Cards answer consistency questions

Hagerty strikes out 16; Metzler hits three home runs to pace Cards.

Coming in to this weekend's series against Valparaiso, baseball head coach Rich Maloney said there were several "unanswered questions" about his team's level of consistency.

The Cardinals may have provided some of the answers to those questions this weekend, as the team notched a three-game sweep of Valparaiso with 13-6 and 5-1 victories Saturday and a 2-0 win Sunday.

Maloney said Sunday's win was especially important because of the close score.

"That's two in the last week that we've won that were close games, "Maloney said. "I'm encouraged by it."

Ball State (8-7) took the lead in the bottom of the second inning on designated hitter Adam Metzler's fifth home run of the season. Metzler's homer would prove to be the only offense necessary for the Cardinals, as a trio of Ball State pitchers combined to surrender just two hits and no walks en route to Ball State's third shutout of the season.

"We got outstanding pitching today from three different people," Maloney said. "We were fortunate enough to manufacture a run here and there - just enough to get us by."

The Cardinals nearly ran themselves out of the game, however, as Valparaiso (1-10-1) caught four Ball State base-runners stealing.

Maloney said his team will continue to play aggressively despite Sunday's lack of success on the basepaths.

"We're always going to be aggressive," Maloney said. "Our (stolen base) percentage (is usually) better than today. We faced a lefty. (Valparaiso starter Tom Starck) had a decent move and he got us out, so there's not much you can do there."

Before Sunday's game, Ball State had stolen 12 bases in 18 attempts.

The weekend series was characterized by strong Ball State pitching.

Ball State pitchers gave up a total of 11 hits in 25 innings, chalked up 33 strikeouts and walked just four batters as all three Ball State starters - Bryan Bullington, Luke Hagerty and Patrick Lowrey - picked up wins.

Hagerty pitched perhaps the most impressive game of the three, striking out 16, allowing one run and walking none in seven innings en route to a 5-1 win in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader.

"Very rarely do you see 16 strikeouts, especially in a seven-inning game," Maloney said. "That will probably be in Baseball America."

Hagerty came within one of throwing a shutout, but gave up a solo home run to Valpo first baseman Dan Schrum in the top of the seventh.

"We were up and I didn't want to walk him," Hagerty said. "I wanted to make sure I was getting strikes and they didn't get anybody on because that's how they would get a big inning."

Three wins this weekend put the Cardinals at 8-7 on the season, the first time Ball State has been over .500 since a 19-4 win over Eastern Kentucky Feb. 22.

"Once you get over that hump, once you get over .500, you start feeling a lot better," designated hitter Adam Metzler said. "We start rolling once we get back at home."

Metzler went six for nine, hit three home runs and added six RBIs to his season totals during the weekend. The designated hitter hit two home runs during the opening half of Saturday's doubleheader.

"A lot of baseball is rhythm and seeing pitches," Metzler said. "We have a stretch right now where we have a lot of games in a row where we can ... get some consistency and see the same things every day."

Ball State continues play at home against Anderson University today at 3 p.m.


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