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Understandably devastated after losing the Mid-American Conference regular season championship Saturday, Ball State University picked itself up and got on the bus to go home.Since its 8-7 loss to the University of Toledo that saw its goals get thrown out the window when it was unable to hold a four-run lead in the eighth inning, Ball State has worked to get back in good spirits.It started on the bus ride home from Toledo and continued at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio, on the eve of the MAC Tournament as Ball State's coaches took batting practice."It was a hard loss to take," All-American Kolbrin Vitek said Saturday. "We're just trying to lighten the mood now."The Cardinals (28-27, 19-8) understand their season isn't lost just because they failed to win the MAC regular season title and the No. 1 seed that accompanies it. Instead, Ball State will open the MAC Tournament Wednesday at 9 a.m. against Bowling Green State University.The winner of the double-elimination tournament will win the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week."We're disappointed we didn't win the regular season," coach Greg Beals said. "But we got a great bit of experience this weekend."Ball State won its three-game series at Bowling Green in April, taking the first two games. The Cardinals scored a program-record 32 runs in the second game of the series to easily defeat the preseason MAC East favorites.After scoring 44 runs in the first two games of the series, Ball State managed just three in their loss in the series finale. Vitek is confident about the Cardinals' chances."When we played them we took care of them pretty easily," he said. However, since giving up 32 runs to Ball State, Bowing Green has turned its season around. The Falcons were 8-17 after the big loss. Since that Saturday in April, Bowling Green is 20-4 and on a four-game winning streak.The only teams to defeat Bowling Green in the last six weeks of the season were the University of Michigan, Kent State University and Miami University. The Golden Flashes knocked off the Falcons twice to win the MAC East title."We whooped them pretty good," Beals said. "But give them credit. They bounced back and played awfully good."Bowling Green will throw its ace and last year's MAC Pitcher of the Year Brennan Smith on Wednesday. Ball State will counter with Perci Garner, who beat Smith when the two faced April 9. The Cardinals' offense will be bolstered by the return of shortstop T.J. Baumet, who left Saturday's game in the 7th inning with a separated shoulder. Ball State's next opponent will come from the final game in Chillicothe on Wednesday, between top-seeded Central Michigan University and Ohio University. A win would send the Cardinals into the winner's bracket against the winner of that game, while a loss would leave them one loss away from elimination.Vitek, the newly-minted MAC Player of the Year, is hopeful Ball State will be able to stay in the winner's side, something it's been unable to do since winning the conference tournament in 2006."Winning the first game is the biggest thing," he said. "Usually if you get the first one out of the way, you cruise through a couple wins."
Kolbrin Vitek was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year on Monday, becoming the sixth Ball State University player to earn the honor.Vitek, the Cardinals All-American second baseman and pitcher, is projected to be a first-round pick in June's MLB Draft. He is hitting .368 and his 3.27 ERA is the best in the conference. The junior also leads the MAC in runs scored and is second in home runs and slugging percentage.Vitek is the first Cardinal to win the award since right fielder Brad Snyder in 2003. Snyder is also Ball State's last first round draft pick, going No. 18 overall to the Cleveland Indians. Three Cardinals, including Vitek, were named to first team All-MAC on Monday. Vitek was joined by catcher Zach Dygert and starting pitcher Perci Garner. First baseman Ian Nielsen also garnered second team honors.Ball State will open the MAC Tournament on Wednesday against Bowling Green State University at 9 a.m. The Cardinals are seeded fourth in the double elimination tournament taking place in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Six outs separated Ball State University from the regular season Mid-American Conference championship at the University of Toledo.The Cardinals held a four-run lead in a game they needed to win to bring home their first regular season title since 2001. That wait will continue for Ball State (28-27, 19-8). Toledo scored five runs in the final two innings to win 8-7 Saturday, becoming the first MAC team in more than a year to defeat Ball State in a series. Ball State's loss opened the door for Central Michigan University to win the conference championship, and it finished its end of the deal with a 10-2 victory against Eastern Michigan University. The Cardinals will be the fourth seed in next week's MAC Tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio. Ball State will open the double-elimination tournament against fifth-seeded Bowling Green State University at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Toledo took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning, but Ball State scored seven unanswered runs. Cody Elliott hit a three-run home run to tie the game in the fifth inning. It was Elliott's second game-tying home run of the