Northern Illinois reliever Zach Badgley (McHenry/McHenry) worked 4-2/3 innings for Huskies, limiting Ball State to one run, two hits and two strikeouts.
NIU (21-32, 15-11 MAC) would fall to BSU (28-22, 15-11 MAC) in game two of the series, 14-3. Today’s game will now decide the Mid-American Conference West division champion.
Ball State jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning on four hits, including two doubles in the middle of the lineup. Starting pitcher Jordan Ruckman (Kankakee/Herscher) gave way to Badgley after two-thirds of an inning of work.
The senior pitcher worked flawlessly in the second, third and fourth innings as he retired the sides in order, grounding out five batters in that span and fanning two. He surrendered one run in the fifth on a homer to give Ball State an 8-0 advantage.
Badgley closed his day with two outs down in the fifth inning, finishing the day with 4-2/3 innings pitched, two hits, one earned run, one walk and two strikeouts. He was a third of an inning shy of his career-high five innings pitched.
Freshman Jon Savarise (Lincolnshire/Stevenson) closed the fifth inning and dealt through the sixth inning as well, ending with 1-2/3 innings pitched, surrendering zero hits, zero runs with a strikeout and a walk.
With its bats locked and loaded in the seventh, Northern Illinois began a string of four straight hits to score three runs and close its gap to the Cardinals, 8-3.
Jeff Zimmerman (Tinley Park/Andrew), Alex Klonowski (Kearney, Mo./Kearney) and Micah McCulloch (Rochelle/Rochelle Township) doubled to leadoff the inning to make it 8-2. Nate Ruzich (Joliet/South Suburban College) was the final chapter in the streak as he singled to left field to score McCulloch from second.
The Huskies would then blank the Cardinals in the sixth and seventh innings, but BSU surged back in the eighth to score six runs, including four on three-straight home runs.
“I thought our first couple guys out of the bullpen pitched well,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “They gave us a chance to come back in the game and posted zeroes on the scoreboard; we just couldn’t get anything going offensively to overcome the two big innings that they had.”
The Huskies and the Cardinals will close the regular season today for the MAC West Division Championship. First pitch is set for 12:15 p.m. Central Time.