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A game into the crucial three-game Mid-American Conference West Division series, Central Michigan University remains in first place.Central Michigan defeated Ball State University 4-3 in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Friday. Jesse Hernandez (6-1) threw a complete game for the victory. Perci Garner (5-1) allowed four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings for his first loss this year.The Cardinals (17-21, 9-4) took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Shortstop T.J. Baumet led the game off with a hit and came around to score on second baseman Kolbrin Vitek's RBI single. Catcher Zach Dygert brought Vitek home with a groundout.But the Chippewas (22-13, 11-2) got a run back in the bottom of the inning without getting a hit off Garner. Leadoff hitter Billy Anderson drew a walk and advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt from Garner. The center fielder stole third base and came home on a sacrifice fly.Vitek again drove in Baumet in the third inning, but Central Michigan added two runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at three.Central Michigan scratched the winning run out in the sixth inning with a walk, a hit and a fielder's choice. Hernandez made sure the Cardinals wouldn't be able to respond, allowing only center fielder Cody Elliott to reach base in the final three innings. Elliott was thrown out at attempting to steal second base in the eighth inning, allowing the right-hander to face the minimum to finish the game.The loss drops Ball State two games behind Central Michigan in the MAC West. The two teams will complete their series with a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. The series finale was moved up a day because of impending weather.
The first half of the Mid-American Conference season was smooth sailing for Ball State University as it beat up on the East Division.
A day after a momentum-building victory against Indiana State University, Ball State University suffered one of its worst defeats of the year.Ball State lost 10-5 at Butler University on Wednesday afternoon. The Bulldogs (12-21) had just nine wins against Division I competition entering the game. "I think the game just got away from us," coach Greg Beals said. "I didn't think the intensity was really there. We had some things going for us, but we had some mishaps on the basepaths and that slowed us down."Ball State (17-20) may have been caught looking ahead to its pivotal weekend series against Mid-American Conference leader Central Michigan University. The Cardinals have been thinking about their trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich., all week."I hope and I'm confident that our guys are excited and that they're looking forward to the weekend," Beals said. "Hopefully we didn't look past Butler. If so, it cost us a game today."The Cardinals scored a pair of quick runs in the first inning, but the Bulldogs' pitching staff was able to control the rest of the game."That's kind of where we plateaued," Beals said. "They pitched well and threw strikes, but they weren't overpowering. We had the opportunity to bust that game open, but we weren't able to do it."Reliever Jared Wagoner (2-6) picked up the win for Butler, allowing one run in two innings.Ball State had just eight hits and was unable to take advantage of four Butler errors.Of the eight Cardinals' hits, five came from shortstop T.J. Baumet and first baseman Blake Beemer, the first and second hitters in the lineup. Baumet went 3-for-5 with three runs, extending his hot streak since missing two games two weeks ago.Offensive leaders Kolbrin Vitek and Zach Dygert had a very quiet day, combining to go 0-for-5 with one RBI. With struggles from Vitek and Dygert and regular five-hole hitter Ian Nielsen getting a day off, Ball State had no punch in the heart of the order."That doesn't help obviously," Beals said. "You're talking about our go-to-guys on offense and we didn't get a whole lot from them."The Cardinals got a good start from Michael Sandman, who allowed one run on two hits in three innings. "Sandman threw really well today," Beals said. "I was excited to see Sandman get himself going."The Ball State bullpen was unable to hold the lead, as four of the five relievers game up at least one run. Butler took the lead with a four-run seventh inning against Seth Hobbs (2-2). Designated hitter Nick Hladek drove in center fielder Corey Moylan with an RBI single for the go-ahead run. Hladek was removed for a pinch runner and first baseman Kyle Schultz gave the Bulldogs an insurance run with a triple. An error by Baumet helped the Bulldogs score two more runs in the inning, both of which