The weekend started well for Ball State University and its bullpen.Right-handers Perci Garner, Seth Hobbs and Morgan Coombs combined for 5 1/3 innings of relief, allowing just one run. The strong pitching allowed Ball State to defeat the University of Alabama at Birmingham 9-5 Friday night.After that win, however, the Cardinals bullpen struggled and Ball State (2-5) lost the final three games of the series. Ball State got solid starts from Cal Bowling, Scott Brothers Jr. and Kolbrin Vitek, but all three came away without a victory. In the final three games, nine relievers combined to go 0-2 with three blown saves, a 9.75 ERA and 17 walks in 12 innings of work. "I thought the pitching staff as a whole was good," coach Greg Beals said. "We got three great starts. We just had some lapses in the bullpen that cost us two games. In the third and fourth games, we had good leads and were playing good baseball, and the bullpen couldn't hold it."The Cardinals lost 6-0 in game one of Saturday's doubleheader and dropped the nightcap 10-9 in 12 innings. Sunday, UAB (3-2) came from behind to win 6-5.Ball State's bullpen was stretched by the doubleheader Saturday. The Cardinals were without closer Aaron Hammons for the second weekend in a row to open the season. Hammons' injury forced coach Greg Beals to use different pitchers at the end of games."It would have helped having Hammons," he said. "But we just didn't have a couple young men come in and perform. It wasn't the pitching staff as a whole and it wasn't the bullpen as a whole."Vitek said his teammates simply need to be ready when called upon."We just reminded them that they need to come in and do their jobs," the junior said. "They need to throw strikes. That's their job."Beals was able to take lots of positives out of the weekend because of strong performance in other areas of the club. Except for being shutout in the first game Saturday, Ball State scored enough runs to win and its starting pitchers kept them in every game.Vitek, a preseason All-American, stood out again. He hit two home runs and drove in four runs against UAB. Vitek is hitting .438 and slugging .844 through the first seven games."I've just been keeping up the same swing I've been working on all winter long and taking it to the plate in games," he said.Learning from the series loss is important, Beals said. Ball State will play nine games in its Spring Break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and it needs to be ready."We've seen what those guys can do," Beals said. "Now [the coaching staff] needs to make better decisions in the future with what we've learned."
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The bullpen heroics of Friday faded into the setting sun Saturday, as Ball State University blew not one, but two save opportunities in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Scoring five runs in the final two innings, Ball State University spoiled the University of Alabama at Birmingham's home opener with a 9-5 win Friday night.
Stymied by UAB starting pitcher Beau Pender, Ball State dropped the first game of Saturday's doubleheader 6-0.The Cardinals (2-3) were held to just three hits by Pender (1-0) and reliever Nick Graffeo. The Blazers (1-2) scored a run in the first inning, which proved to be all they would need. The victory was UAB's first of the year.After allowing the run in the first, Ball State starter Cal Bowling (0-1) settled down and retired nine batters in a row. However, he ran into trouble again in the fifth inning when a two-out walk to second baseman Nick Crawford proved costly.The Blazers put the game out of reach with three runs in the seventh inning off reliever Morgan Coombs, who earned the save Friday night. But the Cardinals' lack of offense largely made the insurance runs unnecessary. Pender kept Ball State off balance for seven innings, striking out nine. Right fielder Ryan Chenoweth was the only Cardinal to reach third base all game. He doubled to lead off the fourth inning and advanced to third on a balk. However, Pender struck out first baseman Ian Nielsen and left fielder Kory Benbow to end the Ball State threat.All-American second baseman Kolbrin Vitek was held hitless for the first time all year. The junior went 0-for-4, and did not hit the ball out of the infield. Continue to check bsudailynews.com for updates throughout the second game of the doubleheader and read Sunday's issue of The Ball State Daily News online for full coverage of the action.
