BASEBALL: Preview of Ball State at Middle Tennessee State
Where: Reese Smith Jr. Field
When: 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17
Ball State: The Alex Marconi experiment failed miserably. The last two seasons of Ball State baseball have been disappointing to say the least. Under Marconi’s direction the last two seasons, the Cardinals amassed an abysmal mark of 29-71, which ultimately led to Marconi’s resignation. But, recently hired athletic director Bill Scholl signed former Ball State coach Rich Maloney to the same position. Maloney, who manned the dugout for Ball State from 1996-2002 and posted a mark of 256-144-1, spent the last 10 seasons as coach at Michigan, where he saw similar success. Maloney led the Wolverines to a 341-224 record, three Big Ten Conference championships, two Big Ten Tournament titles and the 2007 NCAA Regional title. Maloney will attempt to turn around a Ball State program that has been in the cellar of the Mid-American Conference over the last couple of seasons.
Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders also feature a new coach in Jim McGuire, who spent the last four years as coach at Rend Lake Junior College, where he compiled a mark of 220-116. Middle Tennessee State is coming off a 31-28 season, which saw it record an impressive 20-12 mark at Reese Smith Jr. Field and a 14-16 record in the Sun Belt Conference. The Blue Raiders roster features 30 letterwinners, including six starters and 14 pitchers from last season.
All Time Series: Ball State and Middle Tennessee State have met twice with the all-time series tied at 1-1. Both teams met in 2005 with Middle Tennessee State winning the first game, 11-2 and Ball State taking the second, 7-4.
Today’s Matchup: Ball State will send senior right-hander Chris Marangon to the hill. In 2012—Marangon’s first season with Ball State—the righty crafted a 3-7 record with a 3.75 ERA in nine starts, tossing 69 2/3 innings with 40 strikeouts to 25 walks. Marangon began the season in the bullpen before moving to the starting rotation during MAC play. As a late-inning reliever, Marangon was Ball State’s de facto closer, posting a team-high two saves in 2012. The right-hander was also Ball State’s most effective hurler, holding opponents to a team-low .222 batting average, third-lowest in the MAC.
Senior right-hander Hunter Adkins will take the mound for Middle Tennessee State. Adkins, who went 5-6 with a 5.75 ERA last season, started 15 games for the Blue Raiders and tossed 76 2/3 innings. The righty threw a complete game shutout against Ohio on Feb. 24, 2012, allowing eight hits with four strikeouts.
Game 2: Saturday’s contest features a pair of left-handers. Junior Nestor Bautista will get the call for Ball State. Last season, Bautista went 1-5 with a 10.06 ERA in 16 appearances, including seven starts. Despite his glaring ERA, Bautista tossed just 34 innings, struck out 31 hitters and walked 23. Bautista had trouble locating his fastball to complement his off-speed pitches, but will look to improve in 2013.
Sophomore Johnathan Frebis will get the start for Middle Tennessee State. Frebis is coming off a noteworthy rookie season, which saw him earn the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year award. The lefty started all 15 of his appearances last season en route to crafting a 6-3 record with a 3.65 ERA and tossed a team-high 81.1 innings pitched. Frebis also led the Blue Raiders with 61 strikeouts.
Game 3: Sunday’s series finale features sophomore right-hander Scott Baker of Ball State and junior left-hander Zac Curtis of Middle Tennessee State. Baker went 0-1 with a 6.15 ERA in 33 2/3 innings for the Cardinals last season. Curtis was 4-2 with a 3.80 ERA in 42 2/3 innings for the Blue Raiders.