiting the Falcons to just two runs on seven hits while striking out five batters.
Ball State (12-16, 6-1 MAC) opened the scoring in the top of the first against BGSU right-hander and reigning MAC Pitcher of the Year Brennan Smith. Junior shortstop T.J. Baumet (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led off the game as he worked a walk and moved into scoring position with his eighth stolen base. Freshman Blake Beemer (Clayton, Ohio/Northmont) ripped a single to left field to move runners to the corners. Smith was able to induce a ground ball double play to get two outs, but Baumet scored on the play for the early 1-0 Ball State lead.
Bowling Green (8-16-1, 2-5 MAC) answered back in the bottom of the first inning against Garner. Logan Meisler led off the inning with a single and moved to second as Mark Galvin drew a walk. Derek Spencer tied the game as he singled up the middle but Garner worked out of the inning with a strikeout and a ground ball to first.
The Cardinals quickly retook the lead in the top of the second inning. Senior left fielder Kory Benbow (Muncie, Ind./Cowan) took the first pitch he saw over the right field wall for his fourth home run of the season for a 2-1 BSU lead.
Ball State extended its lead to 6-1 as it scored four runs in the top of the third inning to chase Smith from the game. Junior Kolbrin Vitek (Bryan, Ohio/Bryan) led off the inning with an infield single and moved into scoring position as Dygert ripped a double off the center field wall.
Sophomore Ian Nielsen (La Porte, Ind./La Porte) loaded the bases as he was hit by a pitch and Benbow picked up his second RBI of the day as he dropped a single into right center field. Claypool got the inning's big hit as he battled for a two-run single through the right side. The Cardinals capped the scoring as Baumet lifted a sacrifice fly into center field to put BSU in front 6-1.
After BGSU scored one run in the third inning, the Cardinals answered back in the top of the fourth inning against reliever Nick Bruns. Vitek led off the inning as he turned in a hustling double with a ground ball up the middle. Dygert drove him in as he ripped a run-scoring triple down the right field line. Nielsen capped the inning as he hit his second home run of the season over the right field wall for the 9-2 lead.
The Cardinals extended the lead to 10-2 with another run in the fifth. Bowling Green tried to make a move in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Falcons loaded the bases with two outs. Garner buckled down and recorded his fifth strike out as he froze Andrew Kuns on a full count fast ball to end the threat.
The Falcons scratched across two runs against BSU reliever Scott Brother Jr. (Fort Wayne, Ind./Gulf Coast CC) in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bowling Green tallied three hits in the inning, including back-to-back doubles from T.J. Blanton and Mark Galvin to narrow the BSU lead to 10-4.
Ball State answered right back with two runs in the top of the eighth to extend the lead back to eight at 12-4. Claypool led off the inning with his third home run in his last three MAC games as he hit the first pitch of the frame over the right field wall. Sophomore Mitch Widau (Richmond, Ind./Richmond) followed with a single and came home to score as Baumet and Beemer hit back-to-back singles. Bowling Green plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to round out the game's scoring.
Smith (1-4) was charged with the loss as he was tagged for six runs on eight hits in just 2.1 innings of work. Bruns allowed four runs on five hits in 3.2 innings of relief as BGSU used four pitchers in the loss.
The Cardinals and Falcons will continue their series Saturday afternoon with first pitch set for a 1 p.m. at Steller Field. Sophomore right-hander Cal Bowling (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown) is set to take the hill for the Cardinals while Michael Frank will get the call for Bowling Green.