BASEBALL: Maloney says team played ‘outstanding’ in first series of year
The Daily News
The box scores from Ball State’s weekend series against Middle Tennessee may have made it look like the Cardinals struggled.
Ball State was shut out in Game 1, losing 1-0. The team changed that in Game 2, tacking on six runs, but the pitching fell apart and allowed 11 runs of their own. In Game 3, the Cardinals got consistency from both sides, winning 5-1.
“The entire weekend I felt like we played outstanding baseball,” coach Rich Maloney said. “We had a great chance to win [in Game 2], but we had that one bad inning and it cost us.”
That one bad inning was the bottom of the seventh in Game 2. After scoring five runs to tie Middle Tennessee the Cardinals allowed six runs. Most of them went to T.J. Weir.
Weir, the third base and pitcher hybrid, faced five batters and got just one out, allowing four runs and walking three. Weir stepped off the mound and onto the third base bag for Game 3. He was a crucial part of the teams win, hitting a home run in the fourth inning that increased Ball State’s lead to 3-0.
“Weir just hit a tremendous home run today,” Maloney said. “I mean, that thing was a bomb. I didn’t think it was ever going to come down.”
Weir was tied for the team lead in home runs last season with four.
He wasn’t the only bright spot for Ball State. Sophomore pitcher Scott Baker picked up the win, going seven innings and allowing just one run while striking out eight. Working in and out of trouble, there were multiple innings where Middle Tennessee had a man on third, but Baker worked out of the jam.
Ball State’s Friday and Sunday starters pitched 13.1 innings, allowing just one run total.
“[Chris] Marangon and Baker were great out there,” Maloney said. “I couldn’t have asked them to do more. Baker was just on fire, he was throwing four different pitches for strikes which is very hard to do for a young pitcher.”
Playing in his first college series, Maloney liked what he saw out of his catcher Sam Tidaback. Stopping many balls in the dirt and potential wild pitches, Tidaback played beyond his years.
“He was pretty tremendous defensively, stopping a number of bad pitches,” Maloney said. “He didn’t look like a freshman catcher, that’s for sure.”
A scary moment occurred in the fifth inning. Senior Wes Winkle tracked down a deep fly ball to mid-right field and caught the ball, then slammed into the wall and crumpled to the ground. Winkle later walked off slowly under his own power, and did not return to the game.
Despite the injury, Maloney still liked what he saw from his new team.
“Are there things we can do better, of course there are. There always is,” Maloney said. “But to me, there were far more positives than negatives out there.”
Maloney said he was encouraged by the mental strength of his team to bounce back after two tough losses, and that despite his team’s seventh inning blunder in Game 2, he loved how his pitchers preformed to open the season.
He was less enthusiastic about the offense. Maloney noted that his players got picked off three times, and that although he liked their patience at the plate, he thinks they can be more aggressive swinging.
Even after losing two out of three, Maloney was OK with where his team is sitting, as it comes home for the week before heading out to Nashville, Tenn., to play in the Lipscomb Tournament.
“Anybody who watched this series and watched Ball State baseball this weekend would tell you that we’re doing the right things,” Maloney said. “Keep watching, that’s a pretty solid group we’ve got out there.”