The schedule for coach Alex Marconi's first season as Ball State's head coach features visits to Ball Diamond by Indiana and Purdue and a Spring Break tournament at Coastal Carolina.
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The schedule for coach Alex Marconi's first season as Ball State's head coach features visits to Ball Diamond by Indiana and Purdue and a Spring Break tournament at Coastal Carolina.
Alex Marconi completed his coaching staff Tuesday, announcing the hiring of pitching coach Jeremy Plexico.
Coach Alex Marconi announced Tuesday that Jeremy Plexico would join Ball State's coaching staff as pitching coach.
Ian Nielsen's decision to transfer to Taylor University on Friday left a gaping hole in Ball State University's lineup, but Alex Marconi is confident it will be filled.Marconi was already facing the difficult task of replacing the Cardinals third and fourth hitters, including Kolbrin Vitek, the 20th player taken in June's MLB Draft. Nielsen's departure means the third-sixth hitters in Ball State's 2010 lineup will not return in 2011."We've got some talented kids coming in and some good hitters coming back," Marconi said. "It might take a little bit, but we'll fill it adequately."Marconi reiterated Nielsen's stunning decision was based on his desire to attend a Christian school and grow in his faith and not the coaching change. Marconi was hired to replace Greg Beals, who left to become coach at Ohio State University in June. Nielsen had considered transferring to a Christian school in previous years. Marconi said he had an idea Nielsen might actually go through with it after the Cardinals' season ended at the Mid-American Conference Tournament."I knew it was on his mind," Marconi said. "I wasn't sure how serious he was."Ball State doesn't have a readily-available replacement for the former Freshman All-American first baseman. Nielsen has been an integral part of the Cardinals' lineup since hitting a home run in his first collegiate at bat. In the last two seasons, Nielsen hit .339 with 20 home runs and 111 RBIs in 109 games. Marconi said he will look at a "handful" of possible first basemen in fall ball before deciding who will play there next year. Included in that group will be Ball State's two highly-regarded recruits, Kenny Mahala and Cody Campbell. Another possibility is Blake Beemer, the only other first baseman listed on the 2010 roster. Beemer, however, became the Cardinals' starting right fielder and earned a Freshman All-American nomination. Marconi would like to keep him in right field, where his arm is a big asset."Blake is always a possibility," he said. "He did play great in right field and ideally I'd like to keep him out there."One thing is certain, however. Nielsen's replacement will not be a late addition to the team. Even though Marconi knew early in the summer Nielsen intended to transfer, Ball State's coaching change made it impossible to recruit another first baseman."It was a kind of a unique situation," he said. "Once Beals and [pitching coach Mike] Stafford left, there was no head coach. I was not in a good position to hand out scholarships."
The baseball coaching job at Ball State University ultimately will stay in the family. Athletic director Tom Collins announced Tuesday assistant coach Alex Marconi would be promoted to head coach, ending a six-week search for Greg Beals' replacement. Marconi has been an assistant with the Cardinals since 2005. Collins said the familiarity Marconi has with the entire program set him apart from the more experienced candidates. "He knows Ball State," Collins said. "He had a hand in recruiting a lot of the players. I felt Alex was deserving of the opportunity."The search to replace Beals, who became Ohio State's head coach June 17, culminated with three final interviews last week. Marconi, former Wake Forest coach Rick Rembielak and Birmingham-Southern coach Jan Weisberg were finalists for the job. Collins said Marconi had an excellent interview and came with the recommendation of Beals.Marconi focused his pitch on an easy transition from Beals to himself in the interview."A big part of it was continuity with the program, the university and the Muncie community," he said. "I was just myself."In addition to his time at Ball State, Marconi spent one year as a volunteer assistant at the University of North Carolina. He played at Kent State University, and then in the Tampa Bay Rays' system, rising to Class AAA in 2001.Marconi was able to overcome his lack of experience as a head coach or top assistant, a hole neither Rembielak nor Weisberg have on their resumes. Rembielak's 16 years as a head coach is the most experience of the three finalists, but Collins chose the young, energetic coach he said he was looking for at the outset of the process."He's a high-energy, good -character guy," Collins said. "He's got a plan and he's going to work hard at it. He's very enthusiastic." The move was praised by the Cardinals, who are relieved the process is finally