SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Senior second baseman Mitch Widau (Richmond, Ind./Richmond) drove in the go ahead run in the top of the ninth inning with a two-out single as the Cardinals defeated regional foe Dayton in the 2012 season opener at Russell C. King Field on the campus of Wofford Friday afternoon. The victory marks the first season-opening win for the Cardinals since the 2005 season (at Middle Tennessee).
"Today boils down to good pitching, timely hitting and good fielding," second-year head coach Alex Marconi said. "We made big pitches when we needed it today, we got big hits with two-outs and we made all of the plays needed in the field. We made great defensive plays and we made all of the routine plays. Today was a good team all-around victory to open the season."
Sophomore left-hander Devin Wilburn (Selma, Ind./Wapahani) recorded his first career victory in relief as he tallied 2.0 shutout innings while striking out two. Senior right-hander Cal Bowling (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown) picked up a no decision despite have a strong start to 2012. Bowling worked 6.2 innings and allowed three runs, only one earned, while striking out five batters.
Dayton, which won 32 games last season and was picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 this season, opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning against Bowling. Brian Blasik led off the inning with a double to center field and moved to third base on an ensuing ground ball. C.J. Gillman drove in the game's first run as he grounded out short for an early 1-0 Flyers lead.
Ball State (1-0) answered back in the top of the third inning against Dayton right-hander Burny Mitchem. Sophomore catcher Mitch Overley (Zionsville, Ind./Brebeuf) led off the inning with a single and moved into scoring position after consecutive ground outs. Junior Blake Beemer (Dayton, Ohio/Northmont) drove in the Cardinals' first run of the 2012 season as he ripped a run-scoring single through the right side to knot the score at 1-1.
Dayton was primed to retake the lead in the bottom of the third inning as it opened with a single and a double to put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Bowling buckled down and struck out Gillman before inducing an inning-ending ground ball Michael Coughlin as Beemer made a great defensive stop at first base to keep the game tied.
Ball State took its first lead of the 2012 season in the top of the sixth inning as senior third baseman Tim Issler (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) led off with a single into right field. After a wild pitch moved Issler into scoring position, sophomore shortstop T.J. Weir (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo) put the Cardinals in front as he doubled down the left field line. Sophomore Sean Godfrey (New Albany, Ind./New Albany) put Ball State in front 3-1 as he roped a run-scoring single to center field scoring Weir.
Bowling rolled into the seventh inning and got the first two outs before running into trouble. Josh Jeffrey poked a single to left field before Blasik drew a four-pitch walk to end Bowling's afternoon. Junior left-hander Jon Cisna (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) came on in relief and after a passed ball moved runners into scoring position, he hit a batter to load the bases. Gillman followed with a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at 3-3. Cisna was able to end the threat and strand two on base as he induced a pop fly from Coughlin to end the inning.
Ball State scored the eventual game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning against right-hander Parker Schrage. Junior left fielder Kirby Campbell (Muncie, Ind./Cowan) led off the inning with a single and moved into scoring position after a ground ball by junior Wes Winkle (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown) for the second out of the inning. Senior second baseman Mitch Widau (Richmond, Ind./Richmond) lined a two-out single into left field driving in Campbell for a 4-3 lead.
Wilburn came back out for his second inning of work in the bottom of the ninth inning. He pitched flawlessly in the final frame, inducing three fly balls to end the game and post the victory.
Widau, Beemer and Overley paced the Cardinals' 10-hit attack with two hits each in the victory. The win is the earliest in the calendar year for Ball State since posting a 6-2 victory over St. Mary's February 16, 2001.
Ball State returns to action in Spartanburg, S.C., Saturday afternoon as it travels over to USC Upstate. Game time for the contest has been moved to a 3 p.m. start due to forecasted rain Saturday night in the Palmetto State. Sophomore left-hander Nestor Bautista (New York, N.Y./George Washington) is set to make his first start of the season against the Spartans.