The bus had only left Baum Stadium a few hours before, but Ball State University catcher Zach Dygert was ready to go back.Ball State opened the season with a three-game series at the University of Arkansas, playing in what is widely considered to be one of the best college baseball stadiums in the country.The Cardinals took one game from the No. 15 team in the country, playing in front of crowds as large as 5,827."It was one of the nicest and most enjoyable experiences, as far as atmosphere goes, in my career," Dygert said. "I'd love to go back for another weekend. I had a really good time."Before the series, coach Greg Beals said he scheduled the series to prepare Ball State for the NCAA Tournament. "Our goal is to play in a Regional," Beals said. "So before we get there I wanted to play in some Regional environments."Arkansas has hosted four NCAA Regionals and one Super Regional in Baum Stadium. The field can hold more than 10,000 fans, and looks more like a minor league ballpark. Since it opened, both Baseball American and rivals.com have named it the best collegiate stadium in the nation. Reliever Morgan Coombs said he had to contain his emotions pitching in front of the large crowds."When you first get out there it's a big adrenaline rush," he said. "You can't get too amped up, because that's when you make mistakes. I had to stay composed."In all, more than 10,000 people attended the series. The number would have been higher, but only 918 fans showed up Sunday after a rain delay. Last year, 15,475 people saw Ball State play all season.Dygert said the ballpark and fans made it easier for the Cardinals to respond with a 5-2 upset Saturday after losing Friday."They have intense fans," Dygert said. "It's a great atmosphere, a great place to play."
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Winning its opening weekend series would have been ideal for Ball State University, but beating No. 15 University of Arkansas once will have to do.After losing to the Razorbacks 10-2 on Opening Day, the Cardinals (1-2) responded with a 5-2 victory Saturday. Arkansas (2-1) claimed the three-game series with a 9-3 win Sunday. Coach Greg Beals was proud of the heart his team showed bouncing back from Friday's loss."We played a really good baseball game on Saturday and that's what it requires to beat a team like Arkansas," he said. "We showed a lot of character as a team to take advantage of our second opportunity against them."Friday was the first time Ball State had played on a baseball field since beginning practice three weeks ago. Snow and cold weather has confined them to the Field Sports Building. Catcher Zach Dygert said it was easy to come back from the loss because the Cardinals were just happy to be playing baseball outside."The game on Friday was tough but it was so refreshing to be outside that it was very easy for everybody to bounce back," the senior captain said. "It was a loss, but wasn't a really hard loss. It was great atmosphere and a great place to play. I don't think anyone had trouble getting up to play."Playing in front of a crowd of 5,827 Saturday, Ball State put together a complete game against Arkansas for the upset.The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when second baseman Kolbrin Vitek tripled home right fielder Kirby Campbell and scored on a sacrifice fly. Ball State would never trail to Arkansas, a team that reached the College World Series a year ago.Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said the Cardinals were simply the better team Saturday. "They outplayed us big-time today," he said. "They out-pitched us and out-fielded us. What they did was they got some big hits. They took advantage of the mistakes and I thought their pitching staff did a great job."Ball State used only two pitchers Saturday. Cal Bowling started the game and pitched four innings, allowing one run. Morgan Coombs (1-0) relieved the sophomore and threw five gutsy innings for the victory. The right-hander was in trouble throughout his outing, but was able to escape jam after jam. Arkansas had at least one runner on base in each of the first eight innings and stranded 12 in all. In the seventh inning with the Cardinals clinging to a 3-2 lead, Coombs loaded the bases with a pair of two out walks, bringing preseason All-American Brett Eibner to the plate. Coombs struck out Eibner, ending the inning."They have some big bats in their lineup," Coombs said. "But you can't pitch around them. You've got to hit your spots."Dygert removed much of the drama in the top of the eighth inning with a two-run home run to give Ball State some breathing room."It was a home run off the bat," Beals said. "It took a 3-2 lead to a 5-2 lead and helped everyone relax."Ball State was led by Dygert and preseason All-American Kolbrin Vitek, who combined to go 7-for-9 with four RBIs and four runs. Coombs struck out eight batters in his five innings of work, allowing just one run.Beals said getting sterling performances from Vitek, Dygert and Coombs was the key to the game.Despite a lack of clutch hitting leading to another loss Sunday, the Cardinals were still pleased with their upset Saturday."It's a great feeling for me individually and as a team," Coombs said. "It means we can compete nationally and that we're going to be a good team.
