Heading into the 2013 season, Ball State knew it’d have its hands full trying to decipher how the pitching rotation would fall into place.
The only position set in stone was Chris Marangon as the ace of the staff, toeing the rubber every Friday afternoon.
Luckily for Ball State coach Rich Maloney, sophomore Scott Baker anchored down one of the final two spots, exploding onto the scene as Ball State’s potential future ace.
After that, the picture got murky. Maloney had high hopes for Nestor Bautista, but he was yanked from the order after getting blown up in several of his starts, and Kyle Raleigh had the same problem.
Now a couple weeks into conference play, Maloney thinks he may have found his starter, Jon Cisna.
“Jon [Cisna] rose up and pitched as well as he’s probably ever pitched in his life,” Maloney said about Cisna’s performance on Sunday. “It was a really special outing; he gave us everything we needed.”
With relievers burnt out after an extra-innings loss on Friday, Ball State needed Cisna to be able to pitch a lot of innings on Sunday.
He answered the call, throwing seven scoreless innings before Marangon entered the game and finished off the win.
Cisna’s stats aren’t overwhelmingly impressive. He has a 4.23 ERA and has allowed nearly as many earned runs as Marangon and Baker, despite playing half the innings.
But it’s a huge step up from Raleigh and Bautista, who have ERA’s of 7.59 and 9.19 respectively.
“He’s had a couple nice outings when we’ve had him start and he’s also had a few not so nice outings,” Maloney said. “He’s been a mixed bag so far, but when we’ve needed him the most, like last Sunday, he’s been sensational.”
Cisna has stepped into his role as a starter these last few weeks after spending the entire 2012 campaign as a reliever. He struggled, pitching just 19 2/3 innings and had the second-highest ERA on the team at 9.15 in 2012.
As the team entered into this season, the question was raised as to if Cisna should continue relieving or be given a shot to start.
Once Bautista and Raleigh burned out, Maloney turned to Cisna, hoping he could be a reliable starter for the Cardinals.
“Your third starter is typically a guy who’s still trying to find himself and Jon [Cisna] has shown that he can be an elite starter,” Maloney said. “Obviously his consistency level hasn’t been there, but hopefully this gets his confidence up.”
Putting together multiple strong appearances has been a struggle for Cisna this season, and Maloney wants to see him become more consistent as the team heads into the heart of its conference schedule.
Without a lot of competition, Cisna’s chances of securing the role of third starter are getting stronger.
Maloney wouldn’t say if Cisna has sealed up the role of third starter, but wants to continue giving him chances to prove his worth.
“He’ll be back out there again this weekend against Central Michigan,” Maloney said. “There’s no question about that.”
Cisna’s last four starts:
March 16: 5 Innings Pitched, 6 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 5 Strikouts
March 23: 4 1/3 Innings Pitched, 8 Hits, 5 Earned Runs, 3 Strikouts
March 30: 2 Innings Pitched, 4 Hits, 3 Earned Runs, 0 Strikouts
April 7: 7 Innings Pitched, 4 Hits, 0 Earned Runs, 3 Strikouts