If opening weekend was about playing nationally-ranked competition in an NCAA Tournament venue for Ball State University, then its four-game series at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is about winning games.Ball State won once in their three-game series at then-No. 15 University of Arkansas last weekend, which pleased coach Greg Beals. But now, Beals and the rest of the Cardinals expect more against the Blazers."This weekend is about us playing good baseball," he said. "It's not going to be our first weekend out. Winning that game at Arkansas was nice, but we need to play better baseball than we did."The series will be one of the rare times in college baseball where a Northern team will have more games under their belt than the Southern team. UAB has played just once, opening their season with a 6-5 loss at Mississippi State University.Blazers coach Brian Schoop said their schedule was already set when the NCAA added a 14th week to the season."We would have had to cancel some games to add another weekend series, and we didn't want to do that," he said. Neither Schoop or Beals expects Ball State's extra two games to play a difference in the series. UAB has been able to practice outside throughout the preseason, while Ball State can only hope to get outside sometime after Spring Break."They've been out on the grass, out on the dirt," Beals said. "I don't really feel like we'll be ahead of them." But after getting outside for the first time all year in Arkansas, the Cardinals were able to find some aspects of their game to work on."We worked on keeping runners close to second base, as well as baserunning," outfielder Kirby Campbell said. "Just little things that once you get outside you can see that you can't necessarily see inside."Beals said he expects his pitchers to throw more strikes at UAB. The Cardinals issued 16 walks and hit nine batters during the series. The pitch counts of the starting pitchers will also go up. Last weekend, no starter threw more than four innings.Starters extending their outings will be especially important Saturday when Ball State and UAB play a doubleheader. Ball State will added senior Scott Brothers Jr. to the rotation for the doubleheader."Scott had a great fall and a great offseason," Beals said. "It's more of a situation where its a reward, where he deserves the next nod."Brothers was used exclusively as a reliever last year after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College. He appeared in 16 games and had an ERA of 3.86.While UAB is not at the same level of Arkansas, Ball State will not be taking them lightly. Beals said the Blazers remind him of his own team."They're a solid team that forces you to beat them," Beals said. "They're not going to make a lot of mistakes."
The bus had only left Baum Stadium a few hours before, but Ball State University catcher Zach Dygert was ready to go back.Ball State opened the season with a three-game series at the University of Arkansas, playing in what is widely considered to be one of the best college baseball stadiums in the country.The Cardinals took one game from the No. 15 team in the country, playing in front of crowds as large as 5,827."It was one of the nicest and most enjoyable experiences, as far as atmosphere goes, in my career," Dygert said. "I'd love to go back for another weekend. I had a really good time."Before the series, coach Greg Beals said he scheduled the series to prepare Ball State for the NCAA Tournament. "Our goal is to play in a Regional," Beals said. "So before we get there I wanted to play in some Regional environments."Arkansas has hosted four NCAA Regionals and one Super Regional in Baum Stadium. The field can hold more than 10,000 fans, and looks more like a minor league ballpark. Since it opened, both Baseball American and rivals.com have named it the best collegiate stadium in the nation. Reliever Morgan Coombs said he had to contain his emotions pitching in front of the large crowds."When you first get out there it's a big adrenaline rush," he said. "You can't get too amped up, because that's when you make mistakes. I had to stay composed."In all, more than 10,000 people attended the series. The number would have been higher, but only 918 fans showed up Sunday after a rain delay. Last year, 15,475 people saw Ball State play all season.Dygert said the ballpark and fans made it easier for the Cardinals to respond with a 5-2 upset Saturday after losing Friday."They have intense fans," Dygert said. "It's a great atmosphere, a great place to play."
