BASEBALL: Bullpen fuels pitching staff

Senior Tyler Jordan throws a low pitch during a game last season. In Sunday
Senior Tyler Jordan throws a low pitch during a game last season. In Sunday

For the third weekend in a row, the Ball State baseball team came away victorious in three of its four games.

“Once you get used to winning, losing becomes even that much harder because you like the way it feels when you win,” head coach Rich Maloney said with a laugh. “I hate to lose, and you want to develop that mentality in your program.”

One day after getting shutout 0-13 by Liberty on Saturday, the Cardinals and Flames faced off again. This time, the matchup proved to be much more competitive.

The Cardinals raced out to an early lead, when junior left fielder Brandon Estep’s sacrifice fly scored senior Sean Godfrey from third base in the top of the first inning. An RBI double in the second and a Godfrey two-run home run in the fourth extended Ball State’s lead to 4-0.

Cardinal’s senior starting pitcher Clay Manering started the game with three shutout innings, but he allowed two runs to come across in the bottom of the fourth, cutting Ball State’s lead in half.

The score remained 4-2 until the bottom of the seventh, when Liberty second baseman Ryan Seiz made a RBI double to make the score 4-3. The Flames proceeded to load the bases with two outs in the inning, but Ball State senior relief pitcher Tyler Jordan’s pitching helped the Cardinals escape with the lead still intact.

Liberty would threaten again in the eighth and ninth innings, but once again Ball State freshman Zach Plesac stepped on the mound and delivered a performance to seal the victory and move the Cardinals to 9-3 on the season.

“It would be easy to say that [Liberty] is a really good team, but that’s not how we think,” Maloney said of the way his team responded to its previous meeting with the Flames. “We want to be that team. We want to be the team that they’re saying is going to regionals.”

Besides the first matchup against Liberty, Maloney’s bullpen played a vital role in the team’s three wins.

In those games, the Cardinals’ bullpen pitched 12.6 innings, racking up 13 strikeouts while allowing one run to cross home plate.

“It’s huge,” Maloney said. “It gives the team a lot of confidence to know that [the bullpen] can hold somebody at bay. … You could say without question that the bullpen has been a very important piece.”

Jordan made appearances in all three of Ball State’s wins over the weekend, pitching 5.2 innings, picking up a save and getting the Cardinals out of the seventh inning, bases-loaded jam in the team’s final game.

Plesac also continued his start to his college career by earning his fourth victory and second save over the weekend. His performances could make him a candidate for his second conference pitcher of the week award.

Even freshman B.J. Butler came out of the pen pitching like a veteran, tossing three shutout innings in the team’s 5-4 win over Rider on Saturday.

While the starting pitchers try to find their groove to start the 2014 season, the bullpen has done its part in helping Ball State race out to its 9-3 record.

“It’s just a matter of time before our starting pitchers get back to their consistency level,” Maloney said. “We know they can get there, and I think when that happens, we will have a chance to be an awfully good team. … It’s a journey.”


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