Ball State baseball will start off its spring break eight-game road trip in South Carolina at the Johnny Gardner Law Group Tournament.
Ball State (3-4) will play eight games in a 10-day span, starting with three in South Carolina against Coastal Carolina, Radford and No. 22 Maryland. After coming out of last weekend's contest under .500, head coach Rich Maloney is looking to come back and win a series by making a couple adjustments.
"We have to strikeout less on offense and we need to make sure we walk fewer guys because you can't win consistently with six walks in a game," Maloney said. "So what we're doing is really attacking everything we do while playing catch and holding them accountable to where they throw the ball. We're reevaluating every day and working on mechanics as well. At the end of the day, it's about winning a series."
Coming off a College Baseball World Series Championship in 2016, the Chanticleers come into tonight's game at 8-2 with a pitching staff to watch out for. Right-handed pitcher Jason Bilous leads Coastal Carolina's pitching rotation. The junior entered the 2018 season ranked 57th by D1Baseball.com on the top 100 college prospects list. Prior to 2017, D1Baseball tabbed Bilous the number one pro prospect in the Sun Belt Conference for the 2018 draft.
"In this particular weekend, it will be tough," Maloney said. "Coastal is a great team with a great tradition, a great coach and great players, we'll have to play really well to beat them because we haven't had much success against them."
Ball State goes on to play Radford (3-5) on Saturday. The Cardinals and Highlanders have met once before in 2003, where the Cardinals broke up a 7-7 tie with a pair of runs in the eighth inning to record a 9-8 win on March 15.
Ball State will close out the weekend against another Big Ten foe in Maryland (4-4). With one Big Ten win against Iowa last weekend, Maloney and his team are ready for another challenge.
"Then we've got Radford, who I think might have been in the NCAA Tournament last year if I remember right, so they're going to be a solid team and then certainly Maryland has had great success in the last five years, so man we've got our work cut out for us now," Maloney said. But what a great opportunity this is."
Although playing a more prestige team in the Big Ten, the Cardinals don't think about it when they get on the field. The team does its best to not let it affect its mental focus. For freshman right-handed pitcher Cody Freed, an opponent from the Big Ten doesn't phase him.
"I just go into every game like we need to win and I just pitch as well as I can," Freed said. "I don't really think about who the opponent is and who we're facing. I just love pitching and have to go out there and do my best. I want to get in as many innings as I can and do the best that I can."
When it comes to Ball State's performance on the mound, Maloney has seen some positives and negatives that he plans to execute on this weekend. Junior right-hander Nick Floyd (0-0, 3.00 ERA) is projected to start Friday, sophomore righty John Baker (0-1, 8.38 ERA) is projected to face Radford on Saturday and freshman right-hander Kyle Nicolas (1-0, 1.80 ERA) is projected to pitch against Maryland.
"We're striking out the opponent 11 times a game, which is amazing," Maloney said. "I've been coaching a long time and have never had a team do that, so there's a big positive. On the flip side, we're two to one ratio in strikeout to walks, so it wasn't bad, but you want to be three to one because that's great. Unfortunately, we're allowing the opposition three to one and we're going two to one, so we have to get better."
Ball State will round out its spring break trip with five games in North Carolina. Ball State will play a pair of games against Gardner-Webb and will close out the trip with a three-game series against Western Carolina.
"We just want to keep giving guys the opportunities and try to figure out who should play where and who should pitch when," Maloney said. "I've been pleased with the attitudes that have been good and I've seen signs of success throughout at different times, we just have to put it all together."
Ball State's first contest of the weekend will be against Coastal Carolina with the first pitch scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.