series.Starting pitcher and designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek helped his cause with a pair of home runs. He gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning and provided what appeared to be all the insurance they would need with a three-run blast in the eighth.But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead for Vitek. Brad Piatt, who was Ball State's Opening Day starter, coughed up two runs in the eighth inning. The Cardinals took a two-run lead into the ninth, but the Rockets were able to work around a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Kirby Campbell.Seth Hobbs relieved Piatt in the ninth and allowed a leadoff home run. He walked the next hitter, who advanced to second on a wild pitch.Hobbs was lifted in favor of Derek Grabner, who had pitched multiple innings both Thursday and Friday. A sacrifice bunt attempt led to a pair of errors on Ball State and Toledo scored the tying run and advanced the winning run to third base. Two intentional walks and a ground out later, Jim Vahalik lifted a sacrifice fly to right field for the winning run. For more on the MAC Tournament and Ball State's loss at Toledo continue to check bsudailynews.com this weekend and read Monday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
A Mid-American Conference regular season title may not have been the only thing Ball State University lost Saturday.Shortstop T.J. Baumet separated his shoulder in the seventh inning of Ball State's 8-7 loss at the University of Toledo, coach Greg Beals said. Baumet was injured diving for a ball. Tim Issler replaced him in the lineup and Mitch Widau slid from second base to shortstop.Beals said Baumet will have X-rays Sunday that will determine if he can play in the MAC Tournament, which begins Wednesday.This is the second time Baumet has been injured this year. He was hit by a pitch at Bowling Green State University on April 9th and missed two games. Beals said Widau would become the starting shortstop if Baumet had to miss more games.Baumet is hitting .342 with six home runs and 26 stolen bases as Ball State's leadoff hitter. He has also committed 24 errors.Closing time: Despite being in multiple save situations this weekend, Beals did not call on Aaron Hammons, who began the year as Ball State's closer.Beals said Hammons was available this weekend."I didn't feel like the situation was right for him," Beals said.Hammons has appeared in 18 games this year, notching five saves and a 3.71 ERA. He has not appeared in a save situation since April 24 against Central Michigan University, which he converted. The Cardinals were 1-for-3 in save opportunities this weekend. Seth Hobbs and Derek Grabner each blew a save in the series.Kolbrin Vitek, typically a starting pitcher, got the final out of Friday's 8-7 victory for his second save of the year. His first came when he pitched the final six innings of a suspended game at Western Michigan University."Closing the game [Friday], was a cool feeling," Vitek said. "It was something I'd never done before."In the clutch: Center fielder Cody Elliott hit two game-tying home runs this weekend, though both came in Ball State losses.Elliott went 5-for-12 with six RBIs at Toledo, breaking out of a month-long slump. In Elliott's last nine games, dating back to May 1, he went 4-for-30 with four runs and one RBI."We made an adjustment mechanically in his swing this week," Beals said. "It certainly seems like the adjustment paid off."
Coach Greg Beals called the University of Toledo the toughest competition on paper in the Mid-American Conference for Ball State University.Two games into their three-game series at Toledo this weekend, that assessment has proved correct.The Cardinals kept their MAC regular season championship hopes alive with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings Friday. Ball State (28-26, 19-7) came from behind twice to remain in first place. Trailing 5-4 headed into the ninth inning, shortstop T.J. Baumet hit a solo home run to tie the game. The Cardinals had also tied Thursday's game with a solo home run in the ninth, only to lose in the bottom of the inning when reliever Derek Grabner gave up a leadoff home run.Friday, coach Greg Beals called on Grabner again. This time the left-hander was able to keep the Rockets off the scoreboard and send the game to extra innings. Center fielder Cody Elliott, who hit Thursday‘s home run, gave Ball State the lead with an RBI-single in the 10th. With two outs in the inning, left fielder Ryan Chenoweth brought home two insurance runs for the Cardinals.The insurance proved to be much needed in the bottom of the inning. Grabner (4-2) got the first two outs after an error by second baseman Mitch Widau started the inning. Grabner was unable to end the inning however, giving up two runs with two outs.Beals called on Kolbrin Vitek, who is scheduled to start Saturday's game, to close out the victory. Vitek struck out Matt Delewski, who represented the winning run, to earn his second save.Vitek, who also played as Ball State's designated hitter, seemed to snap out of his slump, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Friday was the All-American's first multi-hit game since May 9.Chenoweth went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs. The senior added a home run.Ball State will play its final regular season game of the year Saturday at 1 p.m. A win would give the Cardinals their first MAC regular season championship since 2001.
