MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State baseball team got home runs from a trio of freshmen Saturday on its way to a 10-5 win over Akron in the Mid-American Conference opener.
Right fielder Kory Benbow and designated hitter Ryan Chenoweth each hit their fourth home run of the season, and second baseman Jeremy Hazelbaker blasted his third of the year in the win.
Ball State and Akron were finally able to play game one of their weekend series at 4 p.m. Saturday after being rained out Friday and delayed earlier in the day Saturday. The teams will play a doubleheader Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. to wrap up the three-game set.
Prior to Sunday's first game, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Ball State will honor its 2006 MAC Tournament Championship team with a ring ceremony. Ball State President Dr. Jo Ann Gora and Director of Athletics Tom Collins will be on hand for the event.
In Saturday's game, Ball State jumped out to an early lead with a four-run second inning. With two outs in the inning, Benbow started the damage with his home run, a solo shot to right center field. After back-to-back singles from Chenoweth and third baseman Matt Gard, catcher Zach Dygert singled through the right side to score the second run of the inning. Hazelbaker later singled to score two more runs, giving Ball State a 4-0 cushion.
Pitching with an early lead, Ball State starter Brenden Stines went to work against the Akron hitters. Through six innings, Stines had allowed only two runners to reach second base, retiring eight Zips in a row at one point.
After Ball State expanded its lead to 5-0 on an RBI single from Gard in the sixth inning, Stines ran into his only trouble of the day in the seventh. The right-hander surrendered three runs but was able to get out of the inning without any more damage with the help of Cardinal relievers Richie Fralick and Kyle Heyne.
In 6.1 innings of work, Stines allowed three runs on six hits to earn his second win of the season. He finished with a season-high seven strikeouts.
"Stines was good for us today," Ball State coach Greg Beals said. "He's got that mental make-up where he just loves to compete. It's good to get that first conference win under our belts and get off to a good start."
Heyne worked the final 2.1 innings to pick up his fifth save of the season. The junior has now moved into second place alone on Ball State's career saves list with 19, trailing only Ron Schrock (1983-85), who saved 24 career games.
The Ball State bats provided Heyne with some insurance in the eighth inning, exploding for five runs to put the game out of reach. Chenoweth blasted a three-run home run in the inning, and Hazelbaker later followed with a two-run shot.
Hazelbaker finished with a season-high four RBI, and Chenoweth's three RBI matched his season-best. Gard led the Cardinals with three hits in four at bats, while center fielder Wayne Bond picked up one hit to extend his hitting streak to six games.