After dropping the first two series’ against Mid-American Conference opponents, Ball State coach Rich Maloney knew his team needed to come up big against Western Michigan.
Losing the first game, Ball State rallied to take the next two games — including a 3-1 win Sunday — to win the series.
In many of the Cardinals’ recent losses, early deficits have spelled trouble for the team. Having to fight an uphill battle to just get back in the game is difficult, especially for a team that has struggled to score runs at times this season.
Maloney believes that scoring early helped take pressure off Scott Baker and Jon Cisna. Baker threw his first complete game; allowing just two earned runs, while Cisna pitched seven shutout innings the next day.
“We scored runs early which really helped us,” Maloney said. “Having those multiple run innings in a couple games was so huge. Getting those runs at the beginning gave us so much momentum that Western Michigan couldn’t overcome it.”
Ball State’s Blake Beemer started off the first inning of the rubber game with a walk, and advanced to second off Sean Godfrey’s single, then both advanced 90 feet when Western Michigan’s Patrick Borlik balked.
Cody Campbell ripped a single into left field, bringing home Beemer and Godfrey. Kevin Schlotter hit a sacrifice fly, bringing Campbell home and giving Ball State a quick 3-0 lead early, and it was never relinquished.
“To be able to come out and get on the board early was so big for our confidence,” Maloney said about the fast start. “Cisna was able to get into a grove early and be aggressive knowing he had some run support behind him.”
Maloney spoke highly of Baker and Cisna, saying the combined 16 combined innings they pitched were important because the team burned through four relief pitchers on Friday when they lost a 12-11 debacle to Western Michigan.
Baker’s win improved his record to 7-0, tied for third in NCAA D-I baseball and brought his earned run average to just 2.06.
Cisna got his first win of the season Sunday, and has started to settle into the role of Ball State’s final starter, a position that Nestor Bautista wasn’t able to hold down during the first month of the season.
The performances by Baker and Cisna were valuable because after Ball State jumped out to its early leads, the offense fell flat.
In innings two through nine for the final two games, Ball State scored just two runs combined. Baker and Cisna’s outings weren’t perks for the Ball State victories, they were necessities.
After Maloney decided it was time for Cisna’s day to end at the top of the eighth, he turned the ball over to an unlikely right hander to finish the game and get the save.
It was Ball State ace and starter Chris Marangon.
Marangon started Friday’s game, but threw just 57 pitches and was pulled after allowing eight runs, albeit just two earned. Wanting to continue to rest his bullpen, Maloney gave Marangon a chance to get a couple more innings of pitching in.
Marangon allowed one unearned run in the final two innings, and finished off the 3-1 win for Ball State.
“Depending on how our pitching went, we’ve toyed around with the idea of having him close a game or two this year,” Maloney said. “He rebounds really well and always wants the ball. To Marangon’s credit, he did a nice job.”
Previously, Marangon has said he’ll do anything to help his team to a victory.
Even if it means closing out a game, which Maloney referred to as “uncharted waters” for him this season, and said it was big for the team.
For Maloney, coming up big was the theme of the weekend.