AKRON, Ohio – Sophomore John Valek III opened the series with a dominant start over 7.1 innings as The University of Akron (23-21, 10-9 MAC) baseball team defeated Ball State University (30-15, 1-4 MAC) by a final score of 5-2 on Friday afternoon at Lee R. Jackson Field.
Ball State entered the contest with the best record in the Mid-American Conference West Division, while also totaling a .283 batting average and scoring 277 runs. However, Valek set the tone early in the game with three straight scoreless frames before the Zips put a run on the board.
In the bottom of the third inning with runners on second and third, redshirt junior Devan Ahart was intentionally walked to load the bases. Sophomore Kris Simonton then delivered a clutch, two-RBI single to right field to put Akron ahead 2-0 scoring both Daulton Mosbarger and James Sheltrown on the play.
After scoreless frames from Valek in the fourth and fifth, the Zips were able to extend the lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning on an RBI bunt single by Ahart to score Mosbarger from third. Ahart stole his 25th base of the season in the fifth also.
UA added to their lead with two more runs in the seventh to bring the game to a 5-0 Zips advantage. Simonton delivered another two-RBI single with the bases juiced to score both Sheltrown and Mosbarger.
Valek allowed his first run of the game to the Cardinals on a bases-loaded walk in the eight, cutting the Zips lead to 5-1. Freshman right-hander Masashi Sakamoto came out of the bullpen to retire the final two batters. He did toss a wild pitch that allowed a run to make the game 5-2 Zips.
Sakamoto came out for the ninth inning to record one out, but allowed two Ball State runners aboard. Akron went to right-hander Matt LaRocca out of the bullpen to finish off the game. It took him just two pitches to close out the game, as the Zips made it a 5-2 final on a 6-4-3 double play. LaRocca earned his fourth save of the season.
A Parkland, Fla., native, Valek totaled two earned runs, two walks and two strikeouts in seven-plus innings of work. He lowered his rotation-best ERA to 2.58 in the win, and evened his season record to 4-4.
Offensively, the Zips registered seven base hits led by Simonton who had two hits and a career-high four RBI. Mosbarger had a career-high three runs scored and a base hit, while Sheltrown added two runs, a base knock and a walk. Ahart increased his team-high batting average to .318 with one hit, one RBI, and a walk.
The Zips will look to clinch the series win over the Cardinals tomorrow at 1 p.m., on Lee R. Jackson Field. Sophomore righty JT Brubaker is the scheduled pitcher for UA.