BASEBALL: Work to be done in Ball State's bullpen
Ball State's starting pitchers are playing well, but its relievers are a different story
The frustration was palpable in coach Alex Marconi's voice. Though the Ball State starting rotation had
seemingly been righted with a shakeup last weekend at Middle Tennessee State, the bullpen remained as much a
problem as ever.
With the exception of Chris Marangon, who closed out Friday's 5-4 victory and then returned to the starting
rotation Sunday, six Cardinals' relievers combined to allow five runs in 4 2/3 innings Saturday and Sunday. Of
the eight runners they inherited in the two games, five scored, allowing the Blue Raiders to break open the game
on back-to-back days.
"The wheels fell off toward the back end of the game [Sunday]," Marconi said. "Someone needs to step up in
the back end of the bullpen."
Through the first three weeks of the season, that someone had been Marangon. But with left-hander Nestor
Bautista struggling as Ball State's Saturday starter, Marconi opted to move Marangon into the rotation.
Despite the change in role, with the game on the line and starter Cal Bowling tiring in the eighth inning Friday,
Marconi still called on Marangon to get the game's final five outs. While he allowed an unearned run, he picked
up the Cardinals' first save of the season.
Marangon said he knew it was possible that he would come out of the bullpen Friday and still start later in the
"It was kind of up in the air depending on the situation," Marangon said. "It felt good I could get Cal that win."
The rotation shakeup also moved right-hander T.J. Weir's start up a day. Weir is also the Cardinals' shortstop
on days he doesn't pitch, and Marconi thinks not playing in the field for two days before he pitched helped Weir
on the mound.
Weir allowed five runs on nine hits in a career-high 7 1/3 innings. He struck out five batters and walked none.
"His stuff on Saturday was as sharp as it's been all year," Marconi said.
Sunday, Marangon threw four shutout innings in his first career start before tiring in the fifth.
Marconi said he hopes to be able to use the same strategy he employed last weekend for the rest of the season,
including using Marangon in a close game early in the weekend. That leaves Bautista on the outside of the
rotation, looking in. Marconi said the Cardinals need Bautista pitching to be the best team possible.
"I'm not 100 percent sure what role he'll man for us going forward," Marconi said. "My job is to get him
innings so he can continue to develop and improve."
Marconi is looking for similar improvement out of his entire bullpen. So far this season, Ball State has used
eight pitchers in relief. Combined, they are 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA. By contrast, the Cardinals' rotation going
forward is 2-3 with a 4.39 ERA as starters.
To stabilize the bullpen for now, Ball State needs only a couple relievers to emerge from the morass before
Mid-American Conference play starts March 23 at Akron.
"There's still a big lump of players that are still fighting for innings," Marconi said. "We need a couple guys to
separate themselves and tell me and tell this team 'I'm the guy you want pitching at the back of this game.'"