BASEBALL: Ball State looks to stay hot against Eastern Michigan

Cardinals have won three games in a row

Taking a three-game winning streak and confidence to spare into the weekend, Ball State University hopes to remain atop the Mid-American Conference with another series victory.

Ball State hosts Eastern Michigan University in a three-game series beginning at 3 p.m. today.

The Cardinals (20-21, 11-4 MAC) have won their first five conference series this year and are off to their best start in conference play since 2005. The Eagles (21-21, 10-5 MAC) aren't trailing far behind, only a game out of first place.

After taking first place away from Central Michigan University with a doubleheader sweep Saturday, Ball State knows it will face another tough division contender this weekend.

"They're a solid team that's playing well," coach Greg Beals said. "It's like just about everybody in our conference. If we play Ball State baseball, we're going to be fine. If we don't play good baseball and we commit some errors and leave some things out in the field, they're good enough to beat us."

Eastern Michigan was on a hot streak before dropping a pair of games to Michigan State University this week. Before the home-and-away series with the Spartans, the Eagles had won eight of their last nine games.

Included in that run was an 1-0 victory in 11 innings against Western Michigan University on Saturday that featured one of the best pitching performances of the year. Western Michigan starter Eric Heckman threw 10 innings of no-hit baseball, only to give up a leadoff single in the 11th that eventually became the winning run.

Eastern Michigan starter Kendall Lewis, meanwhile, pitched 11 shutout innings for the victory. He was named the National Player of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Tuesday and will face Ball State on Sunday.

Outfielder Kirby Campbell said the key to victory would be jumping on the Eagles early throughout the weekend.

"We have to do what we do every weekend," he said. "Coming out and playing with energy the whole way through."

This weekend is the Cardinals' last chance to play at Ball Diamond before the semester ends. Beals said they will have to manage the distractions that come at the end of the school year, like finals and celebrations.

"We lighten the load a little bit to try and keep the mind and the bodies fresh during this time," he said. "These guys have to realize they've got something on the line that's more important than end-of-the-semester celebrations."