complete. Starting pitcher Cal Bowling had grown antsy in the past few days, even making the short drive from Yorktown to campus to see associate athletic director Pat Quinn for an update Monday. "I was trying to be as patient as I could be," Bowling said.Quinn told him to expect something by Tuesday at the latest. True to his word, the players were notified in around 4 p.m.Shortstop T.J. Baumet said the players, who are scattered across Ohio and Indiana playing summer ball, quickly started texting and calling each other."I talked to a lot of the guys once we found out," he said. "It's better for the team. Now it's time to go to work."Bowling was concerned that Ball State might be falling behind on the recruiting trail as summer seasons are coming to a close. Marconi said he has continued to recruit throughout the search to keep the Cardinals in the game."When Beals and Stafford were still on staff, we were still recruiting as normal," he said. "As soon as they made the decision at Ohio State, it's been a one-man show with me. I did the best I could to keep us in the running."Now the Cardinals are left to wonder how things might change with Marconi in charge. Bowling and Baumet both said they expect the intensity of practices to increase. Marconi said while that might happen, he expects to keep much of the process Beals installed intact. During his time at Ball State, Marconi has worked primarily with the catchers and outfielders. Jeremy Hazelbaker, the Red Sox fourth-round draft pick in 2009, credited Marconi with helping him make a successful transition from second base to center field in his junior year. Bowling characterized him as a good teacher."He makes things simple," Bowling said. "He really explains what he wants from you."Marconi's next step will be to hire two assistant coaches to complete his coaching staff, a process he said he didn't want to rush through, and talk to all the Cardinals in the coming days. While the Cardinals are all pleased Marconi is their new coach, Baumet said they were prepared to get behind whoever was hired. "We're all a team no matter who the coach is," he said. "I feel like we're a family. We have each other's backs and look out for each other."
Alex Marconi will become Ball State University's ninth baseball coach in the program's history, the university announced Tuesday.Marconi replaces Greg Beals, who left to become Ohio State University's coach last month. Marconi has been an assistant at Ball State since 2005, but has never been a head coach before. He also spent one year as a volunteer assistant at the University of North Carolina. He was one of three finalists for the job, beating former Wake Forest University coach Rick Rembielak and Birmingham-Southern College coach Jan Weisberg for the job.Athletic director Tom Collins said Beals endorsed Marconi for the job. Marconi was not Beals' top assistant, but Collins said he doesn't expect much of a learning curve after the promotion because he knows the program and team so well."He had a hand in recruiting a lot of the players," Collins said. "I felt Alex was deserving of the opportunity and he will move the program forward."Marconi played collegiately at Kent State University under Rembielak before playing professionally in the Tampa Bay organization. He rose to Class AAA in 2001 and 2002, but never played in the Major Leagues. For more on the story read Wednesday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
Rick Rembielak will become Ball State University's ninth baseball coach in the program's history, the university announced Monday.Rembielak replaces Greg Beals, who left to become Ohio State University's coach last month. Rembielak has previously coached at Wake Forest University and Kent State University, compiling a record of 515-393-1 in 16 years. He was one of three finalists to come to campus for interviews last week, beating Ball State assistant Alex Marconi and Birmingham-Southern College coach Jan Weisberg for the job.Of the finalists, Rembielak had the most experience, especially in the MAC. He is the winningest coach in Kent State history and played at Miami University. In 11 years as coach of the Golden Flashes, he was named MAC Coach of the Year three times and won three MAC Tournament titles. He was inducted into Kent State's Hall of Fame in 2009.Rembielak left Kent State for Wake Forest after the 2004 season. He took the Demon Deacons to the NCAA Tournament in 2007, before regressing the next two years. His contract was not renewed after the 2009 season, finishing with a .500 record.Since he was let go by Wake Forest, Rembielak was worked as director of player development at the Hitting Zone, a baseball instruction center in Winston-Salem, N.C.Rembielak has ties with the Ball State program. Beals was an assistant under Rembielak at Kent State before coming to Ball State in 2002. Rembielak coached Beals and Marconi during his time with the Golden Flashes. For more on this story read tomorrow's issue of The Ball State Daily News.
