BASEBALL: Ball State travels to UAB looking for improvement
Cards hope to fix problems from first weekend of play
If opening weekend was about playing nationally-ranked competition in an NCAA Tournament venue for Ball State University, then its four-game series at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is about winning games.
Ball State won once in their three-game series at then-No. 15 University of Arkansas last weekend, which pleased coach Greg Beals. But now, Beals and the rest of the Cardinals expect more against the Blazers.
"This weekend is about us playing good baseball," he said. "It's not going to be our first weekend out. Winning that game at Arkansas was nice, but we need to play better baseball than we did."
The series will be one of the rare times in college baseball where a Northern team will have more games under their belt than the Southern team. UAB has played just once, opening their season with a 6-5 loss at Mississippi State University.
Blazers coach Brian Schoop said their schedule was already set when the NCAA added a 14th week to the season.
"We would have had to cancel some games to add another weekend series, and we didn't want to do that," he said.
Neither Schoop or Beals expects Ball State's extra two games to play a difference in the series. UAB has been able to practice outside throughout the preseason, while Ball State can only hope to get outside sometime after Spring Break.
"They've been out on the grass, out on the dirt," Beals said. "I don't really feel like we'll be ahead of them."
But after getting outside for the first time all year in Arkansas, the Cardinals were able to find some aspects of their game to work on.
"We worked on keeping runners close to second base, as well as baserunning," outfielder Kirby Campbell said. "Just little things that once you get outside you can see that you can't necessarily see inside."
Beals said he expects his pitchers to throw more strikes at UAB. The Cardinals issued 16 walks and hit nine batters during the series. The pitch counts of the starting pitchers will also go up. Last weekend, no starter threw more than four innings.
Starters extending their outings will be especially important Saturday when Ball State and UAB play a doubleheader. Ball State will added senior Scott Brothers Jr. to the rotation for the doubleheader.
"Scott had a great fall and a great offseason," Beals said. "It's more of a situation where its a reward, where he deserves the next nod."
Brothers was used exclusively as a reliever last year after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College. He appeared in 16 games and had an ERA of 3.86.
While UAB is not at the same level of Arkansas, Ball State will not be taking them lightly. Beals said the Blazers remind him of his own team.
"They're a solid team that forces you to beat them," Beals said. "They're not going to make a lot of mistakes."
Ball State at UAB at Jerry D. Young Memorial Stadium
Game No. 4
First pitch: 4 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Brad Piatt (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. LHP Shay Crawford (0-0, 0.00)
Weather: 49 degrees, partly cloudy, northwest 8 mph
Game No. 5
First pitch: Noon
Pitching matchup: RHP Cal Bowling (0-0, 2.25) vs. RHP Beau Pender (0-0, 13.50)
Weather: 47 degrees, sunny, northwest 14 mph
Game No. 6
First pitch: 30 minutes following the completion of the first game of the doubleheader
Pitching matchup: RHP Scott Brothers, Jr. (0-0, 9.00) vs. TBA
Game No. 7
First pitch: 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Kolbrin Vitek (0-1, 9.00) vs. Ryan Woolley, (0-0, 2.25)
Weather: 52 degrees, mostly sunny, northwest 7 mph