were unearned. The Cardinals managed to plate a run with two outs in the eighth inning to pull within in three, but the damage had already been done. The Bulldogs stomped on any rally attempt with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Quietly, Blake Beemer established himself as Ball State University's everyday right fielder. Now, halfway through the season, he is establishing himself as a force at the top of the lineup.The freshman went 2-for-4 with three runs in Ball State's 12-5 victory against Indiana State University on Tuesday. He also showed off his Howitzer-like left arm to cut a runner down at third base from right field."Blake's a good baseball player," coach Greg Beals said. "One of the things about Blake is he's always ready. He did a great job base running in the first inning; he did a great job on that throw. All the little things of the game, Blake's doing well."Beemer came to Ball State as a first baseman, but with Ian Nielsen established there, Beemer has had to move to the outfield for playing time.Beemer has found a role for himself in right field where he has been able to display his range and his arm. A perfect opportunity came up in the second inning Tuesday, when Beemer got his third assist of the year."It was a situation all us outfielders wait for," he said. "As soon as the ball was hit to me, I think my eyes lit up a little bit. I was fortunate to make a good throw and [Stephen] Claypool put a good tag on him."Beemer has proved he can cover lots of ground in the outfield, sometimes interfering with his center fielders.Sunday, Beemer and Cody Elliott tracked a ball deep into right center and Elliott was forced to slide to avoid a collision as his teammate made the catch."He said he couldn't talk, he was running to fast," Elliott said. "I saw him and I knew he was going to get it, so I just tried to slide and get out of his way."The road back: Brad Piatt was Ball State's starting pitcher on Opening Day at the University of Arkansas, but has fallen a long way since then.Piatt was bounced from the weekend rotation after two ineffective starts and lately has been subject to mop-up duty.Tuesday, Piatt (1-3) picked up his first victory of the season in his best start, allowing one run in five innings against the Sycamores.The senior said he is trying a new approach to as he tries to overcome his early-season struggles."Coach mentioned the idea of working backwards and we've been doing that a lot lately," Piatt said. "Throwing off speed in fastball counts and vice versa. It seems to be working out."Piatt needed 65 pitches to get through five innings, displaying good efficiency. He did not walk anyone, something that has been a problem for him in previous starts.Mostly, though, Piatt was simply able to avoid the big inning."They got their fair share of hits [Tuesday], but he did a good job of keeping them somewhat off balance and giving us a chance to make plays on defense and win the game," Beals said.Close eye: Plenty of scouts have seen Kolbrin Vitek play this year, but with the draft quickly approaching Major League Baseball teams are starting to pay closer attention to the possible first round draft pick.The San Diego Padres had a scout at all three of Ball State's games against the University at Buffalo during the weekend, and they were back again Tuesday.San Diego is believed to be interested in Vitek and possibly moving him to the outfield, where they need good athletes to track down fly balls in the spacious PETCO Park.
The longest homestand of the year for Ball State University finished with a momentum building 12-5 victory against Indiana State University.The Cardinals (17-19) scored six runs in the first two innings, and Brad Piatt (1-3) gave the team his best start of the season for the win. Ball State will take its latest success on the road to Butler University today, but more importantly, to Central Michigan University this weekend. The Chippewas lead the Cardinals by a game in the Mid-American Conference."It's a big momentum [boost] for us before we go on the road," right fielder Blake Beemer said. "We have Butler, and then after that we all know we have Central Michigan. So we're going to go take one from Butler at their place [Wednesday] and then we'll be ready for Central. We're all excited for it."Ball State's confidence stems from their 4-1 record in the weeklong homestand that was capped with its best win of the set. Indiana State already has 23 wins, and coming into Tuesday had a top-100 RPI according to boydsworld.com"Indiana State is a good ball club," coach Greg Beals said. "Our guys came out and responded very well to the challenge today."The Sycamores jumped to an early 1-0 lead against Piatt when left fielder Kyle