Ball State University has narrowed the candidates for the vacant baseball coach position to the final three and has begun the last round of interviews.
As Ohio State University officially announced Greg Beals as its next baseball coach Thursday morning, Ball State University athletic director Tom Collins said he would hire someone similar to Beals.Beals' move to the Buckeyes was reported by The Ball State Daily News and other media outlets Wednesday night. He leaves Ball State after eight seasons to replace Bob Todd, who retired after 23 years at Ohio State. Beals had a record of 243-202 with the Cardinals and one Mid-American Conference Tournament championship in 2006. That team upset the University of Kentucky in Regionals, before being eliminated.Ball State athletic director Tom Collins said Beals informed him Wednesday night of his decision to accept the position."I told him ‘Congratulations,'" Collins said. "I'm happy for Greg and his family. It's something he earned."Now Collins will begin his fifth coaching search in the past year. He said he hopes to hire Beals' replacement in the next few weeks and is looking for another young, energetic coach like Beals."We'll look for someone with the same profile," Collins said. "We want someone who will be a good fit and take us to our next MAC Championship."Collins said Beals did not tell him if he would take any assistant coaches with him to Ohio State. However, sources close to the Cardinals told The Ball State Daily News that pitching coach and former Buckeyes' ace Mike Stafford would join Beals in Columbus. Assistant coach Alex Marconi's fate is unknown.Collins expects to involve Beals in the search for his replacement."We talked a little bit about people," Collins said. "As the process moves forward, I'll probably call him."Beals was one of the last coaches at Ball State not hired by Collins. Former athletic director Bubba Cunningham found Beals when he was an assistant coach at Kent State University. Collins could go in the same direction and tab a top MAC assistant coach like Josh Bradford from the University of Toledo. Marconi could be interested in the job, as well as former University of Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage, who was fired this week after four mediocre seasons. Whoever Collins picks will inherit one of Ball State's top programs and a job that has become a stepping stone. Beals was hired when Rich Maloney left Ball State for the University of Michigan. With back-to-back coaches leaving for the Big Ten and dozens of players drafted in the last 15 years, the job is a good one."It's a wonderful opportunity for Greg," Collins said. "But it's sad for us that we have to find a new coach."
The Houston Astros selected Ball State University catcher Zach Dygert in the 22nd round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday afternoon.
The Philadelphia Phillies selected Ball State University starting pitcher Perci Garner in the second round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday afternoon.
Theo Epstein must have liked what he saw.The Boston Red Sox general manager made a scouting trip to the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio, last month to personally see Ball State University second baseman Kolbrin Vitek. Monday, the Red Sox selected Vitek with the 20th pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. The newly-minted All-American became Ball State's seventh first round draft pick and first since Brad Snyder was selected by Cleveland with the 18th overall pick in 2003.Vitek is very happy with his destination and expects to sign a contract very soon, foregoing his senior year at Ball State."I'm going to get signed as quick as possible, maybe in about a week or so," he said. Joe Bick, who is advising Vitek in the draft process, said the signing bonus has been agreed upon with the Red Sox and believes a contract will be in place in about a week. Neither Vitek nor Bick knows if Boston will send him to their minor league affiliates in Lowell, Mass. or Greenville, N.C. to begin his professional career."It will strictly be their call," Bick said. "There were no conversations about that prior to the draft."Vitek will join former Ball State star Jeremy Hazelbaker in the Boston organization. Hazelbaker was the Red Sox fourth-round selection last year.Coach Greg Beals is happy two of his former players are now in an organization like Boston's."I'm proud of that because it shows they're happy with the type of player we develop," Beals said. "That says a lot about what type of guy Hazelbaker is that they had the confidence to come back to the program for the next guy."The San Diego Padres also showed strong interest in Vitek before the draft, but ultimately choose Karsten Whitson, a high school pitcher from Florida, with