BASEBALL: Ball State opens MAC play by taking series from host Ohio
Pitching staff, defense excel as Cardinals notch first shutout since 2007
The first weekend of Mid-American Conference play went as well as Ball State University could have hoped.
Ball State (8-15) took two out of three games at Ohio University for their first series victory of the season. The Cardinals are tied for first in the MAC West with the three other teams who won twice this weekend.
"It's good to get off on the right foot and finish the first weekend of the conference season on top," coach Greg Beals said.
Ball State used an excellent performance from its pitching staff to win the series. Ohio (3-17) scored five runs in the series and managed only six hits in its two losses. In the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, Ball State became the first team to shutout Ohio at home since Vanderbilt University did it in 2005.
Catcher Zach Dygert was behind the plate for both Cardinals' wins.
"It makes it enjoyable to catch when pitchers pitch that well," the senior said. "It gives us confidence, it gives us momentum."
Ball State started the series with a 10-1 victory Friday. Perci Garner allowed three hits and one unearned run in his first career start. Garner had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since returning to baseball last year after spending two seasons as Ball State's third-string quarterback.
Beals wasn't surprised by the right-hander's dominance.
"He pitched a lot like he did down in Louisville," Beals said. "It being his first start put some questions in our minds, but he handled it extremely well."
A rainy Sunday forecast forced the Cardinals to play a Saturday doubleheader for the second week in a row.
Ohio evened the series with a 4-2 victory. Center fielder Gauntlett Eldemire hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to give the Bobcats the lead for good.
Beals said he should have given the preseason All-American an intentional walk.
"That was a situation where I should have managed the game better," Beals said. "We were trying to pitch around Eldemire."
With the series on the line in the nightcap, Ball State's All-American took over. Kolbrin Vitek threw seven scoreless innings and did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. He also helped his own cause going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
"After the first game, getting the loss, I needed to step up and just make sure we got the win," Vitek said.
The Cardinals committed just one error all weekend and turned six double plays. With the team going in the right direction in all facets of the game, Beals has plenty of reasons to be happy as Ball State prepares for Friday's home opener against Miami University.
"What's important is to go out and play good baseball," he said. "We played clean baseball [Saturday], and we're a tough team to beat if we're doing that."