Burnam hit his first home run of the year. Beals said the Cardinals made a mistake on Burnam's scouting report."They don't hit home runs and that guy doesn't hit home runs," he said. "We pitched in, which is what our game plan was. As it turns out, our game plan was wrong for that guy."Ball State quickly reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning by taking advantage of a wild play. Beemer tried to go from first to third on designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek's single, drawing a throw. The freshman slid in safely, but third base umpire Jeff Curtis gave a confusing call, signaling out and saying safe.Third baseman Luke Fieser then attempted to cut Vitek down as he tried to advance to second. Fieser's throw went into the outfield, allowing Beemer to score and Vitek to advance to third."I was trying to get to third so [Zach] Dygert could hit me in, and I slid in safely," Beemer said. "The next thing I knew, coach was telling me to go home."Ball State would add a more conventional four runs in the second inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with three consecutive singles from the bottom of the order, and shortstop T.J. Baumet cleared the bases with a double. He would later score on an error."It set everything up," Beals said. "We're sitting with the bases loaded and the top of the order coming up. The top of the order did what they do."With a five-run lead in hand, Piatt went to work to make sure it stayed that way."Once they got the four runs, putting a zero on the board that next inning was big just because it keeps the momentum our way," he said. "I was able to do that and make the game a lot easier, momentumwise."Though Indiana State cut the deficit to one run in the seventh inning, Ball State was able to respond with the final six runs of the game. First baseman Ian Nielsen and left fielder Kory Benbow each knocked two-RBI hits in the seventh, and Vitek drove in a pair of runs with a triple in the eighth."We had the bookend," Beals said. "We got six runs in the first two and six runs in the last two."
Still looking for its first win of the year against an in-state, Division I rival, Ball State University will have two more chances this week starting with Indiana State University on Tuesday.Indiana State (23-10) will visit Ball Diamond at 3 p.m before Ball State (16-19) heads to Butler University (11-21) Wednesday.The Sycamores have lost six straight games in Muncie, dating back to 1995. But Indiana State has won two of the last three meetings with Ball State, including a 14-6 beating last year."We've lost a few of the last years," catcher Zach Dygert said. "We're definitely going to have to come out and pitch and play well to defend our home field."Indiana State had their six-game winning streak snapped Sunday by Wichita State University, but the Sycamores are hot. They have won three straight weekend series, including wins against The Citadel, a regional host contender, on the road.The Sycamores play small ball, a style of play that Dygert said has given the Cardinals problems in the past."They're scrappy," he said. "They don't hit a lot of home runs, but they really play good small baseball. They bunt and steal a lot and they've given us a lot of trouble over the years."Indiana State has just 13 home runs as a team, led by right fielder Robby Ort with three. Second baseman Kolbrin Vitek leads Ball State with 10. The Cardinals have hit 45 long balls this year, more than three times the Sycamore's total.Ball State hopes to get a longer midweek start than usual from Brad Piatt after an 11-inning loss Sunday taxed the bullpen. Piatt's longest outing of the year is four innings, which the senior has done twice. "We're going to need to get some good pitching," coach Greg Beals said. "Our pitching staff is a little bit depleted with the extra innings [Sunday]. We're going to need to get some extended innings from Brad Piatt."The Cardinals have won their last four series since entering Mid-American Conference action and are playing well after facing one of the nation's most difficult nonconference schedules. Center fielder Cody Elliott thinks they will be fine Tuesday if they keep playing the same way."We just need to come out and play like we've been playing," Elliott said. "Get the little things done that we didn't do [Sunday] and play like we know how."Indiana State at Ball StateGame No. 36First pitch: 3 p.m.Ball DiamondPitching matchup: RHP JT Stenftenagel (2-0, 4.08) vs. RHP Brad Piatt (0-3, 9.39)Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy, northeast 4 mph
A series sweep again eluded Ball State University this weekend, but the Cardinals will take another series victory in Mid-American Conference play.