the ninth overall selection. After the Padres passed on him, Vitek began an anxious wait at his home in Bryan, Ohio, with family and friends.Cincinnati, Texas and the Chicago Cubs all scouted Vitek heavily, but went in different directions as well."There was more and more pressure on my shoulders," Vitek said. "I just wanted to get this over with."After the Cubs took Division II pitcher Hayden Simpson with the 16th pick, the next likely landing spot for him was Boston. Vitek said the Red Sox called him a few minutes before their pick was announced to make sure he was still OK with going to Boston. When his name was announced by commissioner Bud Selig as Boston's selection the celebration began."Once they called my name it was quite exciting," Vitek said. "Everyone was going bonkers."Vitek could become the latest in a long line of strong draft picks made under during Epstein's tenure. Recent Boston draft picks include 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard. Later in the night, Boston picked Middle Tennessee State University outfielder Bryce Brentz and Louisiana State University starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo in the first compensation round.Vitek said he is excited to join such a quality organization with."It's an awesome feeling joining such a successful program," he said. "They put a lot of dedication into their players."Vitek will get a chance to make a name for himself at third base in Boston. After spending this year as the Cardinals' second baseman, the Red Sox plan to move him back to the position he played last year.Some teams that showed interest before the draft talked about moving him to the outfield, but Vitek prefers to remain in the infield."I'm most comfortable in the infield," he said. "I'm excited to play third."Beals said Vitek will have to set new goals now that he has been drafted, but he is capable of living up to a the expectations set by the former great Red Sox draft picks."He has to push himself to play in Fenway Park," Beals said. "If he does that, he will be the next guy they're talking about."
The Boston Red Sox selected Ball State University All-American Kolbrin Vitek in the first round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft on Monday night.Vitek was the 20th overall player to be picked and is the seventh first-round draft choice in Ball State history. Brad Snyder was the last Cardinal to be picked in the first round, going 18th overall in 2003.The Red Sox interest in Vitek had been known for some time, and it became clear they were considering making him their top pick this year when general manager Theo Epstein scouted Ball State's first game at the Mid-American Conference Tournament last month. Since then, Vitek has gone to Boston to work out for team officials. Should Vitek sign, he will join former Ball State star Jeremy Hazelbaker in the Boston organization. Hazelbaker was drafted in the fourth round last year by the Red Sox.Vitek has until August 16 to sign a contract with Boston or return to Ball State for his senior year. He is expected to forego his final season as a Cardinal.In what was likely his final college season, Vitek hit .361 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs, all team bests. He also had a 3-4 record on the mound with a 3.28 ERA and three saves. Last week, he became just the fourth first-team All-American in Cardinals history. For more on this story continue to read The Ball State Daily News online.
The attention that top draft prospects Kolbrin Vitek and Perci Garner brought to Ball State University this year could be very beneficial to their teammates this week.
They flocked to Ball Diamond all year, armed with radar guns and stopwatches, watching two of the best baseball players Ball State University has ever produced.
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named Ball State University second baseman and starting pitcher Kolbrin Vitek a first-team All-American on Thursday.Vitek was selected at the utility position for two-way players and is the first Cardinal to be named a first-team All-American since Brad Snyder was in 2003. Vitek is just the fourth Ball State baseball player to become a first-team All-American, joining Snyder, Bryan Bullington (2002) and Thomas Howard (1986).Vitek was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year last week. The junior hit .361 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. On the mound, Vitek had a 3.28 ERA in 79 2/3 innings. He also had a 3-4 record and three saves.Collegiate Baseball Newspaper was among various publications that named Vitek a preseason All-American this year.Monday, Vitek will join Snyder, Bullington and Howard as first round draft picks in the MLB Draft. He will likely become the seventh Cardinal selected in the first round.