Four Ball State University seniors will play their final home games this weekend, but their focus continues to be on the Mid-American Conference championship.Ball State will host Northern Illinois University in a three-game series at Ball Diamond in hopes of holding its lead in the MAC West. Ball State has a one-game lead over the University of Toledo and a de facto two-game lead over Central Michigan University because of tiebreakers. Though Northern Illinois is a distant six games behind and in fifth place, it won't roll over this weekend. The Huskies are in ninth place in the conference and only the top-eight teams will play for the MAC title in Chillicothe, Ohio at the end of the month. Northern Illinois trails eighth-place Ohio University by a game.Zach Dygert, one of the four seniors, said this weekend has to be about winning games, not the seniors."This weekend doesn't mean anything if we don't win the MAC outright," he said. "Other than winning this weekend – Senior Day, all of that – is a small issue."Ball State has lost its last two games, both on the road, dropping the series finale at Western Michigan University and a midweek game at Ohio State University. But returning home to Ball Diamond should give the Cardinals a boost. They are 10-2 at home this year.Ball State has its best MAC record to start the season since 2005 and has won nine consecutive conference series dating back to last year. Coach Greg Beals said that is all the Cardinals need to worry about this weekend."Our goal coming into the year was to win every [MAC] series," he said. "So far we've done that. We need to just keep playing good baseball on the weekends."For seniors Aaron Hammons, Ryan Chenoweth, Brad Piatt and Dygert these are the final three times they will play in Muncie. Both Dygert and Hammons have had solid final seasons, while Chenoweth and Piatt have seen their roles reduced by the emergence of other Cardinals. Hammons has five saves as Ball State's closer and Dygert is behind only Kolbrin Vitek in most major offensive categories. Piatt began the year as the Cardinals' Opening Day starter, but has fallen out of the rotation and Chenoweth has become their fourth outfielder, starting just 22 games.Dygert, this year's captain, has begun to reflect on his four years with the Cardinals."I'm really, really enjoying this season more than I have years past," Dygert said. "I know its coming and I'm ready for it. I want to make the most of these last few weeks and games we have."
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Throughout the cold, damp night, Ball State University played catch up at Ohio State University.After giving up a run in each of the first three innings, the Cardinals (24-24) were unable to ever get ahead and lost 8-4 Wednesday night. Though the Buckeyes (26-19) pulled away at the end, the Cardinals had multiple chances to take the lead."We were right in that game," coach Greg Beals said. "We were one play, one hit away more than once."Ball State's best chance to take the lead came in the eighth when they had the bases loaded with one out and two runs home in the inning. Reliever Eric Best walked in a run to cut the Ohio State lead to 5-4, but was able to recover. The senior forced Cody Elliott to pop up and Ryan Chenoweth grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat.Taking advantage of escaping a potentially game-altering jam, the Buckeyes tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the inning when Chenoweth dropped a fly ball in left field that would have ended the inning.Chenoweth had pinch hit for Kirby Campbell in the seventh inning and has not played much left field this year. Beals made it clear that wasn't an excuse for misplaying the ball."It's a fly ball," he said. "High school kids can run over and catch it. It's a catchable ball and it needs to be caught regardless of what position you're playing."Campbell and Chenoweth are filling in for Kory Benbow, who was declared academically ineligible when grades were released by Ball State on Tuesday. The pair combined to go 0-for-4 with a strikeout.Brad Piatt started the game on the mound for Ball State, allowing three runs in three innings. Beals said the pitching staff did everything it needed to give the Cardinals a chance Wednesday."I didn't think Brad was all that bad," he said. "We were right in that game."Ball State has won just one midweek game on the road, defeating UNC-Wilmington during Spring Break. Ball State is 1-6 in midweek road games this year, including its first loss to Indiana University since 1998. Zach Dygert said the Cardinals hadn't noticed the problems, but the captain thinks it might be a focus problem. "You get so ingrained in the conference and the standings and what you've got coming up in the weekend," he said. "You tend to lose a little bit of focus and we need to do a better job gaining that focus. They are games you'd really like to win."But even with their problems Wednesday, Ball State had a chance to beat Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, for the second consecutive year.Dygert, who hit his 10th home run of the season Wednesday, said the Cardinals just came up one play short of a victory."We had opportunities to get big hits, big plays, but it didn't work out for us," he said. "Sometimes that's the way baseball goes."
