Senior center fielder Matt Eppers leads off the fifth with a single during the Cardinals’ game against Bowling Green on April 14 at Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Ball State had 12 hits and seven runs. Paige Grider // DN
PREVIEW: Ball State baseball vs. Indiana at Victory Field
Ball State players will get a taste of professional baseball when they take on Indiana at 7 p.m. today at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Junior right-handed pitcher Colin Brockhouse (2-1, 2.04 ERA) makes his first start since March 3 at the home of the Indianapolis Indians — the AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates — who selected Brockhouse in the 37th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.
Brockhouse returned to play his junior season with the Cardinals (21-19, 8-7 MAC), and although an arm injury limited him to 17.2 innings this season, he's struck out 21 batters and given up four walks and 11 hits. He saw his first action in almost two months, pitching a third of an inning against Buffalo, allowing two runs and collecting the win.
Ball State statistics (40 games)
Batting average: .272
On-base percentage: .362
Slugging percentage: .394
Home runs: 21
Batting average against: .262
Strikeouts: 341 (357 IP)
Fielding percentage: .973
Indiana statistics (39 games)
Batting average: .264
On-base percentage: .343
Slugging percentage: .424
Home runs: 45
Batting average against: .285
Strikeouts: 254 (350 IP)
Fielding percentage: .978
IU (21-16-2, 8-6-1 Big Ten) beat Ball State 3-2 in extra innings the last time they matched up April 4. The team leads the all-time series 30-26. The Cardinals have lost their last five games against the Hoosiers since winning 5-3 April 17, 2013 in Bloomington.
Victory Field's unique dimensions — left-center field is 418 feet from home plate while right-center field is just 362 feet deep — could play a role in the game. Ball State has a higher batting average (.272) and on-base percentage (.362) than IU (.264 average, .343 OBP) but the Hoosiers have twice as many home runs (45) as the Cardinals (21).
IU's top batter, sophomore Matt Lloyd, could take advantage of the shorter dimensions in right field. The lefty is hitting .336 with nine home runs this season — including an 11th-inning walk off in the win over Ball State earlier this year.
Still, Ball State's pitching staff has allowed almost half as many doubles (40) as the Cardinals have hit (78). The length of left-center field could also play to the strengths of speedy centerfielder Matt Eppers, who's hitting .340 and is tied for the MAC lead with five triples this season.
Eppers is also riding an 11-game hitting streak in which he's hitting .578 with six doubles, a triple and a home run.
Senior first baseman Caleb Stayton, however, has the Cardinals' longest active hitting streak at 14 games. Since April 1, he's hit .418 with 13 runs and 13 RBIs.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Cal Krueger (1-1, 2.51 ERA) will try to slow down Eppers, Stayton and the rest of the Cardinals in his second start of the season for IU. He only has 15 strikeouts in 28.2 innings, but he's limited opposing hitters to a .243 average.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. today. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.