BASEBALL: Ball State finishes season strong with sweep
Cardinals earn first sweep of the year over Northern Illinois
Before a three-game series with Northern Illinois, the Ball State baseball team already knew it's fate for postseason play after a disastrous 10-game losing streak when Ball State needed wins the most.
Despite being eliminated, Ball State went on the road and came back with its first sweep of the season and a strong finish to a year that has had more downs than ups. Even though it was against a Northern Illinois club that ultimately finished the Mid-American Conference season in last place, coach Alex Marconi said the team didn't bring it up, and he was excited with the way his team finished a season after they were aware they had missed the MAC tournament.
"Well we didn't talk about it," Marconi said. "I think everybody knew without having to talk about it. Which is even more impressive for me that they knew that they didn't have a chance to get in but they still went out and swept this weekend."
Ball State was able to take advantage of a Northern Illinois pitching staff that finished last in the MAC in ERA, posting a 6.34 mark for the season. Ball State scored 11 runs in each of the first two games before winning the series finale 6-2 on the strength of senior right-hander Cal Bowling's last start as a Cardinal. He went eight innings and struck out 11 batters while allowing just one earned run.
Bowling ended his Ball State career with a tumultuous senior season that saw him beat Missouri in a complete game effort and breaking his hand in frustration after a game against Miami that forced him to miss some time.
His last start was one of the best in his career. Marconi said everything was working for him Saturday.
"He got them to chase a lot of breaking balls," he said. "The one pitch he hasn't had since he's come back from his injury is his change up. He just hasn't had the feel for his change up but all his pitches were working for him today."
Marconi credited the seniors for the resilience they showed throughout the season and Bowling for finishing a Ball State career despite adversity.
"He wanted to go out on a high note with Ball State baseball and he competes every time he goes out on that mound," Marconi said. "Regardless of what the record is what the score is he competes and he did that again [Saturday]."
After the offensive outburst this weekend Marconi said he hopes it signals improvement to come for the team next season after finishing this season last in the MAC in runs scored.
"Well, I would hope so. I am expecting it to be an improvement for sure," Marconi said. "Just based on our guys being another year older coming back with more at-bats and more maturity under their belts. I would expect that to happen next year and I know our guys do too."
Most of all Marconi said he was just happy with the confidence level the team held all season.
"Our expectations were to make the MAC tournament and that was everybody's goal," he said. "Even though publications picked us to finish last in the conference again just based on our inexperience, we never felt like that. Not once throughout the year did we feel like that. I think quite honestly if we've got a healthy team all year we're playing next weekend [MAC tournament]."
The plan now is to let that attitude motivate the team heading into next season.
"I know it does for me and the coaching staff," Marconi said. "Everybody who doubts us, that is a very strong motivating factor for a lot of people is to prove people wrong."