BASEBALL: Cardinals roll to home-opening series sweep
Ball State extends winning streak to four games
Confident and comfortably situated in Mid-American Conference play, Ball State University is rolling.
Ball State completed a three-game sweep of Miami University on Sunday with a 17-8 victory. The Cardinals (11-15, 5-1) have won both MAC series this year and are on a four-game winning streak.
Coach Greg Beals couldn't have asked for a better start to its home schedule.
"More than anything, we're getting ourselves on a little bit of a winning streak," Beals said. "After our tough [nonconference], it's good to prove to ourselves we're still a good team and we're still capable of having a great season."
Ball State might have needed a little reminder after going 6-14 before beginning conference play last weekend at Ohio University. The Cardinals were challenging themselves during the start to their schedule, but playing top-15 teams can have adverse affects on a team's psyche.
Now back in the familiar setting of Ball Diamond and playing schools from its own conference, Ball State is appreciating what it went through.
"We've faced a lot of tough pitchers because we've faced a lot of tough opponents," third baseman Stephen Claypool said. "I think it prepared us pretty well for MAC pitchers."
In the sweep of the RedHawks (11-15), the Cardinals scored 34 runs, including a season-high 17 Sunday.
In all three games, Ball State used a big inning to take control. Twice the combination of Kolbrin Vitek and Zach Dygert came through with key RBIs in the games' deciding moments.
But Sunday, the big inning was less characteristic of the star-studded Cardinals' offense. Ball State put seven runs on the board in the fifth inning using only two hits, though Vitek did have a two-RBI single.
Miami used five pitchers in the inning but never found one who could control his pitches.
The RedHawks walked six Cardinals and hit two batters in the protracted inning.
"Their pitching helped us out quite a bit [Sunday]," Beals said.
Though Ball State allowed 18 runs to Miami, it had better pitching than the scores would indicate. In both Saturday and Sunday's game, the RedHawks tacked on runs with the game already well out of hand.
Ball State's starters combined to go 2-0 with 17 strikeouts and a 3.57 ERA.
Now that the Cardinals have found some success, they are eager to keep it going.
"The way the year started off, [the sweep] is just a huge confidence booster," pitcher Derek Grabner said. "We can just take this and keep on rolling once we go [further] into the MAC."