Down quickly to the University at Buffalo, Ball State University scored the last six runs of the game for a 6-5 victory.After a poor start from Cal Bowling, the Cardinals' offense was able to squeeze out enough runs against Bulls (15-17, 3-8) starter Pierre Milville-Deschenes to tie the game in the fifth. Center fielder Cody Elliott then hit what proved to be the game-winning home run to greet reliever Brian Pullyblank (1-3) in the sixth. Derek Grabner (2-1) got the victory for Ball State (16-18, 9-2), pitching 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. The junior allowed just one hit and struck out four. The Bulls didn't go quietly at the end of the game, twice getting runners to second and third with two outs. In the seventh, it appeared center fielder Adam Skonieczki delivered a clutch hit down the right field line, but home plate umpire Scott Taylor ruled it a foul ball. Grabner finished off the Buffalo threat with a strikeout.Closer Aaron Hammons got two quick outs in the ninth inning, but a walk and a double gave the Bulls one more chance with Skonieczki at the plate again. He tested Elliott with a difficult fly ball to the track in center field, but Elliott hauled in the final out of the game for Hammons' third save.Ball State has won its first four Mid-American Conference series and moved back into a first-place tie with Central Michigan University. The University of Toledo, which was tied with Ball State for second at the start of the day, lost 8-7 to Bowling Green State University, dropping the Rockets two games behind the leaders.Ball State and Buffalo will conclude their three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m.
Coming off a feel-good victory Wednesday against NAIA member Indiana Tech, Ball State University will delve back into its Mid-American Conference schedule this weekend.
There was a time, not so long ago, that the baseball world thought Kolbrin Vitek was a pitcher.Coming out of high school, Vitek drew plenty of interest from schools as a pitcher. But he wasn't ready to give up hitting yet, and chose Ball State University, where coach Greg Beals offered a chance to do both."He was recruited primarily with pitching as a priority," Beals said. "There were many schools that were recruiting him as a pitcher only. We had seen him hit enough to know he was warranted an opportunity to continue hitting. I just saw the bat speed that he created." Beals quickly had his mind changed by Vitek, who is now a junior."I called his father in October of his freshman year and said ‘I think I made a mistake on your son,'" Beals said. "His dad went ‘Oh no, what do you mean?' I said ‘Kolbrin's a way better hitter than I even thought he was.' I saw right away his freshman year that there was something special with his bat."A few years later Vitek still pitches in Ball State's weekend rotation, but not for much longer. The All-American second baseman will be taken early in June's MLB Draft and its his bat that has him poised to be Ball State's highest draft pick since Brad Snyder was taken with the 18th overall pick in 2003.Vitek is preparing himself to forego his senior season at Ball State and give up pitching for good."I'm ready to start focusing on one side of the game," he said. "I'm ready to focus on one thing and start building on one skill set."Now the draft conversation about Vitek revolves around where the team that drafts him will put him in the field. At Ball State he has spent time at designated hitter, first base, third base and second base, where he plays this year. He likely will play second or third professionally, though there is some scattered talk of a move to the outfield."I think you keep him at second base initially," Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis said. "His bat is going to stick out more at second than at third, but I find it hard to believe he couldn't play one or the other."Standing 6-feet-3-inches tall, Vitek profiles more as a third baseman. His ability to light up a radar gun in the mid-90s doesn't hurt that projection either. But if he can play in the middle of the infield, his bat will make him even more valuable to his future employer."If he has to play a less challenging position, you're not going to worry about if he's going to hit enough there," Callis said. "He has really good power for a middle infielder and solid power if you put him at third base."Callis said Vitek projects as a 20-25 home run per year hitter in the majors.Beals thinks Vitek's lack of a defined position could hurt him on draft day."Brad Snyder had a sure-fire position, everybody knew he was going to be a right