Winning its opening weekend series would have been ideal for Ball State University, but beating No. 15 University of Arkansas once will have to do.After losing to the Razorbacks 10-2 on Opening Day, the Cardinals (1-2) responded with a 5-2 victory Saturday. Arkansas (2-1) claimed the three-game series with a 9-3 win Sunday. Coach Greg Beals was proud of the heart his team showed bouncing back from Friday's loss."We played a really good baseball game on Saturday and that's what it requires to beat a team like Arkansas," he said. "We showed a lot of character as a team to take advantage of our second opportunity against them."Friday was the first time Ball State had played on a baseball field since beginning practice three weeks ago. Snow and cold weather has confined them to the Field Sports Building. Catcher Zach Dygert said it was easy to come back from the loss because the Cardinals were just happy to be playing baseball outside."The game on Friday was tough but it was so refreshing to be outside that it was very easy for everybody to bounce back," the senior captain said. "It was a loss, but wasn't a really hard loss. It was great atmosphere and a great place to play. I don't think anyone had trouble getting up to play."Playing in front of a crowd of 5,827 Saturday, Ball State put together a complete game against Arkansas for the upset.The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when second baseman Kolbrin Vitek tripled home right fielder Kirby Campbell and scored on a sacrifice fly. Ball State would never trail to Arkansas, a team that reached the College World Series a year ago.Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said the Cardinals were simply the better team Saturday. "They outplayed us big-time today," he said. "They out-pitched us and out-fielded us. What they did was they got some big hits. They took advantage of the mistakes and I thought their pitching staff did a great job."Ball State used only two pitchers Saturday. Cal Bowling started the game and pitched four innings, allowing one run. Morgan Coombs (1-0) relieved the sophomore and threw five gutsy innings for the victory. The right-hander was in trouble throughout his outing, but was able to escape jam after jam. Arkansas had at least one runner on base in each of the first eight innings and stranded 12 in all. In the seventh inning with the Cardinals clinging to a 3-2 lead, Coombs loaded the bases with a pair of two out walks, bringing preseason All-American Brett Eibner to the plate. Coombs struck out Eibner, ending the inning."They have some big bats in their lineup," Coombs said. "But you can't pitch around them. You've got to hit your spots."Dygert removed much of the drama in the top of the eighth inning with a two-run home run to give Ball State some breathing room."It was a home run off the bat," Beals said. "It took a 3-2 lead to a 5-2 lead and helped everyone relax."Ball State was led by Dygert and preseason All-American Kolbrin Vitek, who combined to go 7-for-9 with four RBIs and four runs. Coombs struck out eight batters in his five innings of work, allowing just one run.Beals said getting sterling performances from Vitek, Dygert and Coombs was the key to the game.Despite a lack of clutch hitting leading to another loss Sunday, the Cardinals were still pleased with their upset Saturday."It's a great feeling for me individually and as a team," Coombs said. "It means we can compete nationally and that we're going to be a good team.
The University of Arkansas quickly made sure Sunday that Ball State University wouldn't score their second upset of the weekend.The No. 15 Razorbacks roughed up Kolbrin Vitek for four runs in the first inning, and they never looked back in their 9-3 win. The Cardinals (1-2) will have to be content with their 5-2 victory Saturday in the opening weekend series. After Arkansas (2-1) starting pitcher Brett Eibner (1-0) struck out the side in the top of the first inning, the hosts came out swinging. The first two hitters reached base, and after Vitek (0-1) retired two Razorbacks. But he wasn't able to get a third out before an RBI single from preseason All-American Zack Cox and an three-run home run from catcher James McCann.Vitek settled down and allowed only one more hit before being lifted after four innings. Arkansas would add another run in the fifth, before Vitek drove in right fielder Ryan Chenoweth with a double for Ball State's first run.The Razorbacks broke the game open with four runs in the seventh inning. The Cardinals attempted a comeback in the eighth inning, adding two runs. Ball State was unable to get clutch hits Sunday, stranding seven runners in scoring position. In contrast, seven of Arkansas' runs came with two outs. Eibner, who was on a pitch count, was awarded the win by the official scorer. The junior allowed two hits in three shutout innings, and struck out five Cardinals. Arkansas pitchers combined to strike out 15 hitters. For full coverage of Ball State's opening weekend at Arkansas, read Monday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
Rebounding quickly from a disappointing Opening Day loss, Ball State University upset No. 15 University of Arkansas 5-2 Saturday afternoon.