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Doubling down on Ball State University's gamble, Bowling Green State University took an early morning prize back to its hotel Friday.The Falcons used five doubles in the first four innings to take a four-run lead in the 9 a.m. elimination game. Bowling Green would hold on for a 7-4 victory, ending Ball State's season.It was the falcons' second victory against the Cardinals in this year's tournament. Bowling Green won the opening game 6-4 Wednesday.The Falcons did their early damage against Brad Piatt and Heath Riley after coach Greg Beals made the decision to start Piatt over MAC Player of the Year Kolbrin Vitek. The junior got the final out of Thursday's game, and would eventually come in Friday in the fifth inning. Vitek finished the game, allowing two runs in five innings.With Ball State in the losers' bracket, Beals knew Piatt would have to win a game for the Cardinals to bring a trophy back to Muncie. He hoped to use Vitek to shore up a bullpen depleted by injuries and a long season."We took a shot at it," Beals said. "You can look back at it and think I should have started Vitek, and in hindsight, sure that looks like that might have been a great idea. But not only are we trying to win this game, we're trying to win the whole tournament, too."But the Falcons were able to jump on Piatt early in the game. Bowling Green was unable to solve Piatt in the first inning, but a leadoff single and a walk in the second would come back to bite the senior. Matthew Pittzulo roped a double bringing home the first two runs of the game. Three consecutive two-out doubles in the third inning brought home two more Falcons' runs. Piatt gave up four runs in three innings, leaving him without a victory in a conference game since May 8 last year.Despite the result, Vitek said Beals made the right decision Friday."I felt that was the right decision," Vitek said. "We needed five strong innings out of Piatt eventually this weekend. Coming out of the bullpen was fine with me."Bowling Green again used a quality pitching performance to defeat Ball State in the conference tournament. Wednesday, Brennan Smith controlled the Cardinals bats. Friday, Cody Apthorpe picked up where the Falcons left off in the first round. The right-hander allowed two runs in six innings, keeping Ball State off balance all game.Apthorpe twice worked through two-out jams, including striking out Ian Nielsen to leave the bases loaded in the third inning."We had a few opportunities if we get a big hit, it would have made a big difference in the game," Beals said. "They were able to get a couple big hits to make a difference."In two games against Bowling Green in Chillicothe, Ohio, Ball State managed just six runs and 12 hits. The Falcons were a much different team than what the Cardinals saw the first two times the teams played this year. Ball State scored 44 runs against Bowling Green, including a program-record 32 runs April 10.Since that offensive explosion, however, it has been a different story. The Falcons have won all three meetings and the Cardinals have put just nine runs on the board. Their highest total for runs in those games was four.After Ball State lit up the scoreboard in April, Bowling Green was forced to go back to the drawing board to get outs against the Cardinals."They attacked the zone more, used more off speed," Vitek said. Ball State, the preseason MAC favorites, ended a once-promising season with losses in five of its last seven games. The stretch included a devastating series loss at the University of Toledo on the last weekend of the regular season that cost Ball State a regular season conference championship.Beals had hoped a tight series with Toledo to end the regular season would help Ball State in Chillicothe, but it could never get on track in the tournament."I thought it would give us some confidence of being in some tough games like that," Beals said. "We just couldn't find a way to win a couple big games down the stretch." Friday's loss hastened the end of the college careers of some of Ball State's most valuable players. Vitek and All-MAC catcher Zach Dygert will not return to the Cardinals next year, lost to the MLB draft and graduation. Ace Perci Garner is another likely draft casualty.Vitek, a projected first-round pick, reflected on his three years in a Cardinals' uniform that ended a little sooner than he would have liked."It's hard to take in," Vitek said. "It's been a great three years; it's been great playing with the team."