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Grades and some bad news for Ball State University were released Tuesday morning.The Cardinals found out that left fielder Kory Benbow was academically ineligible after the spring semester. The senior has played his final game in a Ball State uniform.Coach Greg Beals said Wednesday that Benbow will not play again this year.Benbow, a telecommunications major, is a four-year starter for Ball State. He played in 45 of the Cardinals' 47 games this year before being ruled ineligible. Benbow hit .285 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs in his final season.Zach Dygert, the Cardinals' captain, didn't have much to say about Benbow's situation."Kory was a good teammate and is still a good friend," Dygert said. "When the season wraps up, we'll still be friends."Ball State will lose its starting left fielder and six-hole hitter. Stephen Claypool moved into Benbow's spot in the lineup Wednesday at Ohio State University and Kirby Campbell started in left field. Beals said he will use a platoon of Campbell and Ryan Chenoweth.
Ball State University waited through rain all weekend to take on Mid-American Conference doormat Western Michigan University.When the skies cleared and the field dried out Sunday, the Cardinals didn't miss their opportunity. They won two games in a rare tripleheader to complete Friday's suspended game and make up Saturday's rainout. The victories gave the Cardinals (24-23, 15-6) a one-game lead in the MAC and extended their conference series winning streak to nine. Ball State's 15-6 start to conference play is its best since 2005.The Cardinals' big day began with four runs in the top of the fourth inning of the suspended game to take the lead. Kolbrin Vitek would pitch the final six innings, allowing two runs. Ball State hung on for a 4-3 victory and Vitek earned his first career save. Brad Piatt (3-3) picked up the win after throwing two innings of relief Friday after a rain delay forced starter Perci Garner out of the game after the first.The Cardinals struck quickly in game two, beginning with Vitek's solo home run in the first inning. Ball State scored two more in the second, before Western Michigan (12-35, 5-16) cut the lead to one run in the third inning.Ball State broke the game open with seven runs in the fifth inning. The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate and got Cal Bowling all the runs he would need for his fifth victory of the year.Bowling (5-3) allowed three runs in the bottom of the fifth, but no one could score the rest of the way and Ball State won its seventh straight series with a 10-5 victory.The Cardinals needed just three pitchers to get through the first two games Sunday. Derek Grabner saved the bullpen with four scoreless innings in relief of Bowling. The left-hander allowed two hits and struck out seven to lower his ERA in MAC play to 2.03.Throwing just one inning Friday allowed Garner to start game three. Western Michigan scored the first six runs of the game to salvage the final game of the series. Garner (5-2) allowed three runs in four innings for the loss.Ball State used the same lineup throughout Sunday, which led to Zach Dygert catching 23 innings.Sunday was Ball State's first tripleheader since 2007 at Ohio University. The situation was similar four years ago, when the series opener was suspended and completed Sunday in addition to the remaining two games of the series. The Cardinals lost the first two games of that triple dip.
Due to heavy rain in Kalamazoo, Mich., the opening game of Ball State University's series at Western Michigan University was suspended in the fourth inning Friday.The Cardinals were trailing the Broncos 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning. First baseman Chris Lewis hit a solo home run in the third inning off reliever Brad Piatt for the only run of the game. Perci Garner started the game for Ball State, but pitched just one inning.Catcher Zach Dygert was the only Cardinal to reach base in the first three innings, drawing a walk in the second off Casey Webber.The game will be resumed Saturday at 12 p.m. as part of a doubleheader.
