Despite rain cutting Ball State's opening weekend trip to Spartanburg, S.C., a day short, coach Alex Marconi said he is happy with the weekend's results. Ball State returns to Muncie with a 1-1 record after defeating Dayton 4-3 on Opening Day and losing 10-1 to USC Upstate on Saturday.
The Cardinals' victory against the Flyers was their first on Opening Day since 2005.
"I'm happy to be coming back 1-1," Marconi said. "I thought Friday was a very good game against a very good team."
Ball State won the game in the ninth inning when senior Mitch Widau broke a 3-3 tie with a two-out, RBI single bringing home Kirby Campbell.
Widau said when he faced Dayton reliever Parker Schrage in the seventh inning, he had pitched Widau mostly on the outer half of the strike zone. So Widau was expecting to see more of the same. When Schrage threw a fastball away, Widau simply slapped it into left field for the game-winning RBI.
"I wasn't going to do too much, I was just going to put it in play and see what happens," Widau said.
Widau's hit made sure senior right-hander Cal Bowling's solid start didn't go to waste. While Bowling didn't factor in the decision, he allowed two earned runs in 6.2 innings, striking out five.
Friday's win went to sophomore reliever Devin Wilburn, who pitched two scoreless innings to end the game. It was Wilburn's first time pitching in a high-pressure situation as a reliever, which he is slated to do throughout the season for the Cardinals.
"He did a great job coming in and throwing strikes with multiple pitches and competing," Marconi said.
As good as Friday was for Ball State, Saturday was about as bad. USC Upstate scored six runs in the second inning off sophomore left-hander Nestor Bautista, quickly blowing the game open. Bautista lasted just 1.1 innings, allowing seven runs on six hits and three walks.
Marconi said he thought nerves got the best of Bautista, who was making his first start as a member of the weekend rotation.
"He was a little tentative out there," Marconi said. "We talk all the time about being aggressive and being confident in yourself. All across the board with those guys, you have to go out and have confidence in your ability."
The Cardinals had tied the game at one in the top of the second inning before the Spartans' offense exploded. But Ball State wouldn't get another hit the rest of the afternoon, shut down by left-hander Scott DeCecco and three relievers.
Widau said while DeCecco did a good job making his pitches, the Cardinals' approach at the plate wasn't as good Saturday as they had been Friday. Marconi said he thought the hitters tried to do too much as they tried to overcome the large deficit.
"What set the tone was them getting that big lead," Marconi said. "He relaxed, our hitters pressed and it was tough for us to get in any sort of groove."
Through the ups and downs of the weekend, Marconi said he thinks Ball State can learn from its first trip of the season.
"One day, you battle to win the game late and if don't show up sharp, ready to go the next day, it can be the exact opposite," Marconi said. "It was definitely a weekend to build off of."