Coach hopeful in MAC season opener

Maloney said pitching staff must compensate for lack of Cardinals' run support.

Baseball pundits have often debated the merits of having good pitching over those of possessing good hitting and vice versa.

This weekend will provide such individuals with an opportunity to revive the time-honored debate as tough-pitching Ball State kicks off its Mid-American Conference season at heavy-hitting Northern Illinois.

The Huskies (7-10) enter the series batting .300 with 51 extra base hits and 119 runs scored -- an average of seven runs per game.

Northern Illinois pitching, however, has allowed 106 runs so far this year -- an average of 6.2 runs per game.

As of Tuesday's games, Ball State pitching leads the MAC in ERA, strikeouts, shutouts, hits allowed, runs allowed, earned runs allowed, and opponents batting average.

Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said he hopes his team will start this MAC season much as it did the last -- the Cards swept a three-game series against Northern Illinois to start its 2001 MAC campaign.

"In the past we've been really fast starters," Maloney said. "Even though we're struggling offensively right now I feel like our pitching and defense are there. We're two-thirds on our way to being a good team."

Ball State is 4-2 over the past six years in MAC openers.

The Cardinals will have to provide starting pitchers Bryan Bullington, Luke Hagerty, Patrick Lowrey and Brian Lynch with more run support in order to improve the team's 8-8 record.

Against Cincinnati Wednesday, Ball State stranded 12 runners on bases en route to suffering its second shutout of the season.

Maloney said the lack of production at the bottom of the order makes it hard for his team to have big innings and avoid stranding runners on bases.

"There's no question that with aluminum bats you can't have guys hitting below .200," Maloney said. "(Ball State's) first six hitters are all capable of hitting 40 points higher than what they're hitting right now.

"I just got to believe that people can hit .250 with an aluminum bat," Maloney said.

He also said the absence of run support makes it all the more important for the Cardinals' pitching staff to perform.

"When one of the wheels isn't working, the other has to pick it up," Maloney said.

Ball State opens its series Friday at 3 p.m., plays a doubleheader Saturday at noon and finishes with a 1 p.m. matchup Sunday.