BASEBALL: Ball State plays host to Buffalo to move back into MAC play
Cards have won first three MAC series for first time since 2005
Coming off a feel-good victory Wednesday against NAIA member Indiana Tech, Ball State University will delve back into its Mid-American Conference schedule this weekend.
Ball State will play host to the University at Buffalo in the final weekend of the MAC divisional crossover. The Cardinals have played well against their MAC East opponents, winning their first three MAC series for the first time since 2005.
The Cardinals will look to keep their momentum from Wednesday's win while going against the Bulls.
"It gives us a boost," first baseman Ian Nielsen said. "It gets us focused again."
Ball State is undefeated in five previous games against the Bulls, recording series sweeps in each of the last two years.
A sweep would be very beneficial to Ball State's MAC West title hopes after it fell out of first place last weekend, despite winning twice at Bowling Green State University. The University of Toledo and Central Michigan University are tied for first, a game ahead of Ball State.
Buffalo's 7.37 team ERA ranks 11th in the MAC, and Ball State has a pair of hot hitters that will test the visitor's rotation.
Shortstop T.J. Baumet missed two games at Bowling Green during the weekend after being hit in the hand by a pitch, but he returned to the lineup this week. Baumet went 6-for-9 against Purdue University and Indiana Tech, raising his batting average back over .300.
Nielsen is also locked in at the plate, where he has driven in 18 runs in the last week. The sophomore has also hit six home runs after hitting just one in his first 25 games.
However, Nielsen hasn't really noticed.
"I'm the last one looking," he said. "I don't want to show anyone up."
The Bulls are led by shortstop Brad Agustin, who is hitting .355 with a .489 on-base percentage. The senior also has 15 stolen bases.
Stolen bases are something Ball State will have to be ready for this weekend. Buffalo has attempted 64 steals this year, the most in the MAC. Catcher Zach Dygert has cut down 30 percent of would-be base stealers this year.
Coach Greg Beals is confident the Cardinals will be ready for the series after Wednesday's victory and a good day of practice Thursday.
"They're going to be in a good attitude after having a good day," he said. "Mentally, we're in the right frame of mind."