fielder," Beals said. "That's the challenge for [the area] scouts, is figuring exactly when you put Kolbrin in that role of a first or second-rounder a lot of people like to have a little better idea of where you see him fitting defensively. That's a little bit of a challenge to the scouts in our area to figure that out. I just encourage them not to figure it out and draft the athlete."For his part, Vitek says he is most comfortable at second base, but if a team tells him to go play left field, he'll be ready. "That's where I've been working the hardest at," Vitek said. One thing about Vitek's game is certain, however. No one doubts his ability to hit a baseball. He has shot to the top of draft boards across the majors with three great seasons in a Cardinals uniform. This year he leads Ball State in every major offensive category from batting average (.417) to home runs (9)."The scouts we talked to had him as a plus power guy that puts the bat on the ball," Callis said. "He's a really gifted hitter."After seeing Vitek play in a game for the first time, one American League scout put it simply: "He's a good player."For now, Vitek is pushing thoughts of signing bonuses and negotiations out of his head, concentrating on making what is likely his final year as a Cardinal his best."It's still really early to get into all that," Vitek said. "Its too early to talk about things like that."For some high-profile athletes, such talk is lip service. But Vitek's laid-back personality makes his carefree look at the draft possible."It helps him through the hype that's happening now," Beals said. "But it also helps him through the successes and failures that a baseball player's actually going to go through."Even though all signs point to him getting a big pay day this summer, Vitek won't let his imagination start to wander."I'm not going to set my expectations high," Vitek said. "I'm just going to be realistic about it. That way if something good happens then I'll get surprised."
Ball State University slugged away any lingering bad feelings from its back-to-back losses with a 15-2 victory Wednesday against Indiana Tech.
In Ball State University's fourth loss to a Big Ten team this season, its defense was to blame.Ball State lost 10-5 at Purdue University on Tuesday despite allowing just two earned runs. The Cardinals (13-18) committed three errors, two coming in the Boilermakers' seven-run fourth inning."We've got to make sure we're focused and in more of a ready state of mind on defense," coach Greg Beals said. "Some of our errors are mental lapses."Reliever Seth Hobbs (2-1) took the loss after allowing the seven-run inning. Boilermaker starter Pat Gannon (3-1) picked up the victory.Ball State is 0-4 against the Big Ten this year and has made eight errors in the games. Defense has been a sore point before this year and the Cardinals rank in the middle of the Mid-American Conference with a .958 fielding percentage.Shortstop T.J. Baumet, who made his 16th error of the year Tuesday, said Ball State needs to make the easy plays."We need to make the routine plays," he said. "If we make amazing plays that's just extra."Beals said Purdue made the routine plays against Ball State but also flashed enough leather to make the difference."They made all the plays on defense, especially at the shortstop position," Beals said. "The difference in today's game was defense."The game was Baumet's first after missing the final two games of the weekend at Bowling Green State University. The junior was hit in the hand by a pitch in Friday's victory.Tuesday, he went 3-for-5 with an RBI. He said he changed his grip on the bat because of the injury."I tried to put a couple good swings on the ball," he said.All-American Kolbrin Vitek hit his ninth home run of the year in the first inning, giving Ball State an early lead. But Purdue tied the game in the bottom of the first with a pair of runs off Brad Piatt. The senior has fallen out of the weekend rotation and is trying to work his way back from a poor beginning.Beals said there were some positives from Piatt's first start in three weeks."We've been working on some things as far as his pitch sequence so we can find the right niche for him to be successful," Beals said. "His ability to use the fastball and be a bit more strategic when he uses it."Tuesday's loss makes today's home game against NAIA member Indiana Tech more meaningful. Beals said it will help provide the team with momentum going into its weekend series against the University at Buffalo."It's a home game, and it's important to build some confidence to build into the weekend series," Beals said.
