BASEBALL: Ball State's offense explodes in series victory
Cardinals defeat Falcons 32-10 Saturday, but lose finale Sunday
With a score more befitting a football field than a baseball diamond, Ball State University clinched its third straight Mid-American Conference series victory to start the season Saturday.
Ball State defeated Bowling Green State University 32-10 Saturday but lost the series finale Sunday. Despite a 9-3 loss that cost the Cardinals (13-17, 7-2) their second conference sweep in as many weekends, they were happy with their results.
"When we got on the bus to Bowling Green on Thursday night, the goal was to win the series," coach Greg Beals said. "We played extremely well Friday and Saturday. We swung the bat like we haven't swung this year."
The Cardinals scored 44 runs in the first two games of the series and set school records in runs, hits, at bats and RBIs on Saturday. The previous runs record was 31, which had been done twice in Ball State history, most recently in 2006.
First baseman Ian Nielsen led Ball State's offense Saturday, going 5-for-7 with eight RBIs and two home runs. A Freshman All-American last season, Nielsen had not been hitting at that level this year. But before the game, he told Beals he had his swing figured out.
"He continues to work hard on his swing," Beals said. "It worked for him."
Nielsen said he was working on staying on the ball longer in the batting cage before the game.
"This year hasn't been as productive as last year," he said. "I'm just trying to help the team however I can."
Nielsen went 1-for-3 and drove in a run Sunday. He is hitting .317, his best mark since Spring Break.
The Cardinals managed their offensive explosion without leadoff hitter T.J. Baumet. The shortstop was hit in the hand Friday and was unavaliable for the rest of the weekend. Beals said Baumet is expected to return to the lineup soon.
Utility infielder Mitch Widau filled in for Baumet, continuing his surprising season. The sophomore collected four hits during the weekend to extend his hitting streak to seven games.
"Everytime he gets challenged to do something for us, he does it and does it well," Beals said. "His role keeps growing."
Ball State's 9-3 loss Sunday and victories by Central Michigan University and the University of Toledo dropped the Cardinals to third place in the MAC West.
Although out of first place, the Cardinals have won their first three MAC series for the first time since 2005.
Nielsen said the series victory shows Ball State is still playing well.
"We're still in a good position in the MAC," he said. "We're really starting to believe in ourselves and each weekend reinforces that."