As the last finals are wrapping up at Ball State University on Friday and cars stream out of the Lafollette parking lot, the baseball team will begin its three-game series at Western Michigan University.The Cardinals travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. to take on the last-place Broncos at 3 p.m. Friday. Ball State is tied for first place in the Mid-American Conference with the University of Toledo with just three weekends left before the conference tournament. Ball State (22-22, 13-5) is off to its best start in MAC play since 2005, but a disappointing loss Sunday to Eastern Michigan University dropped it into a first-place tie. The Cardinals know they have to take advantage of the chance to open a lead in the division again."We've going to head into Western looking to get that first game," left fielder Kory Benbow said.Western Michigan (11-33, 4-14) is toughest on Friday's when ace Casey Webber pitches. The left-hander has three of the Broncos' four-MAC victories. His 5.25 ERA isn't the most impressive, but it is three runs better than the team's 8.13 mark.Because of finals, Ball State didn't play a midweek game for the first time since before Spring Break. To stay fresh, the Cardinals played a scrimmage on Wednesday. Coach Greg Beals also tried to work the practice schedule around his players' finals."We'll do a lot of individual-type practices," he said. "Guys will come out and get a workout in whenever it fits their schedules."Western Michigan snapped a six-game losing streak with a 9-8 victory at Oakland University on Wednesday. The Broncos have lost their last five MAC games, including getting swept by the Rockets last weekend.Toledo, meanwhile, will host third place Central Michigan University this weekend. The Chippewas are a game behind the leaders, but the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker by virtue of beating them in a head-to-head series. All-American Kolbrin Vitek said Ball State is keeping an eye on the standings as the season draws to a close."We're always looking at them," Vitek said. "You've got to keep an eye on that at all times, but we've just got to keep winning games."
Closing out series has been a problem all year for Ball State University, but it has always stayed upbeat, happy to be winning series.That refrain ended Sunday at Ball Diamond. Ball State lost yet another series finale, snapping its five-game winning streak with a 10-5 loss to Eastern Michigan. Instead of being happy they had won six straight Mid-American Conference series for their best start to conference play since 2005, the Cardinals focused on their missed opportunity."We won the series [Saturday]," coach Greg Beals said. "There was a game to play today and we needed to win today's game." With the loss, Ball State (22-22, 13-5) dropped into a first place tie with the University of Toledo. Eastern Michigan (22-23, 11-7) also was able to cling to its hopes of a division title, pulling within two games of the leaders in fourth place. Ball State opened the game looking like they would be able to finish up their second sweep of the season. Though Kolbrin Vitek (2-4) allowed two runs in the top of the first, Eastern Michigan starter Kendall Lewis (6-2) struggled mightily with his command in the bottom of the inning.Lewis, the National Pitcher of the Week after an 11-inning shutout last week, walked five Cardinals in the first. But with the bases loaded and two runs home, third baseman Stephen Claypool grounded into an inning-ending double play. Eastern Michigan added two more runs in the second and again induced an inning-ending double play, albeit an unusual one, in the bottom of the inning. With one out and runners on first and third, Vitek chased a pitch in the dirt for strike three. But he began to run to first base, which sent Blake Beemer hesitantly to second. Eagles' catcher Matt Skirving threw to second, but the ball was cutoff and returned to home plate to cut down T.J. Baumet trying to score."We let [Lewis] off the hook big time," Beals said. "We should have knocked him out of the game in the first two innings. We allowed him the opportunity to settle in."The Cardinals would pull even again in the fourth inning, but was unable to take the lead. Eastern Michigan left fielder Ken Battiston, who had watched plenty of home runs go over his head in the first two games of the series, broke the tie for good in the sixth with a two-run shot. Only two Ball State batters reached base after the fourth inning. Except for two errors, Lewis retired the lineup in order the last time he faced it. Reliever Steve Weber continued the trend, retiring the final nine Cardinals to earn his first save."I think [Lewis] made an adjustment, but it was also about us not keeping the approach" Kory Benbow said. Ball State has lost three of its last four series finales, including its only two losses at Ball Diamond this year. Those losses can add up in the MAC standings, which the Cardinals are keeping a close watch on."We're always looking at them," Vitek said. "You've got to keep an eye on that at all times, but we've just got to keep winning games."
All Eastern Michigan University left fielder Ken Battiston could do after watching Kory Benbow's second home run of the day sail by was punch the wall.The day would get worse for Eastern Michigan, as Ball State University (22-21, 13-4) piled up 18 runs to clinch its sixth straight Mid-American Conference series victory. The Cardinals' 18-11 win Saturday extended their winning streak to five games and continued their best start to conference play since 2005.Carrying momentum from Friday's 13-12 walk off win, Ball State jumped out to a 7-0 lead after two innings. Picking right up where they left off, catch Zach Dygert and second baseman Kolbrin Vitek each hit home runs. The Cardinals continued scoring, which proved important when starting pitcher Cal Bowling (4-3) ran into trouble in the middle innings. Bowling got through five innings for the victory, but gave up six runs on 10 hits.Staked to a 12-6 lead, reliever Seth Hobbs let the Eagles (21-22, 10-7) back into the game in the sixth. The sophomore gave up five runs, while retiring just one hitter. But Jon Cisna was able to stop the bleeding for the Cardinals and get out the inning, allowing their bats to get back to work. Ball State quickly regained control with a four-run sixth inning and Cisna kept Eastern Michigan down.Cisna pitched 3 2/3 innings for his first career save, allowing just one hit. The freshman retired the final 10 batters of the game.Benbow finished the day 5-for-5 with three home runs and six RBIs. He set career highs in hits and RBIs and became the second Cardinal to hit three home runs in a game this year.The two teams will complete the series today at 1 p.m.
