Ball State baseball (15-11, 2-1 MAC) will host Ohio University (10-14, 1-2 MAC) April 1-3 in a rematch of last year’s Mid-American Conference championship game.
Last season, the Bobcats beat the Cardinals 6-2 to earn the MAC’s bid to the NCAA Regional tournament. Junior shortstop Alex Maloney said missing out on the postseason berth still stings.
“That left a pretty sick feeling in a lot of our stomachs,” he said. “The guys who are returning know what this game is about, what this series is about.”
Ball State is riding a hot streak, having won four of their last five games and seven of their last nine.
Ohio, however, lost two of its three games against Northern Illinois last weekend. Still, Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said Ohio is a talented team.
“They’re obviously not happy about that, and they’re going to come out gunning,” he said. “… They’ve got a lot of parts together to make a run like they did last year, so we’re going to have to play really well to win.”
The Cardinals carry a 3.92 staff ERA into the series as well as a .281 batting average and a .970 fielding percentage. Rich said he thinks the Cardinals should be near the top of the league in all three facets of the game at the end of the season.
“We feel like we have more pitching depth and more top-end talent than we’ve had,” he said. “So we fully expect to be in the top three in pitching this year, without question. And I think we can be in the top three in hitting and in the top three in fielding.”
Ohio, however, is also near the top of the MAC. As of Monday (the MAC updates statistics once per week), it had the best batting average (.287) in the MAC and the third best ERA (4.37) in the conference.
The Cardinals roster features both the MAC West Division Player of the Week, Alex Maloney, and the Pitcher of the Week, junior right-hander Zach Plesac.
Six different Cardinals have been honored by the MAC so far this year, and Rich said it was a testament to their depth.
“That says a lot about the talent of our team if six different guys can win player of the week in our division. I think that bodes well for us, and the irony of it is that [juniors] Alex Call and Caleb Stayton, our two most productive offensive players, haven’t even gotten it yet. "
Call is flirting with a .400 batting average, leading the Cardinals with a .394 average, 12 doubles and nine stolen bases. His .487 on-base percentage and .616 slugging percentage also lead the team.
Plesac, who is 2-1 on the season with a 3.03 ERA, said it should be an exciting game for Cardinal fans.
“I know we’ve got some ego stuff going on from last year," Plesac said. "[We’re] getting ready for this redemption game. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”
Friday's game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Saturday and Sunday, first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.