BASEBALL: Sophomores provide spark to Ball State lineup
Beemer, Claypool taking over starting spots
They aren't the typical 3- and 4-hole hitters. They top the scale at 175 and 190 pounds, respectively, and won't administer the numbers provided by other power hitters.
What makes sophomores Blake Beemer and Stephen Claypool unique is their ability to render production with both their bats and gloves.
Following the departure of Kolbrin Vitek and Zach Dygert due to the Major League Baseball draft, Ball State and first-year coach Alex Marconi were left with a gap in the heart of the lineup.
"You don't physically [replace guys like that]," Marconi said. "You have to wait for a couple of guys to step up."
Both Beemer and Claypool are entering their second season and appear to be the front-runners for the vacancy.
Beemer, a first baseman and outfielder, played in 51 games, starting 45 in right field under former coach Greg Beals. Beemer finished the season with the third-highest batting average on the team at .328 and tallied a near-perfect fielding percentage of .990.
He started all six games for Ball State this season. Though he's been struggling at the plate with a .182 average, two RBIs and a .419 on-base percentage, Beemer said it is just part of playing the game he loves.
"It's baseball," he said. "It's a game of slumps. If I slump, I know I'll get hot and I'll streak and it'll turn right around for me. Just got to stay positive and no matter what, keep swinging [the bat]."
Claypool, who started all but one game at third base for Ball State this season, is coming off a stellar rookie season, making 52 starts and tallying three or more hits in eight games. Claypool posted a six-game stretch last season from April 3 to April 13 in which he turned in a .552 average with 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
He said staying on top of his game both physically and mentally is paramount to contributing to the team this season.
"A lot of times if you're struggling in the field, you're struggling at the plate," Claypool said. "You've just got to stay focused even if you're struggling at one aspect of the game."
His best performance of the season was Feb. 20 versus Kennesaw State, where he was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, a pair of doubles and a run scored.
Claypool considers himself and his teammate Beemer grind-it-out baseball players.
"We're both hard-nosed players who, for the most part, can get the job done," he said.
As the season drew closer, Marconi set his expectations high for both Beemer and Claypool.
"These guys are going to be a big part of our offense," he said. "We expect them to be on base and drive some runs in for us."
Having an essential role on the team, Beemer said, motivates him to play harder.
"It means he's got faith in me," Beemer said. "[Stephen and I] have faith in ourselves. We know what we can [and] can't do. We know our strengths. We feed off each other. We're going to push each other to be better hitters and better players."