There was a duck walking around in front of IU’s dugout at Victory Field early in Tuesday night’s ballgame, but 10 more ducks were left on the pond by the Hoosiers.
The duck flew over the seats, directly over the press box and out of the stadium as senior second baseman Tony Butler grounded out to shortstop to end the fifth inning. It was a sign of things to come.
Maybe the actual duck was an omen because the Hoosiers’ bats became active later on and the ducks on the base paths were driven home in the eventual 4-3 win.
For the second time in two matchups this season, now 21-20 Ball State tied the score late and forced extra innings. Staying consistent, 22-16-2 IU would recover and be the victor in both contests.
“It brings good momentum for the weekend,” IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. “Last week when you lose midweek, you’re pissed off. It feels like every weekend’s big right now. Our league right now is very competitive.”
IU’s leadoff batters in each of the first three innings reached base, but hits failed to follow.
In the first inning, senior left fielder Alex Krupa walked and was followed by a Butler fly out and a walk by sophomore designated hitter Matt Lloyd. Krupa would advance to third on a fly out by sophomore third baseman Luke Miller, but senior center fielder Craig Dedelow stranded the runners at the corners by striking out.
The Hoosiers got something going in the second inning after back-to-back singles by junior right fielder Logan Sowers and freshman first baseman Matt Gorski, who both advanced a bag on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore catcher Ryan Fineman.
IU would get a free run on a one-out balk by Ball State junior pitcher Colin Brockhouse that plated Sowers. The next two batters would both get out and strand Gorski at third to make it the second consecutive inning a runner would be left on base 90 feet from home.
IU would once again get its first two batters on base in the third inning after a single by Butler and Lloyd’s second walk of the night. Miller came up next and grounded into a double play, and then Dedelow stepped into the box and struck out again to end the opportunity and strand a runner in scoring position.
After three innings, IU was 1-8 with runners on base, 0-6 with runners in scoring position and 0-3 with two outs. Cardinal sophomore Evan Marquardt entered to pitch in the beginning of the fourth inning and retired nine consecutive Hoosiers.
The crowd wasn’t shy about letting the Hoosiers know about their rough beginning to the night at the plate. In the fourth inning, Fineman grounded out to second base for the third out and a fan from behind home plate yelled, “Hey Fineman, you’re no Kyle Schwarber.”
After Fineman got thrown out at home in the bottom of the seventh, his heckler doubled down and bellowed, “Hey, Fineman, Schwarber would’ve made it.”
In his at-bat that resulted in a walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning, Sowers took an ugly hack that drew a groan and some chuckles from the spectators. Sowers would get the last laugh as he eventually scored on a single by freshman shortstop Jeremy Houston to knot the game at 2-2.
The Hoosiers would add one more in the inning to take a 3-2 lead when Houston crossed the plate on an RBI single by Butler.
After the Cardinals tied the ballgame 3-3 in the top of the ninth inning, IU would be presented with another chance to come up with a big hit in the bottom half of the frame.
With two outs, Krupa singled to center field and moved Fineman, who singled with one out, up to second base, but Butler couldn’t get the job done.
The first two batsmen failed to reach base in the bottom of the 10th inning, but a hit-by-pitch and stolen base by junior Laren Eustace, who entered the game in center field in the top of the ninth as a defensive replacement, gave IU the small opening it needed.
Following Eustace’s swipe, Ball State intentionally walked Sowers to put the force at any base with one out to go.
Gorski then sent a 1-1 pitch to right field that allowed Eustace to come all the way around from second and score. 4-3 IU. Game over.
“I was just really excited to get it done for the team,” Gorski said. “I’ve always dreamed of being here, playing here. I’ve always wanted to in high school being an Indiana guy, but I’ve seen so many games being played here, and it’s just awesome to be able to play in a facility like this.”
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