With Ball State University's first Mid-American Conference series on the line Saturday afternoon at Ohio University, Kolbrin Vitek delivered his best pitching performance of the year.
The Cardinals' ace shutout the Bobcats for seven innings, allowing just two hits for his first victory of the season. That game, combined with him going 6-for-12 with three runs and two RBIs in the series, netted Vitek national player of the week honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Vitek (1-2) said he knew he needed to step up.
"After the first game, getting the loss, I needed to step up and just make sure we got the win," Vitek said.
After a more pedestrian start to the year on the hill, Vitek has thrown 11 consecutive scoreless innings against No. 10 University of Louisville and Ohio. He has struck out nine batters and allowed just five hits during the streak.
Vitek said he just needed time to get his arm in shape again.
"I've been getting the feel back for all of my pitches," Vitek said. "I've been working with a better mix of pitches."
A month into the season, Vitek leads the team with a 3.49 ERA and opponents are only hitting .226 off the junior.
Catcher Zach Dygert said he hasn't seen any difference in Vitek's pitching since the season started. Dygert said Vitek had better command than normal Saturday.
"He was able to throw every one of his pitches for strikes when he needed to," the captain said. "He made big pitch after big pitch."
Coach Greg Beals said the preseason All-American put all of his pitches to use against the Bobcats. Vitek required only 71 pitches to finish seven innings.
"He pitched a great game," Beals said. "We need our best players to have great performances when the team needs them, and he came up with one."
Vitek's return to dominance as a pitcher is coming at just the right time for Ball State. Brad Piatt has struggled this year and has been dropped from the rotation. Morgan Coombs had been the Cardinals' best pitcher in the first month of the year, but is out indefinitely with an elbow injury.
Beals said Vitek needs to keep pitching well, and thinks he will as he gets more used to playing second base and pitching every Sunday.
"He's getting more and more confident with his role," Beals said. "I think he was still getting settled into that role of Sunday starter and playing second base everyday. I think that's going to get better and better for him and I hope he continues pitching as well as he has been."