Still looking for its first victory against a Big Ten team this year, Ball State University will travel to West Lafayette on Tuesday to take on Purdue University.Ball State is 0-3 against the Big Ten, including its first loss to Indiana University since 1998. The Boilermakers (15-14) have won three of its last four games against the Cardinals (13-17) and coach Greg Beals will be trying to change that."We'll run the normal lineup out Tuesday," he said. "We hope to keep improving the offense, and we still have time to figure it out."Ball State's offense didn't have any problems last weekend at Bowling Green State University. The Cardinals won the series, scoring 44 runs in the first two games of the weekend.Taking the hill for Ball State will be right-hander Brad Piatt. The senior has not pitched well this season and has a 9.64 ERA in seven appearances. He pitched on Opening Day for Ball State at then-No. 15 University of Arkansas, but has since fallen out of the rotation.Piatt threw two shutout innings during Ball State's 32-10 victory Saturday, his first scoreless outing of the year.The Cardinals will likely need their offense to step up Tuesday like they have during the Mid-American Conference season. First baseman Ian Nielsen, one of the key pieces of Ball State's attack, came alive against Bowling Green. He hit .467 with 11 RBIs against the Falcons.A year ago, Nielsen might have had some extra motivation for Tuesday's game, fueled by playing his brother. But Eric, a former catcher at Purdue, graduated last year, making this just another game for the Nielsen family."We need to focus on being better as a team," he said. "It's not anything I put more in to."Ball State hopes to have shortstop T.J. Baumet back in its lineup after he missed the final two games at Bowling Green. The junior was hit in the hand Friday and was replaced in the lineup by Mitch Widau.Beals said Sunday he didn't think Baumet's injury was serious. Ball State at PurdueGame No. 31Lambert FieldFirst pitch: 4 p.m.Pitching matchup: RHP Brad Piatt (0-3, 9.64 ERA) vs. LHP Pat Gannon (2-1, 5.40)Weather: 79 degrees, partly cloudy, WNW 6 mph
With a score more befitting a football field than a baseball diamond, Ball State University clinched its third straight Mid-American Conference series victory to start the season Saturday.Ball State defeated Bowling Green State University 32-10 Saturday but lost the series finale Sunday. Despite a 9-3 loss that cost the Cardinals (13-17, 7-2) their second conference sweep in as many weekends, they were happy with their results."When we got on the bus to Bowling Green on Thursday night, the goal was to win the series," coach Greg Beals said. "We played extremely well Friday and Saturday. We swung the bat like we haven't swung this year."The Cardinals scored 44 runs in the first two games of the series and set school records in runs, hits, at bats and RBIs on Saturday. The previous runs record was 31, which had been done twice in Ball State history, most recently in 2006.First baseman Ian Nielsen led Ball State's offense Saturday, going 5-for-7 with eight RBIs and two home runs. A Freshman All-American last season, Nielsen had not been hitting at that level this year. But before the game, he told Beals he had his swing figured out."He continues to work hard on his swing," Beals said. "It worked for him."Nielsen said he was working on staying on the ball longer in the batting cage before the game."This year hasn't been as productive as last year," he said. "I'm just trying to help the team however I can."Nielsen went 1-for-3 and drove in a run Sunday. He is hitting .317, his best mark since Spring Break.The Cardinals managed their offensive explosion without leadoff hitter T.J. Baumet. The shortstop was hit in the hand Friday and was unavaliable for the rest of the weekend. Beals said Baumet is expected to return to the lineup soon.Utility infielder Mitch Widau filled in for Baumet, continuing his surprising season. The sophomore collected four hits during the weekend to extend his hitting streak to seven games."Everytime he gets challenged to do something for us, he does it and does it well," Beals said. "His role keeps growing."Ball State's 9-3 loss Sunday and victories by Central Michigan University and the University of Toledo dropped the Cardinals to third place in the MAC West. Although out of first place, the Cardinals have won their first three MAC series for the first time since 2005.Nielsen said the series victory shows Ball State is still playing well. "We're still in a good position in the MAC," he said. "We're really starting to believe in ourselves and each weekend reinforces that."
