Coming off of its season-opening series against the nationally ranked Arizona Wildcats, Ball State (4-3, 0-0 MAC) returned to the Midwest this weekend — but found its opponent in fewer than 48 hours.
After COVID-19 concerns within Charleson Southern postponed Ball State's originally scheduled series against the Buccaneers, the Cardinals were initially left without an opponent this weekend. That changed quickly, though, as the Cardinals traveled one state west to face Bradley (1-2, 0-0 MVC).
Ball State swept a doubleheader Friday night, taking game one 4-3 in 10 innings. Then, junior right-handed pitcher Chayce McDermott's struck out seven in five innings, propeling the Cardinals over the Braves 5-0 in game two. However, the momentum shifted Saturday night, as the Braves shut out the Cardinals 6-0.
Here are four takeaways from the series.
Tale of two days
The Cardinals' performances Friday and Saturday were nearly the opposites of each other. Ball State received two pitching gems Friday, as senior right-handed pitcher John Baker struck out 12 through 8.2 innings before sophomore right-handed pitcher Andre Orselli closed the door for the win in extras, followed by McDermott's dominance in game two. The same could not be said about Saturday's game, as sophomore right-hander Ty Weatherly threw just 28 pitches in 1.1 innings before head coach Rich Maloney used his depth the rest of the way.
Ball State also had just two hits in Saturday's win — singles from senior outfielder Ross Messina and junior outfielder Nick Powell. Through seven games, the Cardinals are still looking for their first home run, despite the team's offensive depth.
Messina's strong start
One of just five senior players on the Cardinals' roster, outfielder Ross Messina has quickly made an impact after batting just .215 in 16 games last season. Messina delivered in game one Friday, scoring a 2-RBI single in the 10th inning to pull the Cardinals home for the win. He built off of that momentum in games two and three with one hit apiece. Messina finished with four hits over the weekend, raising his batting average to .294.
Ruetschle falls short
After pitching 5.2 scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 5-2 win over the Wildcats Feb. 21, en route to Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Week honors, junior right-hander Tyler Ruetschle could not replicate his success this weekend. Ruetschle pitched 1.2 innings in Saturday's loss, surrendering two earned runs and allowing three walks. Both of Ruetschle's appearances this season have came in relief, after making just one start in 2020.
Freshmen make an impact
Prior to the season, Maloney highlighted three freshmen who could make an impact down the stretch in 2021: right-handed pitcher Ty Johnson, outfielder/first baseman Decker Scheffler and third baseman/outfielder Tyler Hinrikus. Two of them delivered over the weekend against the Braves, as Scheffler scored two runs in Friday's shutout win while Johnson briefly pitched in Saturday's loss, forcing a groundout off Braves' freshman catcher Logan Delgado.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Tyler Schweitzer made his second Ball State appearance this weekend, too. After allowing four earned runs over two innings Feb. 20 against Arizona in his debut, Schweitzer pitched the final two innings in Friday's game two, allowing just one hit while striking out three and building off McDermott's success.
Ball State will return to the field March 5-7 against Kentucky, continuing its season-opening 13-game road trip.