Cardinals open MAC play with 2 wins in 3 games behind pitching, defense
Junior right-handed pitcher Zach Plesac led the Ball State pitching staff this weekend, striking out 11 in a two-hit complete game shutout over Miami.
Including the March 26 9-0 victory, the Cardinals (14-11, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) kicked off MAC play winning two of three games against the Redhawks (9-12, 1-2 MAC) in Oxford, Ohio, this weekend.
Head coach Rich Maloney said Plesac was “electric.”
Upcoming schedule (* denotes MAC game)
Tuesday, March 29, 3 p.m. – vs. Valparaiso
Friday, April 1, 3 p.m. – vs. Ohio*
Saturday, April 2, 1 p.m. – vs. Ohio*
Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m. – vs. Ohio*
“He pitched as well as I’ve ever seen him pitch,” he said. “He’s had many games that have been good in his career and that was the best one.”
The shutout pushed Plesac’s ERA down to 3.03 and he now has 32 strikeouts in 29.2 innings pitched this season.
Plesac has been the second pitcher in the Cardinals’ starting rotation, but Maloney said he threw like an ace. Generally, college baseball teams start their best pitchers on Friday night in the first game of a weekend series.
“He pitched like a true Friday-night guy even though he’s pitching on Saturday,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to need if we’re going to have a chance to win [the MAC] – solid pitching.”
Ball State’s pitchers have a 4.00 staff ERA this season, a full run lower than last season’s 5.18 ERA. Maloney said the improved performance allows him to rest his bullpen.
“There’s some guys that didn’t even get in this week,” he said. “We didn’t have that last year. We’ve made tremendous strides, [but] we’ve gotta continue to grow the rest of our staff.”
The Cardinals, however, dropped the March 25 MAC opener 4-2. Redshirt junior left-handed pitcher Kevin Marnon (3-3, 3.62 ERA) struck out eight and allowed three runs – all of them earned – in his 6.2 inning start, but was credited with the loss after Ball State batters could only muster 2 runs on five hits.
After winning March 26, the Cardinals also beat Miami in the March 27 series finale 9-6. Junior catcher Jarett Rindfleisch hit a home run in the game and finished the weekend 4-10 at the plate with four runs scored, three RBIs and three walks.
The Cardinals only committed one error on the weekend, raising their team fielding percentage to .969. Maloney said the goal is to help the pitching staff by finishing the season with at least a .970 fielding percentage.
“It goes hand in hand,” he said. “The key to a championship team is that when one part of the puzzle isn’t working as good, somebody else picks up their brother. So if somebody makes an error, the important thing is we don’t walk the next guy; … free runners are trouble.”
Ball State will play a non-conference game at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Valparaiso. Ball State will then host Ohio University in a three-game MAC series April 1-3.