The University of Arkansas quickly made sure Sunday that Ball State University wouldn't score their second upset of the weekend.The No. 15 Razorbacks roughed up Kolbrin Vitek for four runs in the first inning, and they never looked back in their 9-3 win. The Cardinals (1-2) will have to be content with their 5-2 victory Saturday in the opening weekend series. After Arkansas (2-1) starting pitcher Brett Eibner (1-0) struck out the side in the top of the first inning, the hosts came out swinging. The first two hitters reached base, and after Vitek (0-1) retired two Razorbacks. But he wasn't able to get a third out before an RBI single from preseason All-American Zack Cox and an three-run home run from catcher James McCann.Vitek settled down and allowed only one more hit before being lifted after four innings. Arkansas would add another run in the fifth, before Vitek drove in right fielder Ryan Chenoweth with a double for Ball State's first run.The Razorbacks broke the game open with four runs in the seventh inning. The Cardinals attempted a comeback in the eighth inning, adding two runs. Ball State was unable to get clutch hits Sunday, stranding seven runners in scoring position. In contrast, seven of Arkansas' runs came with two outs. Eibner, who was on a pitch count, was awarded the win by the official scorer. The junior allowed two hits in three shutout innings, and struck out five Cardinals. Arkansas pitchers combined to strike out 15 hitters. For full coverage of Ball State's opening weekend at Arkansas, read Monday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
Rebounding quickly from a disappointing Opening Day loss, Ball State University upset No. 15 University of Arkansas 5-2 Saturday afternoon.
Jumping out to an early lead, Ball State University held on and defeated No. 15 University of Arkansas 5-2 Saturday afternoon.The Cardinals were led by second baseman Kolbrin Vitek who went 4-for-5 with three runs and an RBI. The victory is Ball State's first against a ranked team since it defeated No. 23 Ohio State University 20-8 last year.Morgan Coombs pitched five innings in relief of Cal Bowling for the victory. Coombs allowed one run and struck out eight Razorbacks. The loss went to Arkansas starting pitcher Geoffrey Davenport. The left-hander allowed two runs in four innings.For full coverage of the game, read Sunday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
Playing outside for the first time all year, Ball State University wasn't quite ready to take on No. 15 University of Arkansas.The Razorbacks defeated the Cardinals 10-2 on opening day in front of 4,847 people, the largest crowd Ball State has played in front of since the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Starting pitcher Brad Piatt (0-1) gave up three runs for the loss.Arkansas started the game with three runs, despite not recording a hit in the first inning against Piatt. The first three Razorbacks to come to the plate in the game all scored after two hit batsmen, two walks, two sacrifice flies and two wild pitches.While the Cardinals did not make any errors in their first trip outdoors, their pitchers never seemed quite comfortable against the experienced Razorback hitters.Ball State cut the deficit to two runs in the fourth inning when second baseman Kolbrin Vitek singled and stole second base. First baseman Ian Nielsen drove him in with a line drive past shortstop Matt Reynolds for an RBI.Two runs were as close as the Cardinals would get, as the Razorbacks extended their lead to 6-1 in the fifth inning against reliever Perci Garner. Arkansas added four more runs over the final three innings.Ball State got their second run in the sixth inning when right fielder Ryan Chenoweth doubled to right field and was driven in by catcher Zach Dygert.The only Cardinal with multiple hits on the day was center fielder Cody Elliott, who went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.Arkansas was led by first baseman Andy Wilkins, who went 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBIs.The two teams will resume their three-game series today at 2 p.m. Arkansas, however, will likely be without second baseman Bo Bigham. The sophomore dove for a ball in the outfield and landed awkwardly on his left arm. He left the game with what was later reported as a dislocated shoulder.Starting Saturday's game for Ball State will be right-hander Cal Bowling. Going for Arkansas is left-hander Drew Smyly.
