Ball State looks for 1st big victory

Arkansas finished last in Southeastern Conference Western Division last season.

Ball State's baseball team will face its first major-conference opponent this season, as the Cardinals play a three-game series at the University of Arkansas.

The Cardinals (1-3) will have to perform at a high level for a long time in order to end the team's three-game losing streak, head coach Rich Maloney said.

"The (Southeastern Conference) is the toughest baseball conference in the country," Maloney said.

Ball State started the season hot, routing Eastern Kentucky, 19-4 on Feb. 22. The team then lost its next game to Eastern and two straight to Birmingham-Southern.

"The past trip (the team) made too many mistakes," Maloney said. "I still think we strike out a little more than I like."

The Cardinals have struck out 40 times in 149 at-bats this season and committed six errors.

Although Arkansas finished at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference's Western Division last year and was picked in a preseason Southeastern Conference coaches poll to finish in the same spot this year, the Razorbacks (6-3) currently boast a win at No. 21 Long Beach State and a 1.62 team ERA.

"It's going to be difficult," Maloney said. "You really can't look at (Arkansas' 2001) record. Any team in the SEC is solid."

Arkansas finished last season with a 27-29 overall record, notching an 11-16 mark in SEC play.

The Razorbacks are led by a pitching staff which allowed five runs in its first five games and a starting rotation that has allowed a total of nine runs in nine starts.

Maloney said it would be interesting to see how Arkansas starters Jonathan Richmond, Charlie Isaacson and Gary Hogan Jr. match up against Ball State's trio of Bryan Bullington, Luke Hagerty and Brian Lynch.

Bullington, in his last start, gave up three hits and one run in eight innings of Ball State's 1-0 loss to Birmingham-Southern Saturday. Hagerty, who has the team's lone win this season, pitched five no-hit innings - striking out five and allowing no walks - against Eastern Kentucky Feb. 22. Lynch pitched five and one-third innings against Eastern Kentucky Saturday, giving up one earned run on eight hits and one walk.

"(Arkansas) has three outstanding pitchers," Maloney said. "I think Bullington, Hagerty, Lynch and (Paul) Henry, when playing at the top of their game, can play with anybody."

The Cardinals open the three-game series at 2 p.m. Friday at Arkansas.


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