The offensive explosion continued for Ball State University on Saturday with a record-breaking performance.Ball State defeated Bowling Green State University 32-10, setting the school record for most runs, hits (29) and at bats (58) in a game. The previous runs record was 31, which the Cardinals (13-16, 7-1) had done twice, most recently in 2006. First baseman Ian Nielsen led the team with eight RBIs, two short of the Cardinals' record. The sophomore went 5-for-7 with two home runs. He was one of a few starters to play the entire game, but only did so because his backup, Blake Beemer, started as designated hitter.Third baseman Stephen Claypool stayed hot with a 4-for-6 day. The freshman is 12-for-21 with 11 RBIs in the last five games.15 of Ball State's 16 batters scored at least on run or had an RBI. The only Cardinal who recorded a plate appearance without producing a run was reliever Brad Piatt, who struck out in the ninth.Starting pitcher Cal Bowling (2-3) earned the victory, allowing four runs in six innings. The Falcons scored six runs in the ninth inning off reliever Justin Warrington.Ball State has scored 44 runs in two victories at Bowling Green (8-17, 2-6). The Cardinals have won their first three Mid-American Conference series and are on a six-game conference winning streak. The Cardinals will attempt to finish the sweep against the preseason MAC East favorites Sunday at 1 p.m.
A small hiccup at Indiana University on Tuesday couldn't slow Ball State University down in the Mid-American Conference.Ball State (12-16) opened a three-game series at Bowling Green State University with a 12-6 victory Friday. The Cardinals beat reigning MAC Pitcher of the Year Brennan Smith (1-4) with a big offensive day. They had 18 hits and scored 12 runs, despite stranding 17 runners.Starting pitcher Perci Garner (4-0) earned the victory to remain undefeated this year.Ball State gave Garner support early in the game putting a run on the board in each of the first two innings, before breaking the game open in the third and fourth. The Cardinals scored seven times in those innings, sending 16 batters to the plate against Smith and reliever Nick Burns.After putting four runs on the board in the third inning, Ball State opened the fourth with a double, triple and home run from the heart of its lineup. First baseman Ian Nielsen delivered the long ball, his second of the year.Working with a 9-2 lead after the fourth inning, the Cardinals cruised to their fifth straight MAC win. Garner threw six innings, allowing two runs and striking out five. Relievers Scott Brothers, Jon Cisna and Heath Riley finished the game, allowing coach Greg Beals to keep his top bullpen arms fresh for the rest of the weekend.Ball State was led offensively by catcher Zach Dygert and third baseman Stephen Claypool, who both finished one hit shy of the cycle. Dygert went 4-for-4 with a walk before being lifted in the seventh inning. He had two RBIs and needed a home run to complete the cycle.Claypool went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and fell a triple short of the cycle. He also walked twice.
The meeting of the preseason favorites in each of the Mid-American Conference's divisions will take on an unexpected feeling this weekend when Ball State University visits Bowling Green State University.The Falcons (8-15-1, 2-4) will be looking to turn around their disappointing season against the Cardinals (11-16, 5-1) when the three-game series begins today at 3 p.m. It's still early in the season, but coach Greg Beals expects to find Bowling Green in a must-win mind set after losing its first two Mid-American Conference series of the year."They're playing at home, they're at a time of the season where they probably feel like ‘We need to make a move,'" he said. "It's going to be a very important series for them. They're going to come out with their guns loaded and we've got to make sure we're ready to answer."Reliever Derek Grabner said the Cardinals can't take the Falcons lightly this weekend."With a struggling team, the best thing to do is to hit them while they're down," the junior said. Ball State took care of business last weekend against Miami University, earning its first sweep of the year. At Bowling Green, Ball State will look to start the MAC season with three straight series victories for the first time since 2005.Beals said a key to the Cardinals' success will be if their starting pitchers can throw breaking balls for strikes. The Falcons don't have any overpowering hitters; instead they are mostly slap hitters."The thing that concerns me most about their offense is their style of