Coming off a 1-2 opening series, Ball State coach Rich Maloney was happy with what he saw from his team and just wants it to translate over to the next series.
Two home runs fueled Ball State in their final game over Tennessee State, but long balls aren’t expected to be a big contribution this season.
Last year, the Cardinals hit just 14 home runs and suffered from a lack of power all season long. Maloney thinks that could be the case again this year.
“You can hit a home run here or there, but that’s really not our team,” Maloney said. “In general, our team isn’t going to win with the home run. Other teams are going to be able to out hit us in the power category.”
Maloney emphasized playing small ball and manufacturing runs, meaning he wants base hits, steals and sacrifice plays to tack runs on the scoreboard. When the team scored six last Saturday, Ball State hit three doubles, drew walks and moved runners around the bases.
Ball State struggled to manufacture runs last season and looked sloppy several times in their opening series. They were picked off first base three times, leaving potential scoring chances on the field and off the scoreboard.
“We’ll have to bunt, drag, squeeze and get the timely hit and knock a few doubles,” Maloney said. “Try to hit the ball back up the middle and not try to do more than their physical gifts are capable of.”
Pitchers Chris Marangon and Scott Baker both had solid starts to open their seasons. Baker walked away with the MAC West pitcher of the week after pitching seven innings and striking out eight, giving up just one run.
“Marangon did a nice job, Kyle Raleigh did a nice job, everybody stepped up,” Maloney said. “We had so many guys step up for us this weekend, it was really promising.”
Pitcher and third baseman T.J. Weir was one of the few pitchers who struggled. He gave up four runs and only recorded one out in a disastrous inning for Ball State that saw the team give up six runs.
“T.J. struggled, but it was brutally cold,” Maloney said. “I think he didn’t get the feel for the ball, it wasn’t strong for him. He’s still one of our better pitchers and we’re going to need him to perform.”
Maloney said the combination of offense and defense is more important than game planning for individual opponents. He believes baseball is a mind game, and focusing more on the opponent than on your own abilities can backfire.
Maloney didn’t think there was a specific way to prepare for facing Bradley and Lipscomb in the Lipscomb Tournament this weekend in Nashville, Tenn.
“I think we’ll be approaching the games this weekend the exact same way we’ll be doing it all season,” Maloney said. “Make the routine play routinely, throw strikes, take the extra base when we can and put pressure on the defense.”
He used the Chicago Bulls from the 1990’s as a metaphor, saying that teams would fear Michael Jordan so much they would lose track of their own abilities, and fall apart. Maloney wants to make sure his team doesn’t get too nervous going into a game against a strong team.
That composure will be important this year, as Ball State faces some dangerous teams, like Purdue, who is often highly ranked.
“If you focus on yourself, you never get too high-strung when you’re playing another team,” Maloney said. “If the other team has a big name on them, you won’t get worked up about it. Just play your game, and you’ll usually be happy with the result.”
Ball State Lipscomb Tournament Schedule:
12 p.m. Friday: Bradley
11 a.m. Saturday: Lipscomb
11 a.m. Sunday: Bradley
3 p.m. Sunday: Lipscomb