Jumping out to an early lead, Ball State University held on and defeated No. 15 University of Arkansas 5-2 Saturday afternoon.The Cardinals were led by second baseman Kolbrin Vitek who went 4-for-5 with three runs and an RBI. The victory is Ball State's first against a ranked team since it defeated No. 23 Ohio State University 20-8 last year.Morgan Coombs pitched five innings in relief of Cal Bowling for the victory. Coombs allowed one run and struck out eight Razorbacks. The loss went to Arkansas starting pitcher Geoffrey Davenport. The left-hander allowed two runs in four innings.For full coverage of the game, read Sunday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
Playing outside for the first time all year, Ball State University wasn't quite ready to take on No. 15 University of Arkansas.The Razorbacks defeated the Cardinals 10-2 on opening day in front of 4,847 people, the largest crowd Ball State has played in front of since the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Starting pitcher Brad Piatt (0-1) gave up three runs for the loss.Arkansas started the game with three runs, despite not recording a hit in the first inning against Piatt. The first three Razorbacks to come to the plate in the game all scored after two hit batsmen, two walks, two sacrifice flies and two wild pitches.While the Cardinals did not make any errors in their first trip outdoors, their pitchers never seemed quite comfortable against the experienced Razorback hitters.Ball State cut the deficit to two runs in the fourth inning when second baseman Kolbrin Vitek singled and stole second base. First baseman Ian Nielsen drove him in with a line drive past shortstop Matt Reynolds for an RBI.Two runs were as close as the Cardinals would get, as the Razorbacks extended their lead to 6-1 in the fifth inning against reliever Perci Garner. Arkansas added four more runs over the final three innings.Ball State got their second run in the sixth inning when right fielder Ryan Chenoweth doubled to right field and was driven in by catcher Zach Dygert.The only Cardinal with multiple hits on the day was center fielder Cody Elliott, who went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.Arkansas was led by first baseman Andy Wilkins, who went 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBIs.The two teams will resume their three-game series today at 2 p.m. Arkansas, however, will likely be without second baseman Bo Bigham. The sophomore dove for a ball in the outfield and landed awkwardly on his left arm. He left the game with what was later reported as a dislocated shoulder.Starting Saturday's game for Ball State will be right-hander Cal Bowling. Going for Arkansas is left-hander Drew Smyly.
Entering a season loaded with expectations, Ball State University will quickly find how well it measures up with the top teams in the nation. Ball State opens its season today with a three-game series at the University of Arkansas. The Razorbacks started the year ranked No. 15 and reached the final four of the College World Series last year before falling to eventual national champion Louisiana State University. The series will be played in Baum Stadium, widely regarded as one of the best environments in college baseball. Coach Greg Beals said that was part of his reason for scheduling the series. "By choosing to go to Arkansas, not only did we want to play that type of caliber of team, but we want to get ourselves in that venue," Beals said. "Our goal is to play in a [NCAA Tournament] Regional, so before we get there I wanted to play in some Regional environments." Ball State is the preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference and hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said he knows what kind of expectations Ball State is putting on itself. "They have a lot of returners offensively and pitchers who gained experience," Van Horn said. "I know the lofty goal they have. They're a major challenge for us." Many of the Razorbacks return from their magical run to Omaha. Included in the returners are center fielder and starting pitcher Brett Eibner, third baseman Zack Cox and first baseman Andy Wilkins, all of whom were named preseason All-Americans. The three stars combined for 44 home runs and 131 RBI last year. "Those three guys are dangerous and we need to be aware of them," Beals said. "But I want our pitchers to attack them and I want our pitchers to try and get them out." Many of the Cardinals were able to watch the Razorbacks last year in the NCAA Men's College World Series. Center fielder Cody Elliott said he remembered Eibner's dramatic home run against the University of Virginia that helped Arkansas stave off elimination. "[They're] a great team," Elliott said. "It will be a big learning experience for us, playing that competition. It will get us ready for when the MAC comes." Ball State is just excited to get on a field. The team has practiced for the last three weeks in the Field Sports Building. "It's difficult starting off inside compared to this rubber and then you go to a normal field," shortstop T.J. Baumet said. However, Arkansas hasn't had much more luck with the weather. Snowstorms across the southern United States have forced the Razorbacks into their indoor football practice facility. "We've only been on the field as a team once and we hit on the field one other time," Van Horn said Tuesday. Because of the lack of practice outside and the short period of time before Arkansas begins Southeastern Conference play, Van Horn said he has changed his team's game plan. Right-hander Mike Bolsinger will start Friday's game, instead of pitching out of the closers spot, like he might later in the year. Eibner will be on a strict pitch count Sunday afternoon. "We open up conference play so quickly," Van Horn said. "We're going to try and play a lot of kids. We know this is a big challenge." No matter what Arkansas does or what the results of the series are, Beals expects Ball State to learn from playing quality competition in a great setting. "Getting a win or two this weekend would be big to the guys to validate the hard work we've put in and who we think we are as a ballclub," he said. "But there's certainly going to be value in this weekend getting outside and playing for the first time."
