BASEBALL: Weber shuts out Ball State as Eastern Michigan wins 4-0
Cardinals struggle at the plate all afternoon in losing effort
Steve Weber felt comfortable on the mound for Eastern Michigan. The 6-foot-6 junior right-hander had Ball State off balance all game.
Pitching behind a leadoff home run to open the game from teammate Ben Magsig, Weber worked every inch of the strike zone with his fastball and slider, leading the Eagles to a 4-0 triumph over the Cardinals (10-26, 5-9) on Saturday afternoon.
"It was one of those days where, for the most part, everything was clicking and the defense stepped up big, making a lot of plays behind me," Weber said. "It felt great."
Weber retired nine of the first 10 Cardinals he faced, inducing six ground-ball outs in the process.
Prior to Saturday's start, Weber was having trouble consistently locating his fastball. That wasn't the case against the Cardinals. His command was nearly perfect, as he tied up the Cardinals on both sides of the plate.
Weber said 85 percent of his pitches were fastballs, while mixing in his slider to compliment his fastball en route to a complete game shutout against the Cardinals.
"It was a lot of fastballs and just locating," Weber said. "Actually, that's been my problem all year so far, is really locating my fastball. Fortunately, I did that today."
After surrendering a leadoff home run and working around an error by sophomore shortstop T.J. Weir to begin the afternoon, junior right-hander Chris Marangan could've panicked. Instead, the Cardinals' starter dug down and found his groove, retiring 12 of the next 13 Eagles' hitters.
Marangan said he wasn't worried that the Eagles were going to put up any more runs. He was just trying to hit his spots.
"Leadoff home runs are going to happen, so you just got to get over it and get back to work," Marangan said. "I kind of had a bad pitch on that one. Gave him a curveball right in his zone and it hurt me. Gotta move on from that."
The Cardinals had a chance to tie the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning. After senior second baseman Mitch Widau drew a leadoff walk and stole second, Weir advanced Widau to third with a sacrifice bunt. With one out, freshman designated hitter Brandon Estep had a golden opportunity to drive Widau in, but was caught looking at strike three.
Junior Blake Beemer drew the Cardinals' second walk of the inning to put runners on first and third with two down for sophomore first baseman Billy Wellman. With another prime opportunity to tie the game or possibly take the lead, Wellman popped out to the shortstop on the first pitch from Weber, ending the threat and the inning.
Estep had a chance to redeem himself the bottom of the sixth. Widau extended his hitting streak to 11-games with a single to right field and then stole second, putting himself in scoring position for Estep. But, again, Weber froze Estep on a called third strike to end the inning.
Coach Alex Marconi said it was frustrating to watch Estep go down looking on consecutive at-bats.
"He knows he needed to do better than that and for whatever reason, he just didn't swing the bat," Marconi said. "[Those are] some of the ups and downs you have to go through with young hitters."
Marangan entered the ninth inning with hopes of finishing what he started and giving his offense a chance to tie or win the game.
But the ninth inning proved to be a tough one for Marangan, who allowed leadoff man Brent Ohrman to rope a double down the leftfield line. After inducing a SAC fly from designated hitter Sam Ott, putting a runner on third with one out, Marangan intentionally walked first baseman Lee Longo. Shortstop Tucker Rubino produced an RBI SAC fly, doubling the Eagles' lead and knocking Marangan out of the game.
Marangan said he wasn't ready to exit the game after allowing his second run of the day.
But Marconi had a different plan. After Marangan threw 109 pitches, Marconi decided to bring in junior left-hander Jon Cisna out of the bullpen to face the left-handed hitting Daniel Russell.
"We extended Mango more so today pitch count wise than we have all year," Marconi said. "I was a little concerned with that."
But the move didn't pay off as Cisna walked the first man he faced and then gave up a two-run double to left-center field, extending the Eagles' lead to 4-0.
"It just didn't work out that way today," Marconi said. "We just didn't enough hits, but it was a well-played game on both ends. They were the ones who were a little more lucky with the bat."