MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Ball State senior right-hander Cal Bowling (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown) continued his dominant start to the season as he worked into the eighth inning for the third straight start to lead the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory over hosting Middle Tennessee Friday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field. The victory improves the Cardinals to 3-7 on the year while the Blue Raiders fall to 8-6 with the loss.
Bowling (2-0) picked up his second straight win as he tossed 7.1 innings and limited MTSU to just three runs on five hits while striking out six batters. He did not allow a runner to reach base until the fourth inning, working 3.2 innings of no-hit baseball. In four starts this season, he has tossed 31.0 innings while posting a 2.61 ERA. Junior right-hander Chris Marangon (Maple Valley, Wash./Edmunds CC) worked the final 1.2 innings to earn his first save of the Ball State career.
Ball State opened the scoring in the top of the third inning against Middle Tennessee starter Hunter Adkins. Juniors Kirby Campbell (Muncie, Ind./Cowan) and Wes Winkle (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown) started the inning with back-to-back singles after one out before executing a double steal to put two in scoring position. After a walk loaded the bases, sophomore T.J. Weir (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo) worked a walk to push home the game's first run before Adkins got out of the inning with only one run scoring.
Middle Tennessee tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning as it posted back-to-back singles with one out. Trent Miller followed with a run-scoring double to tie the game at 1-1, but Bowling stranded two runners in scoring position by inducing a shallow fly ball to center field.
Ball State took the lead back for good in the top of the fifth inning. Winkle led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt that the Cardinals beat out to put two aboard. Middle Tennessee issued a walk to load the bases before Weir lined a two-run single to right-center field to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
The Cardinals added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to extend their lead to 5-1. Senior Mitch Widau (Richmond, Ind./Richmond) posted an RBI-single in the sixth inning while freshman Brandon Estep (Selma, Ind./Wapahani) drove in a run in the seventh with a single to left field.
Middle Tennessee narrowed the gap to 5-3 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Ryan Stephens lined a two-run single into left center field before Bowling got out of the inning with a fly ball to center field.
The Blue Raiders threatened the bottom of the ninth inning against Marangon as Miller led off with a single and Johnny Thomas doubled to put two in scoring position. Matthew Drake made it a one-run game as he lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to make it a 5-4 contest. Marangon stranded the game-tying run on second base as he got an infield pop fly before ending the game with a line out to second base to seal the victory.
Winkle and Estep led the Cardinals' offense with two hits apiece in the 11-hit attack as all nine starters recorded a hit for Ball State. Weir drove in three of the Cardinals' five runs in the victory while Widau and Estep each added an RBI.
Adkins (2-1) picked up his first loss of the season as he worked 5.0 innings and allowed five runs on four hits. He struck out seven batters but walked five in the loss. Nick Montgomery tossed the final 4.0 innings and limited the Cardinals to just one run.
Ball State and Middle Tennessee return to action Saturday afternoon for game two of the series. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. (CT) at Reese Smith Jr. Field.