Cody Elliott knows it does no good to think about who he's replacing in center field for Ball State University.
As Opening Day approaches, Ball State University's biggest concern is improving its defense.
With most of last year's Mid-American Conference's top pitching staff back at Ball State University this spring, coach Greg Beals has a unique plan to get the most from his pitchers.Instead of having a starting pitcher throw six or seven innings and using a few relievers to finish the game, Beals will enter each game with a set of pitchers who will carry the team at least to the closer."We're going to pitch outside the box this year," Beals said. "We're going to piggyback each other. We're going to put two or three guys together and say ‘You three guys get us through eight innings today or you two guys will get us through seven innings today.' We're going to utilize our depth and not let a guy get in trouble in the middle innings of a ball game."The approach is similar to what Beals and other college coaches use in midweek games when their best starting pitchers are resting. The difference with Ball State's new approach is the length of the pitchers' outings. In a typical midweek game, Beals often uses pitchers for only one inning at a time."A little bit of [a midweek style], where we lean on our whole team, but not quite so short," he said. "I could see possibly, three guys going three, three and three [innings] at a time."The depth of the Cardinals' pitching staff has allowed Beals to take this approach. Eight pitchers return from last year's MAC West champions, including two members of the weekend rotation and three key pitchers out of the bullpen.Starting pitcher Brad Piatt said best assembly of pitching talent is his time at Ball State."In the four years I've been here, we've never been this deep as a pitching staff," Piatt said. "That'll help us throughout our 50-game season."The key losses from last year's pitching staff were starter Brenden Stines and left-handed setup man Tom Mueller. Stines was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round. But the development of young pitchers, like Cal Bowling and Perci Garner, is expected to offset the losses.Bowling will likely slide into the weekend rotation between Piatt and preseason All-American Kolbrin Vitek. Bowling started six games last year as a freshman, and worked 40 2/3 innings. Beals plans to use center fielder Cody Elliott as a pitcher as well. The sophomore played exclusively in the outfield last year, and will be taking over the starting role in center as well. Beals plans to use him on Sundays to keep his arm fresh. Beals uses the same philosophy with Vitek, who in addition to being the Cardinals' ace also plays second base. "We might be pretty tough on the mound on Sundays," Beals said. The other big change for Ball State's pitching staff will come in the closer role. Senior Morgan Coombs held the job last year, going 3-5 with six saves. But because of his ability to throw more than one inning at a time, he will be incorporated into Beals' piggy-back plan and senior Aaron Hammons will takeover as closer."Morgan proved the ability to pitch multiple innings," Beals said. "He's pitching very well now, so he's going to figure in earlier in the game then as our closer."No matter how Beals plans to use the pitchers, Piatt is ready for Ball State's first game Feb. 19 at the University of Arkansas."I'm extremely excited," he said. "We're definitely looking forward to it."
Throwing up and barely able to get out of bed with the flu, Larry Bigbie thought suiting up for Ball State University was out of the question.
Greg Beals doesn't care how much snow Muncie got over the weekend. In fact, Ball State University's baseball coach barely noticed.
For the second time this year, second baseman/pitcher Kolbrin Vitek has been named to a preseason All-American team. Ping! Baseball named the junior a third team All-American at the utility position.
Without ever playing a game at second base, Kolbrin Vitek is an All-American at the position.
University of Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate and quarterback Jimmy Clausen announced Monday they would forego their senior seasons and enter the NFL Draft this April.