BASEBALL: Ball State stars see careers come to a close
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Kolbrin Vitek and Zach Dygert didn't get a fitting end to their Ball State University careers Friday.
Not only did the Cardinals get sent home from the Mid-American Conference Tournament without a championship, the heart of their order meekly made two of the final three outs of the game.
But Vitek's groundout to short and Dygert looking at strike three will be quickly forgotten by the Ball State faithful. After all, the pair has been a fixture in the Cardinals' for their whole careers.
Since Vitek arrived in Muncie three years ago, Ball State has not played a game where coach Greg Beals didn't write at least one of their names' on his lineup card.
"We're not going to have the Vitek-Dygert horses in the middle of the lineup," Beals said. "We're going to have to do some things differently next year."
Vitek and Dygert both finished with 35 career home runs, one shy of tying Brad Snyder for fifth place on Ball State's all-time list.
It's fitting Vitek and Dygert would end their careers tied on the career home run list, as they have been tied together in the middle of Ball State lineups.
Vitek, a junior, could be back at Ball State next year, but the chances are miniscule for the projected first round draft pick. Dygert's career, meanwhile, is definitely over. After four years behind the plate for Ball State, his absence will be felt.
"He's been our flagship guy," Beals said. "Being a catcher myself, I spent a lot of time with Zach. I'm going to miss Zach."
Moving on?: The three-year contract between the MAC and Chillicothe, Ohio, for the rights to host the conference tournament is coming to a close this year, and the tournament's future location is up for debate.
Chillicothe has hosted the MAC Tournament for the last three years. Before that, the tournament had been hosted on campus sites.
But concerns, largely about the dimensions of VA Memorial Stadium, have the MAC coaches looking at other potential hosts. The stadium in Chillicothe has very short power alleys and center field is maybe 400 feet away from home plate.
But the field turf surface and homey atmosphere of the stadium are benefits to Chillicothe. Ohio University coach Joe Carbone said fans from across the conference have told him how much they enjoy watching the tournament from the picnic area and party deck that stretch down the left field line.
Beals is unsure about the prospect of moving the tournament, but gave VA Memorial Stadium an endorsement.
"The people here are great, the hospitality is great, the playing surface is great," he said. "I like this place. I haven't seen other places to say I'd rather go somewhere else."
Loyalty may also come into play with the decision.
"Those people stepped up and made an offer to have the tournament here when no one else did and would," Carbone said. "I think they've done a great job here."
Waiting your turn: Ball State is just 2-6 in the MAC Tournament since winning the conference title in 2006. But Beals know nothing comes easy.
"Only one team wins it every year," Beals said. "We've got to keep plugging away until it's our turn."