BASEBALL: Cardinals drop home opener to Hoosiers

Ball State falls to 2-17 after losing to Indiana

A half hour before the first pitch between Ball State and Indiana, the weather was near perfect. As the game began, a cold front rolled in, bringing clusters of runs for the Hoosiers, who spoiled the Cardinals' home opener in a 10-2 win.

"To have our home opener go like that, it's not what we envisioned," coach Alex Marconi said.

Freshman left-hander Nestor Bautista started for Ball State (2-17), allowing three runs off six hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"I felt very confident," Bautista said. "I just had a bad turn in one inning. It was kind of tough because our hitting is not very good."

Indiana (13-7) struck first in the first when Alex Dickerson lined an RBI single to left field.

Bautista settled down after the first inning, retiring six of seven Hoosiers at one point. He struck out the side in the fourth, making quick work of the Hoosiers' 5-6-7 hitters.

"[It] felt really good," Bautista said. "I started making good improvement. At the beginning of the year I was high in pitches. Today I was in the zone."

Bautista ran into trouble in the fifth. Right fielder Justin Cureton led off the inning with a single to the left side of the infield. Third baseman Dustin DeMuth followed with a double down the left field line, putting runners on second and third with no outs.

Bautista balked in a run, walked a man and threw a wild pitch, allowing two runs and giving the Hoosiers a 3-0 lead.

Despite a minor hiccup, Marconi said Bautista took a huge step forward.

"We thought he threw well," Marconi said. "He's got the ability to be a very good pitcher for us now and in the future."

Before Bautista was lifted, designated hitter Josh Lyon drove a pitch to center field, sending junior Cody Elliott toward the wall before making a spectacular diving catch at the warning track.

"The ball was hit over my head and I took off," Elliott said. "My right fielder did a really good job of letting me know where the fence was, and [I] just made the play."

With Bautista out of the game, though, the bullpen imploded.

Junior right-hander Justin Warrington came in to work the eighth inning but lasted just two batters, walking one and allowing two runs to score. Freshman right-hander Jacob Brewer took over, retiring two batters while surrendering two runs.

Sophomore righty Michael Sandman was the final pitcher used out of the bullpen. He worked a scoreless inning but walked one batter.

"What has happened to us, it's not just one guy out of the bullpen not doing well, it's two or three guys," Marconi said. "Today was a little bit of a step back for us."

Indiana's offense collected 16 hits. Dickerson went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs, while DeMuth went 4-for-6 with a pair of RBIs. Second baseman Micah Johnson turned in a 3-for-5 outing with a pair of runs scored.

Marconi emphasized to his team the importance of being patient at the plate. But, the message didn't go through. There were multiple instances where the Cardinals were retired in order.

Other instances featured Ball State making outs on the first pitch of an at-bat.

Despite the impatience at the plate, the Cardinals pounded out seven hits but couldn't produce runs.

"We can work on it, we can practice it [and] we can talk about it," Marconi said. "I can't go out there and do it. These guys have to figure out at some point to adjust and make it work."

The loss extends Ball State's losing streak to six games with its first Mid-American Conference series this weekend against Ohio.

"It's been the same thing all year," Elliott said. "It's frustrating, but we just have to keep our heads up. The season starts over this weekend with MAC play."