Kolbrin Vitek dug into the batter's box with the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday.He was the last man Eastern Michigan University wanted to see, with two runners on and clinging to a two-run lead.Vitek patiently watched two pitches go by, before crushing a 2-0 fastball well beyond the left field wall to give Ball State University a 13-12 walk-off victory. After a back-and-forth game, Eastern Michigan left fielder Ken Battiston could only hang his head as Vitek's home run soared by.The All-American's second home run of the day capped a four-run ninth inning rally that extended the Cardinals' winning streak to four games. The victory, combined with Central Michigan University's loss at Northern Illinois University, moved Ball State (21-21, 12-4) into sole possession of first place in the Mid-American Conference by a game. Reliever Heath Riley (1-1) picked up the victory, despite allowing the Eagles (21-22, 10-6) to get an important insurance run in the top of the ninth. Down three runs headed into the bottom of the ninth, center fielder Cody Elliott started Ball State's rally. The sophomore singled to lead off the inning. Reliever Joe Battistelli retired second baseman Mitch Widau, but then allowed back-to-back singles. Elliott scored on right fielder Blake Beemer's single, which brought Vitek to the plate with a chance to win the game.Ball State was able to come out with the victory despite Perci Garner's worst start of the year. The right-hander lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs. Garner left with the Eagles holding a 7-4 lead, but the Cardinals quickly got their ace off the hook. In the bottom of the fourth, catcher Zach Dygert hit a three run home run, knotting the game at seven. Like all of Ball State's first seven runs Friday, Dygert's long ball came with two outs.Eastern Michigan struggled against reliever Derek Grabner, but was able to get to the left-hander in the seventh inning. Grabner retired the first seven batters he faced, but gave up two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings.Vitek led Ball State's offense, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs and four runs. First baseman Ian Nielsen helped out with a 4-for-4 day. The sophomore also drove in a run.The three-game series will resume Saturday at 1 p.m. at Ball Diamond.
Taking a three-game winning streak and confidence to spare into the weekend, Ball State University hopes to remain atop the Mid-American Conference with another series victory.Ball State hosts Eastern Michigan University in a three-game series beginning at 3 p.m. today.The Cardinals (20-21, 11-4 MAC) have won their first five conference series this year and are off to their best start in conference play since 2005. The Eagles (21-21, 10-5 MAC) aren't trailing far behind, only a game out of first place. After taking first place away from Central Michigan University with a doubleheader sweep Saturday, Ball State knows it will face another tough division contender this weekend."They're a solid team that's playing well," coach Greg Beals said. "It's like just about everybody in our conference. If we play Ball State baseball, we're going to be fine. If we don't play good baseball and we commit some errors and leave some things out in the field, they're good enough to beat us."Eastern Michigan was on a hot streak before dropping a pair of games to Michigan State University this week. Before the home-and-away series with the Spartans, the Eagles had won eight of their last nine games.Included in that run was an 1-0 victory in 11 innings against Western Michigan University on Saturday that featured one of the best pitching performances of the year. Western Michigan starter Eric Heckman threw 10 innings of no-hit baseball, only to give up a leadoff single in the 11th that eventually became the winning run.Eastern Michigan starter Kendall Lewis, meanwhile, pitched 11 shutout innings for the victory. He was named the National Player of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Tuesday and will face Ball State on Sunday.Outfielder Kirby Campbell said the key to victory would be jumping on the Eagles early throughout the weekend."We have to do what we do every weekend," he said. "Coming out and playing with energy the whole way through."This weekend is the Cardinals' last chance to play at Ball Diamond before the semester ends. Beals said they will have to manage the distractions that come at the end of the school year, like finals and celebrations."We lighten the load a little bit to try and keep the mind and the bodies fresh during this time," he said. "These guys have to realize they've got something on the line that's more important than end-of-the-semester celebrations."