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Kolbrin Vitek and Zach Dygert didn't get a fitting end to their Ball State University careers Friday.Not only did the Cardinals get sent home from the Mid-American Conference Tournament without a championship, the heart of their order meekly made two of the final three outs of the game. But Vitek's groundout to short and Dygert looking at strike three will be quickly forgotten by the Ball State faithful. After all, the pair has been a fixture in the Cardinals' for their whole careers.Since Vitek arrived in Muncie three years ago, Ball State has not played a game where coach Greg Beals didn't write at least one of their names' on his lineup card. "We're not going to have the Vitek-Dygert horses in the middle of the lineup," Beals said. "We're going to have to do some things differently next year."Vitek and Dygert both finished with 35 career home runs, one shy of tying Brad Snyder for fifth place on Ball State's all-time list. It's fitting Vitek and Dygert would end their careers tied on the career home run list, as they have been tied together in the middle of Ball State lineups. Vitek, a junior, could be back at Ball State next year, but the chances are miniscule for the projected first round draft pick. Dygert's career, meanwhile, is definitely over. After four years behind the plate for Ball State, his absence will be felt."He's been our flagship guy," Beals said. "Being a catcher myself, I spent a lot of time with Zach. I'm going to miss Zach."Moving on?: The three-year contract between the MAC and Chillicothe, Ohio, for the rights to host the conference tournament is coming to a close this year, and the tournament's future location is up for debate.Chillicothe has hosted the MAC Tournament for the last three years. Before that, the tournament had been hosted on campus sites. But concerns, largely about the dimensions of VA Memorial Stadium, have the MAC coaches looking at other potential hosts. The stadium in Chillicothe has very short power alleys and center field is maybe 400 feet away from home plate.But the field turf surface and homey atmosphere of the stadium are benefits to Chillicothe. Ohio University coach Joe Carbone said fans from across the conference have told him how much they enjoy watching the tournament from the picnic area and party deck that stretch down the left field line.Beals is unsure about the prospect of moving the tournament, but gave VA Memorial Stadium an endorsement."The people here are great, the hospitality is great, the playing surface is great," he said. "I like this place. I haven't seen other places to say I'd rather go somewhere else."Loyalty may also come into play with the decision. "Those people stepped up and made an offer to have the tournament here when no one else did and would," Carbone said. "I think they've done a great job here."Waiting your turn: Ball State is just 2-6 in the MAC Tournament since winning the conference title in 2006. But Beals know nothing comes easy."Only one team wins it every year," Beals said. "We've got to keep plugging away until it's our turn."
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Kolbrin Vitek jogged in from the bullpen across the scorched field turf of VA Memorial Stadium, the last card coach Greg Beals had in his hand.Beals called on the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, suddenly turned bullpen ace, with the Cardinals' season resting in the balance. Ball State held a three-run advantage Thursday with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning against Ohio University in an elimination game at the MAC Tournament. Gauntlett Eldemire, the Bobcats' star, represented the tying run.Eldemire dug in against Vitek, hoping to put one good swing on one fastball to extend the game and Ohio's season.The fastball never came and the all-conference center fielder flailed at a 1-2 breaking ball to end the game. Vitek had locked down a 13-10 victory for Ball State on the second day of the MAC Tournament for his third career save, extending the Cardinals' stay in Chillicothe, Ohio.Ball State (29-28) will play Bowling Green State University at 9 a.m. Friday in another elimination game.The victory was just the second in six games for the Cardinals and Vitek, typically a starting pitcher, had to be called on to get the final out of both of them.Knowing Ball State needed just one more out, catcher Zach Dygert called for Vitek's strength, his breaking ball."We got right to his best pitch and it saved us once again," Dygert said. Vitek also saved Ball State's 8-7 victory Saturday at the University of Toledo, coming on for one strikeout with the winning run at the plate.Thursday's situation would have been more dire in the bottom of the ninth Thursday if Dygert hadn't blasted a two-run home run that, by some accounts, cleared a light tower in left field. The home run provided Ball State with the insurance runs it needed to win its first MAC Tournament game in two years.Dygert provided the offense all day for the Cardinals, seemingly willing his college career to continue for at least one more day. The senior captain went 5-for-5 at the plate with three