clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 College World Series Lexington Regional Recap: Ball State goes 0-2 to end season

Someone had to be the unlucky 0-fer team,and unfortunately for Ball State, it was them.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal and USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

Lexington, Kentucky was hopping last weekend.

On top of the College Baseball regional, there was a country music festival and high school sports championships in track and field, softball and baseball throughout the city.

No hotels were available for the teams so Kentucky made their dorms available. All three visiting teams took Kentucky up on the offer, as opposed to hotels outside of the city and a police escort to and from Kentucky Proud Park.

Ball State was the fourth seed in the regional, and the only conference champion of the four teams. No one doubted the ability of this Cardinal team, but winning a regional is tough even for host teams.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they left their bats at home, connecting on just 11-of-65 at-bats during the two games. They weren’t able to draw the walks or hit for the power needed to make up for the low number of hits. For the pitchers, four innings of the 16 pitched accounted for 15 of the 17 runs they allowed.

It was a severely unlucky end to what was otherwise a fantastic season for the Cardinal and White.

Kentucky bullpen; Cardinal miscues shuts down Ball State

Ball State 0
Kentucky 4

Trennor O’Donnell followed up his MAC Tournament complete game win with another outstanding performance. He carried the Cardinals into the eighth inning during the opening game of the Lexington Regional against #12 Kentucky.

He left it all on the mound, 7.1 innings pitched, four hits allowed, one walk and 119 pitches when he left the game. Kentucky catcher Devin Burkes hit a home run in the fourth inning for the only run to that point.

O’Donnell left a runner on first that reached base by getting hit by the pitch and Sam Klein came in to get out of the inning.

The next batter hit a single, and first base was open after a passed ball. Burkes drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. The next run scored on a wild pitch and a single scored the final two for a three-run inning.

Those runs made it out of reach, and maybe momentum is different hitting in the ninth of a one-run game instead of a four-run game, but Kentucky reliever Mason Moore was coasting. Travis Smith started for Kentucky and Ball State was able to threaten in the first and the fourth innings. The Cardinals were looking fiesty with their ace on the mound.

Moore entered the game after Smith walked Justin Conant after getting ahead 1-2. He got 15 outs from the 14 batters he faced and didn’t allow a baserunner. It took 50 pitches to get through five innings and pounded the zone relentlessly. If the Cardinals wanted to get him off the mound, they needed base hits to do it. Taking pitches would only end in being behind in the count.

Three hits is not going to beat a regional host. Kentucky is the regional champion and is headed to a Super Regional with LSU, but this game was winnable until the end of the eighth. The bats were stifled down the stretch and couldn’t put the Wildcats under any pressure.

West Virginia mashes Ball State with shutdown arms and loud bats

West Virginia 13
Ball State 5

The Cardinals weren’t going to go down without a fight. Nick Gregory drove in the game’s first run in the bottom of the second with a two-out single, but the Mountaineers responded with three in the top of the third.

Ty Johnson got the start for Ball State and had already pitched around baserunners through two innings. A single and an error put the first two runners on for leadoff hitter JJ Wetherholt. He hit the first pitch of his second at bat and put it out over the wall in dead center.

Ball State responded in the bottom half of the inning with four runs of their own and they didn’t reach base until there were two outs. Ryan Peltier and Decker Scheffler were retired on nine pitches, but then West Virginia starter Ben Hampton got to experience #MACtion on the baseball field.

Adam Tellier got the inning started with a double, then five consecutive singles drove in four runs. The Cardinals were aggressive and hitting everything coming their way. It took ten pitches to get through the five hits and Ball State was back on top 5-3.

West Virginia would homer twice in the next inning and retake the lead 7-5. It looked like the first elimination game was about to get wild in Lexington, but West Virginia put Aidan Major on the mound and he would be the second reliever to dominate the Ball State lineup.

He completed five innings and gave up one hit to Justin Conant in the sixth inning, and struck out eight on sixty pitches. With the game in cruise control, West Virginia added a run in the seventh with a solo home run and finally got to the Ball State bullpen in the ninth inning.

Ty Weatherly had been stranding base runners into the ninth inning until a walk and two batters hit by pitches loaded the bases. MAC Tournament hero Jacob Hartlaub wasn’t able to capture the same magic and allowed all of the inherited runners to score plus two more.

That was the end of the line for the Ball State Cardinals, but it was an incredible season. Only one team gets to make the National Tournament and end it with a win.

And just a reminder, don’t steal on Hunter Dobbins.

Up Next: The Major League Baseball Draft

For some MAC baseball players, the draft is their next stop in their baseball careers. The MLB Draft is July 9th through the 11th with 20 rounds and a little more than 600 players taken.

The MAC players that are draft eligible have completed their Junior year athletically or are 21, whichever comes first. Major League Baseball has published their top 200 prospects list and Kent State’s Joe Whitman is 43rd. The MAC Pitcher of the Year would go early in the second round at that number, but anything can happen.

Some teams prefer high school talent, some prefer college players and so many factors outside of baseball ability come into play when teams are drafting players. Players don’t have to sign with the team that drafted them so signability is a concern with high school players, but occasionally college coaches overuse pitchers to win games.

A handful of MAC players get drafted in each draft and the rest go to summer ball and college showcase leagues like the Cape Cod League in Massachusetts or the Northwoods League around the Midwest.