Anticipation mounted in the crowd at Ball Diamond, as the fans waited for the Navy trainer jet to flash overhead Wednesday afternoon.
A big week at the plate netted shortstop T.J. Baumet his first career Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week award Monday.The junior helped Ball State University take first place in the division with a series victory at Central Michigan University last weekend. Baumet hit .454 and scored 10 runs in five games last week.Baumet has been hot since returning from a hand injury that caused him to miss two games two weeks ago. The Cardinals' leadoff hitter has a .500 batting average since returning from the injury and has scored 17 runs in 10 games.Defensive resurgence: Often a problem at Ball State in the past, coach Greg Beals has made defense a priority this year.After the big series win last weekend, Beals said he felt that side of the ball had turned a corner."Defense is something that we've continued to work on," he said. "It hasn't been consistent for us, but we played at a championship level this weekend."The Cardinals made three errors against the Chippewas, two coming in Friday's 4-3 loss. Ball State also turned five double plays and catcher Zach Dygert threw out a pair of would-be base stealers in Saturday's doubleheader.Double switch: After the series finale between Ball State and Central Michigan was moved to Saturday because of a bad forecast for Sunday, Beals elected to use Kolbrin Vitek in game one instead of game two.Vitek is usually the Cardinals' Sunday starter and in the two previous occasions this year that Ball State has finished a series with a Saturday doubleheader, he has pitched the second game. He played second base in the first game both times, leaving him at less than full strength to pitch."I felt like with the doubleheader, it was better for him to go out and pitch instead of playing in the field for nine innings and then trying to pitch," Beals said. "Hopefully that looks like a good decision."Vitek pitched well in both previous doubleheaders, throwing seven innings of two-hit ball at Ohio University. He also shutout then-No. 7 University of Louisville for four innings, but had to come out after just 53 pitches.At Central Michigan, Vitek pitched six shutout innings for the victory in game one and went 1-for-4 with an RBI as the designated hitter in game two."It was a good change for me," the All-American said. "I had more stamina."
The reality of being in a military family hit home for coach Greg Beals when the Iraq War began in 2003 and his brother in-law began flying combat missions half a world away.Beals didn't have much of a military background of his own, but his wife, Kathy, had a long family tradition of service. Her brother, John Carroll is upholding that tradition as a major in the Marine Corps. As American ground troops advanced in Iraq, Carroll provided aerial support, flying 38 night missions. Having a family member in a combat zone was tough for Beals, but he said it was worse for Kathy."He's family to me and I have tons of respect for what he does," Beals said. "But when it's your own flesh and blood it's a just a little bit more."Looking for a way to show his support for Carroll and other veterans, Beals decided to make Wednesday's game against NAIA member Huntington University Military Appreciation Day. Carroll will fly over Ball Diamond in a T-45 training jet, and a veteran of World War II will throw out the first pitch.Beals said he got the idea from other teams holding similar events and sought to bring it to Ball State. "I wanted to physically recognize those people," he said. "Let them know that there are other people in our community that respect them and respect what they have done."Carroll, who is based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, will be on a training exercise that includes Wednesday's fly over. Utility infielder Mitch Widau can also relate to Military Appreciation Day's message. Widau's older brother, Jake, is in the Navy and is stationed in Hawaii. Though Jake is an electrician who works on planes and is not a frontline soldier, he still served in Iraq for six months."You think about your brother over in Iraq and everything that's going on over there," Widau said. "The most dangerous part for him was going in and coming out because he worked on the base and didn't really have to go out. You obviously worry about it."Beals has visited the local veteran groups, including the American Legion, VFW and AMVETS, to encourage them to attend the game. Ball State is closely tied to the local American Legion post, which sponsors a summer league baseball team many Cardinals have played on.Widau also played for an American Legion post in Richmond and appreciates all that the veterans have done for him."They're fighting for us to be able to play the game," he said. "I think is good that we dedicate a day to them and what they do for us."Huntington at Ball StateGame No. 41Ball DiamondFirst pitch: 3 p.m.Pitching matchup: RHP Xyan Adkisson (1-3, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Piatt (1-3, 8.04)Weather: 60 degrees, sunny, WNW at 9 mph