RBIs and four runs. "He's been special for our program for four years," Beals said. "Our backs are against the wall, we're in a corner, we got to come out swinging and our leader came out swinging first."After a 6-4 loss to Bowling Green State University to open the conference tournament Wednesday, Ball State faced a win or go home situation. Dygert said he didn't need to tell the Cardinals anything before the game."This is an experienced group of guys," he said. "There's no secret of what needs to be done here." The Cardinals needed runs, and they came in bunches Thursday. Facing Rex Ingham, who had shut them down in the Bobcats' 4-0 victory March 27, they found ways to put runs on the board quickly. Ball State took a 3-0 lead in the second inning with four hits against the soft-tossing right-hander. Though Ohio got two runs back in the bottom of the inning against Cal Bowling, Ball State scored the next four runs to build a five-run cushion. T.J. Baumet hit his second home run of the tournament in the fourth inning, and right fielder Jerod Yakubik dropped a fly ball in the fifth, helping the Cardinals to two more runs.However, Bowling faltered in the fifth and had to be replaced by Derek Grabner (5-3). Ball State has leaned on Grabner throughout conference play and, pitching on fumes, the left-hander kept the Cardinals in the lead by one run."We keep going to Grabner and he's starting to run out of gas," Beals said. Ian Nielsen quickly extended the slim lead with a three-run home run in the sixth inning, and Ball State was cruising again. Ball State will once again face the pressure of elimination again Friday morning against Bowling Green. The winner will get a date with top-seeded Central Michigan University in the afternoon, while the loser will get on a bus for home.Before then, Beals just wants the Cardinals to relax."Take a deep breath, get some good food in us and rest a little bit" he said. "Make sure our minds are right to get tough and compete again tomorrow morning in an elimination game."
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio. – All season, Zach Dygert has acted as protection for Kolbrin Vitek in Ball State University's lineup.Hitting behind the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, Dygert finds himself responsible for making sure opposing teams don't simply pitch around Vitek. Lately, it hasn't been working so well, largely to no fault of Dygert's.In the final stretch of the regular season and into the MAC Tournament, teams have been unwilling to let Vitek win games by himself. In Thursday's elimination game, Ohio University made sure Vitek wasn't going to send them home. Instead, it was Dygert, who went 5-for-5 with three RBIs in Ball State's 13-10 victory."Zach needs to have days like that to help Kolbrin out, to help Kolbrin get some more pitches," coach Greg Beals said. "Vitek's been pitched extremely hard for about three weeks."Dygert ended the game just a triple short of the cycle and hit a monstrous two-run home run in the ninth inning. The captain said he saw mostly fastballs from the Bobcats' pitchers, which he was able to take advantage of."I didn't hit them all very hard, but sometimes they fall in and sometimes they don't," Dygert said. "Baseball kind of works like that sometimes."In the end, however, Vitek still found a way to beat Ohio. The junior struck out Bobcats' star Gauntlett Eldemire, who represented the tying run, to end the game and pick up his third save.Pitching update: Ball State always knew it would need someone outside its starting rotation to win a game to take home the MAC championship.But falling into the losers' bracket Wednesday may have hastened that necessity. The Cardinals were forced to call on Vitek to close Thursday's victory after a depleted bullpen struggled to hold big leads. Knowing the rocky state of his bullpen and the need for a win from an unexpected source, Beals is considering the possibility of starting Brad Piatt against Bowling Green on Friday. Piatt was Ball State's Opening Day starter, but has since fallen out the rotation. He is 3-4 with a 7.62 ERA.Ball State has already snuck through one elimination game without starting Vitek, who had the best ERA in the MAC during conference play. Should the Cardinals try to make it through a second such game, Beals said he would not leave Vitek on the bench if they needed him."We won't go home without him pitching again," Beals said.Beat the heat: Near-record high temperatures in the Chillicothe, Ohio, area made for tough conditions Thursday.VA Memorial Stadium has a field turf surface, which can increase temperatures even more. A blazing sun and cloudless sky didn't help matters either."The sun's beating down pretty good on us," Dygert said. "I'm roasting right now."For Ohio coach Joe Carbone, the heat was a welcome change from the weather MAC schools usually are competing in."We're used to keeping warm," he said. "I think guys' true ability will show out. Guys that are too tired or too hot to play aren't true players anyway."No break in the weather is coming for the tournament. Temperatures are forecasted to remain in the mid to upper 80s throughout the weekend.