Fresh off a 3-0 victory over Ball State on Friday, Arizona Baseball sent Chandler Murphy to the mound for game two of the four-game set Saturday evening.
The hurler from Peoria retained his Freshman status as the NCAA gave back a year of eligibility after canceling the 2020 season. Ball State countered with a righty of their own in Junior Chayce McDermott.
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Different from Opening Day, Saturday saw the Cardinals jump out to an early, 1-0 lead on an RBI Double from Nick Powell. Murphy then found himself in early trouble throughout the first, as Noah Navarro led off with a single before Trenton Quartermain grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
But then came the damage. Ross Messina doubled just prior to Powell’s RBI double, giving the Cardinals the lead.
The bottom half of the inning opened with a Donta’ Williams walk, and he notched his second steal of the year, which set up Kobe Kato singling to put a pair on with just one out. However, Arizona was unable to convert with a fielder’s choice and strikeout to end the inning.
Murphy settled down in the second by striking out the side, just after hitting a batter earlier in the inning.
Jacob Berry then advanced the runners both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt giving Mac Bingham a chance to open his RBI account. Bingham came through with a single up the middle to score both Susac and Casagrande to deliver the 2-1 lead for Arizona.
After a quiet third and top of the fourth, the Wildcats capitalized on a one-out single by Bingham, meanwhile, Williams reached on an error, and Jacob Blas got hit by a pitch to run Chayce McDermott from the game.
Tyler Schweitzer entered with the bases loaded and Kobe at the plate. Schweitzer was able to get Kato on strikes, and then Branden Boissiere flied out to escape damage to close out the inning.
A run-scoring ground out by Aaron Simpson tied things up for Ball State in the fifth, and then the Cardinals continued to threaten with two on and only one out for Quartermaine.
Quartermaine converted on a sac fly to left, giving the Cardinals the lead back at 3-2. But luckily, Murphy was able to escape further damage, limiting Ball Stat to just the pair of runs to send Arizona back to the plate once again down only a run.
Following a Ryan Holgate single and then a flyout, Blake Paugh stepped to the plate replacing Casagrande, and delivered a double down the line to put a pair of runners in scoring position once again with just one out. Following a Jacob Berry walk, who else but Bingham came through yet again, this time on a sacrifice fly to tie things right back up in the fifth.
With one away in the bottom of the sixth, Kato and Boissiere would walk to put two on as Holgate came to the plate. Holgate overpowered the crosswind of Hi Corbett and sent the ball over the fence for a three-run Home Run, giving the Wildcats a 6-3 lead, and sending Schweitzer to the showers.
Murphy gave way to Dawson Netz who quickly retired the Cardinals in the seventh, and in the bottom half Arizona added on to their lead with a Boissiere RBI groundout to make it 7-3.
Relief pitching failed Arizona Baseball, as the Wildcats couldn’t hold on in their loss against Ball State.
With the bases loaded in the Top of the eighth, Jay Johnson turned to Randy Abshier in hopes of minimizing the damage. Abshier would the only two batters he faced making the score 7-5 before turning over the game to Vince Vannelle.
Vanelle was able to turn a double play on the first batter he faced, however, the Cardinals were able to net another run, bringing things back to within one run.
Adam Tellier then stepped to the plate and singled to right, tying things up yet again at 7-7. Vanelle was then able to get the next batter swinging to send the game to the bottom of the eighth tied.
Things did not get easier for the ‘Cats as Ball State opted for the preseason MAC Pitcher of the Year frontrunner in John Baker to start the bottom of the inning. Baker promptly struck out Susac, Paugh, and Nik McClaughry in short order to send the game to the ninth all tied up.
Vanelle then made short work of the Cardinals in the top of the ninth with a pop-out, fly-out, and strikeout to turn things over to the Arizona offense with a chance to walk-off Ball State in the bottom half of the inning.
After Baker got two quick strikeouts, he proceeded to load the bases for Holgate. However, on the first pitch, Blas tried stealing home in what was a very close play but ultimately was called out to end the ninth-inning rally for the Wildcats.
Ian Churchill took to the mound to start extra innings for the Wildcats in relief of Vanelle, who for the second-straight night turned in a stellar outing despite allowing an inherited runner to score.
Churchill then proceeded to sit the Cardinals down in order in the top half of the 10th, turning things back over to Holgate and the offense.
The break proved beneficial to Baker, as he regained his form, retiring the Wildcats on just seven pitches to send the game to the 11th inning.
Ryan Peltier opened the 11th for Ball State with a single, before advancing to second on a passed ball with one out. Zach Lane was then walked, giving the Cardinals yet another threatening offensive situation.
With two on, Noah Navarro then singled to load the bases, before Churchill was able to strike out Quartermaine to bring up Ross Messina with two down and the bases loaded.
Despite going down 0-2 in the count, Messina was able to deliver for the Cardinals, drawing a bases-loaded walk to give Ball State the lead back at 8-7. Luckily, Churchill was then able to get a strikeout to limit the Ball State damage to just one run and send the Wildcats to the plate.
Needing a run to stay alive, Ball State once again turned to Baker for his fourth inning of work in relief as he locked down the game for the Cardinals despite singles by Williams and Blas.
On Deck for the Wildcats
The Wildcats will look to bounce back as the series continues for Arizona and Ball State this afternoon as the teams face off for the third of four meetings. Arizona will send lefty Garrett Irvin to the mound for his 2021 debut, while we may also see lefty Luke Jaksich take the mound for Ball State. Baker was scheduled to throw for the Cardinals, but after throwing four innings on Saturday night, he will likely not be able to take the ball for the Cardinals.