For the first time this year, Ball State University had lost the opening game to a Mid-American Conference series.It had dominated the MAC East during crossover games, but found itself in a deepening hole to the West Division leading Central Michigan University. With a potential season-defining doubleheader with the Chippewas on Saturday, coach Greg Beals told the Cardinals now was the time to come together."We all had made some mistakes," he said. "It was time for us to man up. I told them, ‘We lost as a team, now we need to get tighter as a team.'"Ball State put together a great day of baseball Saturday, sweeping the doubleheader and winning its fifth straight MAC series to open the year. The victories pulled the Cardinals (19-21, 11-4) back into a first place in the MAC West.Ball State didn't blow away Central Michigan (22-15, 11-4), which was undefeated at home until Saturday. Rather, the Cardinals were able to break out of a three-game losing streak with all-around good baseball."We pitched the ball really well all weekend," left fielder Kory Benbow said. "We played good defense when we needed to and got some big hits."In short, Ball State played the kind of team baseball Beals talked about the day before.The Cardinals put three runs on the board in the first inning of game one of the doubleheader. The runs were enough to chase starter Rick Dodridge from the game and give Ball State starter Kolbrin Vitek enough of a cushion to work with.Vitek (2-3) threw six scoreless innings, scattering seven hits in one of his best starts of the year."The ballpark was to the pitcher's advantage all weekend," the right-hander said. "It was easy to get outs at that park."Unable to add any more runs, the Cardinals took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Derek Grabner ran into trouble after two shutout innings of relief, surrendering two runs. But with the tying run on first base, closer Aaron Hammons forced a pop up and won a battle with leadoff batter Billy Anderson, striking him out on eight pitches.Ball State followed a similar blueprint in game two of the doubleheader. Again it took an early lead, got a quality start from Cal Bowling (3-3) and Hammons closed out a 5-2 victory for his fifth save. Beals was pleased to see his team come away with a pair of wins, especially close ones."I was telling [pitching coach Mike] Stafford on the way to the locker room, those are good, especially when we win them," Beals said. "But it's just good to play when every pitch matters."First baseman Ian Nielsen led the offense Saturday. The sophomore went 3-for-7 with two RBI and two runs in the doubleheader. He was the only Cardinal to drive in multiple runs.Benbow said close wins don't mean more to Ball State, but they present a different challenge."You've got to stay under control and not try to do too much," Benbow said. "The back half of our bullpen is strong; you breathe a sigh of relief once you get to that."The Cardinals are off to their best start in MAC plays since 2005 and if the season ended today, they would be the top seed in the conference tournament.Knowing Central Michigan is a difficult place to have success, Benbow said Ball State is happy to come home with another series victory."You don't go up there expecting to sweep," the senior said. "If we win our home series and consistently win series on the road, we'll be in a good position to win the MAC."
Sweeping a doubleheader Saturday at Central Michigan University, Ball State University climbed into first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.The Cardinals (19-21, 11-4) responded after losing the series opener Friday night with a 3-2 and 5-2 victory. The series win pulls Ball State even with Central Michigan (22-15, 11-4) in the division, but gives the Cardinals the tie-breaker.In a low-scoring day with the wind blowing in, the Cardinals relied on pitching and defense for the victories.Game one starter Kolbrin Vitek (2-3) threw six scoreless innings, scattering seven hits for the win. The Cardinals gave the junior three first inning runs, which would be just enough. The Chippewas rallied in the ninth inning, scoring two runs off reliever Derek Grabner. Closer Aaron Hammons was able to shut the door and pick up his fourth save of the season.In the night cap, Ball State again struck first. It scored five runs in the first four innings and again held on for victory. Coming off a bad start last week against the University at Buffalo, Cal Bowling (3-3) picked up the victory with six good innings. The sophomore allowed two runs on six hits and did not walk a batter.After Heath Riley threw two scoreless innings, Hammons again closed out the Chippewas. First baseman Ian Nielsen was the only Cardinal to drive in multiple runs Saturday, picking up one RBI in both games. The sophomore went 3-for-7 and scored two runs in the doubleheader.Ball State and Central Michigan are a half game ahead of the University of Toledo (23-15, 10-4). Toledo will attempt to finish a sweep of Northern Illinois University and draw even with the division leaders Sunday. The Cardinals and Chippewas are idle Sunday after moving the series finale to Saturday because of rain in the forecast. For full coverage of the weekend series, read Monday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.