Ball State closer BJ Butler was credited with two wins this weekend, as Ball State baseball (23-14, 9-3 MAC) won two of its three games against Central Michigan (8-28, 3-6 MAC).
Butler pitched five scoreless innings on the weekend with six strikeouts, zero walks and four hits allowed. The pair of victories makes him 3-0 on the season and he dropped his ERA to 2.64.
Head coach Rich Maloney said it is critical for a team to have a lockdown closer.
“I mean, look at the major leagues,” Maloney said. “Teams that don’t have closers — like my beloved [Detroit] Tigers last year — they finish last even with a good offensive team. It’s hard to win big if you don’t have a stopper at the end.”
Ball State and Central Michigan were tied 7-7 when Butler entered the game in the bottom of the seventh. The Cardinals scored two runs in the top of the eighth to take the lead and added another in the ninth for a 10-7 win.
Nine of Ball State’s 10 runs, however, were unearned. Central Michigan committed seven errors in the game. Maloney said he tried to call hit-and-runs in order to put pressure on the Chippewas, who entered the series with a .954 fielding percentage, the worst of the Mid-American Conference.
“Going into the series, they were the worst fielding team in the league, so you knew you wanted to put the ball on the ground so they’d have to make plays,” he said. “If you’re putting the ball in the air, you’re going to be out with the wind blowing in a big ballpark.”
Maloney said the Cardinals hit the ball in the air too often in Friday’s 7-3 loss, but it was a difficult problem to avoid because they entered the series second in the MAC with 29 home runs.
“The wind was blowing in all weekend, so that took away the long ball,” he said. “For a team like ours, it’s a little more challenging because we have an advantage over most teams in our league.”
Redshirt freshman Roman Baisa entered Friday’s game as a pinch hitter and started in left field Saturday, his first two appearances since leaving Ball State’s April 1 game against Ohio.
Junior pitcher and outfielder Zach Plesac started in Baisa’s absence and was the designated hitter. He is hitting .302 on the season and Maloney said he would ride the “hot hand” at the DH spot going forward.
“Plesac, right now, is the guy,” he said. “[Sophomore Colin] Brockhouse will get back in there, I’m sure, at some point. But we think Plesac [is] on a pretty good run. He struggled a little bit at the plate this week, but he’s been doing really well for us so we’ll give him those opportunities for the time being.”
Ball State won the series finale April 17 4-2, and now have a two-game lead in the MAC West Division over Northern Illinois (12-23, 7-5 MAC)
In their next game, the Cardinals will travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue (5-27, 1-11 Big Ten). Ball State came from behind to win 7-6 in its March 22 home game against the Boilermakers.