BASEBALL: Four Ball State seniors will play final home game this weekend
Cardinals still focused on MAC title
Four Ball State University seniors will play their final home games this weekend, but their focus continues to be on the Mid-American Conference championship.
Ball State will host Northern Illinois University in a three-game series at Ball Diamond in hopes of holding its lead in the MAC West. Ball State has a one-game lead over the University of Toledo and a de facto two-game lead over Central Michigan University because of tiebreakers.
Though Northern Illinois is a distant six games behind and in fifth place, it won't roll over this weekend. The Huskies are in ninth place in the conference and only the top-eight teams will play for the MAC title in Chillicothe, Ohio at the end of the month. Northern Illinois trails eighth-place Ohio University by a game.
Zach Dygert, one of the four seniors, said this weekend has to be about winning games, not the seniors.
"This weekend doesn't mean anything if we don't win the MAC outright," he said. "Other than winning this weekend – Senior Day, all of that – is a small issue."
Ball State has lost its last two games, both on the road, dropping the series finale at Western Michigan University and a midweek game at Ohio State University. But returning home to Ball Diamond should give the Cardinals a boost. They are 10-2 at home this year.
Ball State has its best MAC record to start the season since 2005 and has won nine consecutive conference series dating back to last year. Coach Greg Beals said that is all the Cardinals need to worry about this weekend.
"Our goal coming into the year was to win every [MAC] series," he said. "So far we've done that. We need to just keep playing good baseball on the weekends."
For seniors Aaron Hammons, Ryan Chenoweth, Brad Piatt and Dygert these are the final three times they will play in Muncie. Both Dygert and Hammons have had solid final seasons, while Chenoweth and Piatt have seen their roles reduced by the emergence of other Cardinals.
Hammons has five saves as Ball State's closer and Dygert is behind only Kolbrin Vitek in most major offensive categories. Piatt began the year as the Cardinals' Opening Day starter, but has fallen out of the rotation and Chenoweth has become their fourth outfielder, starting just 22 games.
Dygert, this year's captain, has begun to reflect on his four years with the Cardinals.
"I'm really, really enjoying this season more than I have years past," Dygert said. "I know its coming and I'm ready for it. I want to make the most of these last few weeks and games we have."