BASEBALL: Ball State takes one on the road from No. 15 Arkansas
Cardinals open season by going 1-2 in weekend series vs. Razorbacks
Winning its opening weekend series would have been ideal for Ball State University, but beating No. 15 University of Arkansas once will have to do.
After losing to the Razorbacks 10-2 on Opening Day, the Cardinals (1-2) responded with a 5-2 victory Saturday. Arkansas (2-1) claimed the three-game series with a 9-3 win Sunday.
Coach Greg Beals was proud of the heart his team showed bouncing back from Friday's loss.
"We played a really good baseball game on Saturday and that's what it requires to beat a team like Arkansas," he said. "We showed a lot of character as a team to take advantage of our second opportunity against them."
Friday was the first time Ball State had played on a baseball field since beginning practice three weeks ago. Snow and cold weather has confined them to the Field Sports Building.
Catcher Zach Dygert said it was easy to come back from the loss because the Cardinals were just happy to be playing baseball outside.
"The game on Friday was tough but it was so refreshing to be outside that it was very easy for everybody to bounce back," the senior captain said. "It was a loss, but wasn't a really hard loss. It was great atmosphere and a great place to play. I don't think anyone had trouble getting up to play."
Playing in front of a crowd of 5,827 Saturday, Ball State put together a complete game against Arkansas for the upset.
The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when second baseman Kolbrin Vitek tripled home right fielder Kirby Campbell and scored on a sacrifice fly. Ball State would never trail to Arkansas, a team that reached the College World Series a year ago.
Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said the Cardinals were simply the better team Saturday.
"They outplayed us big-time today," he said. "They out-pitched us and out-fielded us. What they did was they got some big hits. They took advantage of the mistakes and I thought their pitching staff did a great job."
Ball State used only two pitchers Saturday. Cal Bowling started the game and pitched four innings, allowing one run. Morgan Coombs (1-0) relieved the sophomore and threw five gutsy innings for the victory. The right-hander was in trouble throughout his outing, but was able to escape jam after jam. Arkansas had at least one runner on base in each of the first eight innings and stranded 12 in all.
In the seventh inning with the Cardinals clinging to a 3-2 lead, Coombs loaded the bases with a pair of two out walks, bringing preseason All-American Brett Eibner to the plate. Coombs struck out Eibner, ending the inning.
"They have some big bats in their lineup," Coombs said. "But you can't pitch around them. You've got to hit your spots."
Dygert removed much of the drama in the top of the eighth inning with a two-run home run to give Ball State some breathing room.
"It was a home run off the bat," Beals said. "It took a 3-2 lead to a 5-2 lead and helped everyone relax."
Ball State was led by Dygert and preseason All-American Kolbrin Vitek, who combined to go 7-for-9 with four RBIs and four runs. Coombs struck out eight batters in his five innings of work, allowing just one run.
Beals said getting sterling performances from Vitek, Dygert and Coombs was the key to the game.
Despite a lack of clutch hitting leading to another loss Sunday, the Cardinals were still pleased with their upset Saturday.
"It's a great feeling for me individually and as a team," Coombs said. "It means we can compete nationally and that we're going to be a good team.