After stressing last week that pitching and defense would be the keys to victory, both seemed to fall flat over the weekend as Ball State battled Bradley, Northwestern and Lipscomb.

Most notably was the team’s loss Sunday afternoon, when the offense piled eight runs onto the scoreboard, but pitching woes and defensive errors gave Bradley 13 runs of its own.

“Pitching and defense have to be our two staples for us to have any chance,” coach Rich Maloney said.

After having one of the least dangerous offenses in the Mid-American Conference last year, Ball State is averaging nearly five runs a game so far, but the team sits at just 3-4.

In three of those losses, Ball State had pitchers who were blown up in an inning. It happened to several pitchers over the weekend.

Friday night, Ball State starter Nestor Bautista was rocked for five runs in just over three innings. Reliever Clay Manering came in and pitched the rest of the game, shutting Northwestern down and not allowing another run. But the damage had been done.

“Nestor has a really good arm,” Maloney said. “Now he needs to take it from the bullpen and into the games.”

Maloney said that Bautista has all the talent, and just needs to “keep it in the white lines.”

Ball State’s pitching struggles reached further than just Bautista. Left handed pitcher Kyle Raleigh started for the Cardinals on Sunday, but didn’t last long despite striking out three of the first four batters.

Raleigh exited the game after recording just seven outs. He was rocked for five runs combined in the second and third innings, although his defense didn’t provide much help.

After Bradley’s first run of the third inning scored, outfielder Sean Godfrey dropped a fly ball that allowed more runners to score.

A few pitches later, shortstop Elbert Devarie scooped up a ground ball, but his throw sailed high above Billy Wellman, allowing another run to cross the plate.

Miles Moeller quickly came in the game and ended the inning, Ball State trailing 5-1.

“We played poorly for half of the game and dug ourselves into a hole,” Maloney said.

A manageable four run hole ballooned into a 10 run deficit just an inning later.

Moeller got just one out in the fifth, and left after giving up three runs. Cameron Schooley relieved him and got out of the inning, but not before giving up three more.

The pitching implosion wasted Ball State’s strongest offensive outing of the season. The team’s offense played well over the weekend, scoring 23 runs over the four games, including one home run which was the third of the season.

Three home runs this early is significant for Ball State, considering they hit just 14 all of last season.

Despite the struggles, Ball State did have a few pitchers who stood out. On Friday, T.J. Weir came in for the eighth inning and converted a crucial double play that helped save a 7-4 win.

The next day, Scott Baker continued his hot start this season. He gave up just two runs in five innings of work, then reliever Jon Cisna came on and pitched a shutout for the final four innings, allowing just one hit.

“The first three games, we played solid baseball,” Maloney said. “No errors, and some timely relief pitching in our wins.”

That pitching will need to be consistent for Ball State to consistently win games.