BASEBALL: Ball State staying focused on Opening Day at Arkansas

Cardinals not letting preseason expectations affect them

Greg Beals doesn't care how much snow Muncie got over the weekend. In fact, Ball State University's baseball coach barely noticed.

With less than two weeks until the start of baseball season, all Beals can think about Opening Day on Feb. 19.

"That's my dominating thought no matter what the weather is," Beals said. "My wife is trying to make a big deal of my 40th birthday [Tuesday]. The only thing that's on my mind is making sure our guys are ready for that day on Feb. 19th."

Ball State will open a season of high expectations at the University of Arkansas. The Cardinals were picked to win the Mid-American Conference and second baseman Kolbrin Vitek has been named to three preseason All-American teams. The players, however, are trying their best to stay focused on the games and not the accolades.

"I don't worry as much about what other people think," starting pitcher Brad Piatt said. "We know if we take this day-by-day it will pay off. Our ultimate role is to win a MAC championship."

Baseball American became the most recent national publication to honor Vitek, naming him a preseason second-team All-American on Friday. The junior said he never knows about the awards until someone else tells him.

"I try not to really think about it," Vitek said. "I just go out there and do my own thing so it doesn't put any pressure on me."

Vitek, who also is a starting pitcher, earned All-American honors from Ping! Baseball in January and the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in December. Last year, he hit .389 with 67 RBI, the second most in the Mid-American Conference. As a pitcher, he went 4-3 with a 5.65 ERA.

Beals said after last season's success, no one in the program is surprised about Vitek's honors.

"Like being picked to win the [MAC] West, these are things that we kind of expect," Beals said. "We worked ourselves into these positions."

Last year, Vitek played third base for the Cardinals, but to help rest his arm, he moved to second base during summer ball. The transition has gone well, and Baseball America tabbed him as the top prospect in the Great Lakes League after he won the Triple Crown and was the league's All-Star Game MVP.

Vitek said he enjoys playing second base.

"It's a little more laid back when it comes to most grounders," he said. "I like being able to use my athleticism on plays in the hole and on double plays."

Moving Vitek to second has forced freshman Steven Claypool to switch to third base, after being recruited as a second baseman. Beals said all the transitions are going well.

"Our practices have gone great," he said. "The guys have responded extremely well. Vitek is doing a fabulous job with the move to second base. It's really going to reap us some benefits."


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