MUNCIE, Ind. – Indiana State picked up a big mid-week victory on the road Wednesday as they turned back the Ball State Cardinals 9-7 at Ball Stadium. Both teams are battling for first in their respective leagues and both are in the top 60 of the RPI.
“It was a good win for us,” Mitch Hannahs, Indiana State baseball coach, said. “We made some mistakes during the game that we need to correct but still a good win after a long layoff.”
The Sycamores improved to 30-13 on the season with the victory and will return home for their final Missouri Valley Conference series of the year against the Missouri State Bears Friday through Sunday. Ball State fell to 32-16 overall and will host Kent State this weekend in a battle of the two division leaders in the Mid-American Conference.
Indiana State entered the game ranked 20th in the RPI and the Cardinals were 60th.
Kurt Kudrecki (6-3) picked up the win in his first relief appearance of the season despite throwing just two-thirds of an inning and giving up three runs on four hits while striking out one and walking one. Josh Dove earned his third save of the season as he went the final three innings in shutting out the Cardinals on one hit while striking out one and walking one.
Trent Lunsford started for the Sycamores and went four innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four and walking one. Nick Kolarik went 1.1 innings and gave up two runs on one hit while striking out one and walking none.
The Sycamores jumped out to a 5-1 lead after three innings but the Cardinals fought back.
“Ball State is a very good team and there was no sign of them giving up when they were behind,” Hannahs said. “Our team had to be just as focused to get the win. It is a testament to the quality of both programs.”
It took Indiana State just six batters to chase Ball State starter Chris Lovejoy from the game. Centerfielder Landon Curry singled up the middle to lead off the game, the fourth straight game that the junior has led off the Sycamores with a single. Cody Zimmerman hit a fly ball into right field that the strong south wind held up and drop in front of a diving Cardinal right fielder for a single. Jacob Hayes had a successful sacrifice bunt to push the runners up a base.
Mike Fitzgerald and Michael Eberle hit back-to-back singles to drive in a pair of runs but then Tyler Wampler was hit by a pitch to load the bases and chase Lovejoy from the mound. Right hander Jacob Brewer took over for the Cardinals and Jeff Zahn greeted him with a single into center that scored two more Sycamore runs.
The Sycamores tacked on another run in the top of the third. Jeff Zahn led off with his ninth double of the season and scored when Derek Hannahs singled through the left side for his team leading 30th RBI of the season.
Ball State broke into the scoring column in the bottom of the third on a Sean Godfrey solo home run with one out. It was the first home run given up this season by Lunsford and just the third extra base hit against the Sycamore freshman.
Lunsford gave up another solo home run, this one to Brandon Estep, and a single to Sam Tydaback before being relieved by Kolarik in the bottom of the fifth who kept the Cardinals from having a big inning.
Indiana State tacked on one more in the sixth after Hayes led off with a single but was caught stealing. Fitzgerald followed with a double and scored on a single by Wampler with two outs.
Ball State came back to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth as they plated four runs on three doubles, a hit batter and a walk.
The Sycamores regained the advantage in the top of the seventh with two runs on two hits. Hannahs led off the inning with a double and after McClain walked, Hannahs went to third as Curry hit into a fielder’s choice that got McClain at second. After Manual Estevez lined out to second, Hayes hit several pitches foul before getting one he liked and drove that through the right side for a single that scored Hannahs and Curry.
Hayes did make it to third on a failed pick-off attempt at first but was left stranded.
Ball State cut that lead by one in the bottom half of the seventh as the Cardinals pushed one over on two hits.
Indiana State scored another run in the top of the ninth on a double steal. Curry led off with a single, went to second on a balk, and third as Estevez hit a deep fly ball into center field. Hayes struck out but Fitzgerald walked to put runners at the corner. With Eberle at the plate and an 1-0 count, Fitzgerald started to steal second and Curry bolted for home on the throw. Curry beat the throw and Fitzgerald ended up at third.
For the third time this sea son the Sycamores recorded 16 hits in a game, just one short of the season high 17 hits they had in the second game at North Carolina-Wilmington. They also had 16 hits in wins over New Orleans and Indiana.
Derek Hannahs led the Sycamores at the plate as he went 3-for-5 with a double and two singles and an RBI. Mike Fitzgerald and Jeff Zahn had a double and a single each, Landon Curry and Jacob Hayes two singles each, and Cody Zimmerman, Brian Romero, and Michael Eberle had a single each.