BASEBALL: Missing pitching ace, Ball State splits 2 games
Bautista struggles in start; Marangan picks up the slack
After news surfaced that senior Cal Bowling broke his pitching hand last week and would miss Friday's series opening start against Ohio, coach Alex Marconi shuffled his starting rotation for Sunday's series finale doubleheader.
The Cardinals (8-25, 4-8) dropped the first game 11-9 but salvaged the final game behind a solid performance from junior Chris Marangan, 4-3.
Shuffling the pitching rotation wasn't ideal for Marconi, but it paid off for the Cardinals in game three.
"I thought by and large our guys did fairly well considering we didn't have our Friday starter with us this weekend," Marconi said. "I thought the pitching staff did fairly well."
The first game saw the Cardinals surrender at least one run in the first five innings to the Bobcats.
Sophomore left-hander Nestor Bautista made the start for the Cardinals, hoping to build some consistency, which has been rare for him this season. Unfortunately, the Bobcats tagged Bautista for nine runs, seven of which were earned, off of 12 hits in just 3 1/3 innings.
Marconi said Bautista's inexperience and inability to put together multiple good outings have been troubling for his second-year pitcher.
"It's just his youngness, his inability to repeat his mechanics consistently every time," Marconi said. "He gets behind in the count, leaves the ball up in the zone and then gets hit. We've seen some good out of him and we've seen some not so good out of him.
"What we need to do is get him to the point where we're seeing three out of four solid outings and then have a hiccup. That's what all of our young guys are striving for, that consistency. Some guys are grasping that a little quicker than others."
Down by eight runs, the Cardinals rallied in their half of the seventh and eighth innings, scoring six runs to make the score 10-9. But the rally fell short as the home team tallied another run in the bottom of the eighth, eventually holding on for the 11-9 victory.
In the second game, Marangan was able to locate all four of his pitches for strikes, keeping the Bobcats' offense off balance for much of the game.
Marangan surrendered just three earned runs off of six hits in 5 1/3 innings of work.
"We know we're going to get a competitor every time we put him out there," Marconi said. "When you only have one pitch for strikes, you're going to get hit around a little bit. Chris was throwing multiple pitches the whole game and was very successful."
With the score knotted at 3-3, sophomore outfielder Sean Godfrey lined a two-out RBI single up the middle to give the Cardinals a 4-3 advantage in the top of the seventh.
With a one-run lead, it was the Cardinals' bullpen that stepped up. Behind the combined efforts of sophomores Devin Wilburn and Jacob Brewer, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, the Cardinals were able to keep the Bobcats off the board to avoid the series sweep.
"We had some guys step up," Marconi said. "I told the guys before the game that some people are going to have to step up now. Especially with Cal out, we need some people to count on, to lean on. Brewer came in and was very consistent in the backend of game wwo today. I was very pleased with guys coming out and stepping up."
Despite dropping two out of the three games to the Bobcats, Marconi said it's a good feeling knowing that his team won the final game.
"We did some things to help them win the first two games," Marconi said. "Even though we didn't give up, we fought back in game two. Over the weekend, I thought we did a great job with that. At the end of the day it's a series loss, and we've got to improve on some things and we've got to continue to get better. Winning game three at least makes the weekend taste a little better."