hitting as a team," he said. "If [Perci] Garner and [Cal] Bowling pitch the way they did against Miami, they'll be fine."Bowling Green has some talented pitchers of their own. Reigning MAC Pitcher of the Year Brennan Smith will start Friday for the Falcons. Last year, the Falcons swept the series and Smith allowed just one run in eight innings against the Cardinals.This year, Smith has struggled to a 1-3 record with a 6.96 ERA this year, but Beals praised the junior."He'll be the best conference starter we've seen," Beals said. "He's going to be throwing the ball a little bit harder this year, but he's also walked more guys this year. He's not going to be any different than we've seen in [non-conference play]."Ball State is tied for first in the MAC West with the University of Toledo and Central Michigan University. Grabner said they want to keep the heat on their competition with another big weekend after a disappointing loss to Indiana University on Tuesday."Practice [Wednesday] was very focused on getting back to what we need to do," Grabner said. "Our goal is to take three games from Bowling Green this weekend. The loss to Indiana, while disappointing, can only affect us if we allow it to."Ball State at Bowling Green at Steller FieldGame No. 28First pitch: 3 p.m.Pitching matchup: RHP Perci Garner (3-0, 4.34 ERA) vs. RHP Brennan Smith (1-3, 6.96)Weather: 48 degrees, mostly cloudy, wind west 18 mphGame No. 29First pitch: 1 p.m.Pitching matchup: RHP Cal Bowling (1-3, 5.12) vs. RHP Michael Frank (1-1, 4.41)Weather: 60 degrees, sunny, SSW 15 mphGame No. 30First pitch: 1 p.m.Pitching matchup: RHP Kolbrin Vitek (1-2, 3.55) vs. RHP Kevin Leady (3-1, 4.34)Weather: 64 degrees, partly cloudy, northwest 7 mph
The transition from college baseball to the minor leagues is a difficult one, as two former Ball State University standouts learned last year.
A gusty Tuesday afternoon in Bloomington produced eight home runs in Ball State University's 12-6 loss to Indiana University.
There's a little more riding on Ball State University's game Tuesday at Indiana University than the average midweek college baseball game.There's the Cardinals' current four-game winning streak, a five-game winning streak dating back to 1998 against the Hoosiers and the chance to beat another team that reached the NCAA Tournament last year. Oh yeah, and there are the normal feelings that get stirred up anytime Ball State takes on its big brother from Bloomington."We're going to play IU and there aren't many pep talks needed," coach Greg Beals said. "Our guys will be ready."Beals is committed to giving the game at Indiana (13-13) the extra attention he feels it merits. Normally, the Cardinals (11-15) use midweek games as a chance to experiment and give his regulars a bit of a break. "We're going to use that bullpen to eat up some innings for us," Beals said. "We're going have a little bit of a mixed lineup in there, but we're going to go after that game, and try to keep that winning streak alive."Ball State echoed its coach's stance Sunday after completing a three-game sweep of Mid-American Conference rival Miami University. The need to keep their momentum going full-steam ahead remained a common theme."We've got to come ready to play and get another win," third baseman Stephen Claypool said. Ball State will turn to sophomore Cody Elliott for Tuesday's start. Elliott is the Cardinals' regular center fielder, but has appeared in four games as a reliever. He has not pitched since March 23 at the University of Notre Dame, but has thrown five consecutive scoreless innings.With last year's heroes gone, both teams will need new players to step up. Former Ball State center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a walk off home run to defeat the Hoosiers 5-4 last year, but will be reporting to his minor league assignment with the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.Meanwhile, Indiana is without All-American catcher Josh Phegley who reached base four times last year. Now he is in the minors with the Chicago White Sox.Taking Pegley's place in the Hoosier lineup has been first baseman Jerrud Sabourin and left fielder Alex Dickerson. Sabourin is hitting .462 to lead Indiana, while Dickerson isn't far behind with a .446 average. Dickerson also has 11 home runs.Indiana scored 26 runs Sunday as they steamrolled the University of Michigan and is hitting .326 as team. For Ball State, however, the emphasis will continue to be on its winning streak."It's a huge thing to keep the momentum going," reliever Derek Grabner said. "It's like in a baseball game, you score a run and then you put up a zero."