Entering a season loaded with expectations, Ball State University will quickly find how well it measures up with the top teams in the nation. Ball State opens its season today with a three-game series at the University of Arkansas. The Razorbacks started the year ranked No. 15 and reached the final four of the College World Series last year before falling to eventual national champion Louisiana State University. The series will be played in Baum Stadium, widely regarded as one of the best environments in college baseball. Coach Greg Beals said that was part of his reason for scheduling the series. "By choosing to go to Arkansas, not only did we want to play that type of caliber of team, but we want to get ourselves in that venue," Beals said. "Our goal is to play in a [NCAA Tournament] Regional, so before we get there I wanted to play in some Regional environments." Ball State is the preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference and hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said he knows what kind of expectations Ball State is putting on itself. "They have a lot of returners offensively and pitchers who gained experience," Van Horn said. "I know the lofty goal they have. They're a major challenge for us." Many of the Razorbacks return from their magical run to Omaha. Included in the returners are center fielder and starting pitcher Brett Eibner, third baseman Zack Cox and first baseman Andy Wilkins, all of whom were named preseason All-Americans. The three stars combined for 44 home runs and 131 RBI last year. "Those three guys are dangerous and we need to be aware of them," Beals said. "But I want our pitchers to attack them and I want our pitchers to try and get them out." Many of the Cardinals were able to watch the Razorbacks last year in the NCAA Men's College World Series. Center fielder Cody Elliott said he remembered Eibner's dramatic home run against the University of Virginia that helped Arkansas stave off elimination. "[They're] a great team," Elliott said. "It will be a big learning experience for us, playing that competition. It will get us ready for when the MAC comes." Ball State is just excited to get on a field. The team has practiced for the last three weeks in the Field Sports Building. "It's difficult starting off inside compared to this rubber and then you go to a normal field," shortstop T.J. Baumet said. However, Arkansas hasn't had much more luck with the weather. Snowstorms across the southern United States have forced the Razorbacks into their indoor football practice facility. "We've only been on the field as a team once and we hit on the field one other time," Van Horn said Tuesday. Because of the lack of practice outside and the short period of time before Arkansas begins Southeastern Conference play, Van Horn said he has changed his team's game plan. Right-hander Mike Bolsinger will start Friday's game, instead of pitching out of the closers spot, like he might later in the year. Eibner will be on a strict pitch count Sunday afternoon. "We open up conference play so quickly," Van Horn said. "We're going to try and play a lot of kids. We know this is a big challenge." No matter what Arkansas does or what the results of the series are, Beals expects Ball State to learn from playing quality competition in a great setting. "Getting a win or two this weekend would be big to the guys to validate the hard work we've put in and who we think we are as a ballclub," he said. "But there's certainly going to be value in this weekend getting outside and playing for the first time."
Cody Elliott knows it does no good to think about who he's replacing in center field for Ball State University.
As Opening Day approaches, Ball State University's biggest concern is improving its defense.
With most of last year's Mid-American Conference's top pitching staff back at Ball State University this spring, coach Greg Beals has a unique plan to get the most from his pitchers.Instead of having a starting pitcher throw six or seven innings and using a few relievers to finish the game, Beals will enter each game with a set of pitchers who will carry the team at least to the closer."We're going to pitch outside the box this year," Beals said. "We're going to piggyback each other. We're going to put two or three guys together and say ‘You three guys get us through eight innings today or you two guys will get us through seven innings today.' We're going to utilize our depth and not let a guy get in trouble in the middle innings of a ball game."The approach is similar to what Beals and other college coaches use in midweek games when their best starting pitchers are resting. The difference with Ball State's new approach is the length of the pitchers' outings. In a typical midweek game, Beals often uses pitchers for only one inning at a time."A little bit of [a midweek style], where we lean on our whole team, but not quite so short," he said. "I could see possibly, three guys going three, three and three [innings] at a time."The depth of the Cardinals' pitching staff has allowed Beals to take this approach. Eight pitchers return from last year's MAC West champions, including two members of the weekend rotation and three key pitchers out of the bullpen.Starting pitcher Brad Piatt said best assembly of pitching talent is his time at Ball State."In the four years I've been here, we've never been this deep as a pitching staff," Piatt said. "That'll help us throughout our 50-game season."The key losses from last year's pitching staff were starter Brenden Stines and left-handed setup man Tom Mueller. Stines was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round. But the development of young pitchers, like Cal Bowling and Perci Garner, is expected to offset the losses.Bowling will likely slide into the weekend rotation between Piatt and preseason All-American Kolbrin Vitek. Bowling started six games last year as a freshman, and worked 40 2/3 innings. Beals plans to use center fielder Cody Elliott as a pitcher as well. The sophomore played exclusively in the outfield last year, and will be taking over the starting role in center as well. Beals plans to use him on Sundays to keep his arm fresh. Beals uses the same philosophy with Vitek, who in addition to being the Cardinals' ace also plays second base. "We might be pretty tough on the mound on Sundays," Beals said. The other big change for Ball State's pitching staff will come in the closer role. Senior Morgan Coombs held the job last year, going 3-5 with six saves. But because of his ability to throw more than one inning at a time, he will be incorporated into Beals' piggy-back plan and senior Aaron Hammons will takeover as closer."Morgan proved the ability to pitch multiple innings," Beals said. "He's pitching very well now, so he's going to figure in earlier in the game then as our closer."No matter how Beals plans to use the pitchers, Piatt is ready for Ball State's first game Feb. 19 at the University of Arkansas."I'm extremely excited," he said. "We're definitely looking forward to it."
Throwing up and barely able to get out of bed with the flu, Larry Bigbie thought suiting up for Ball State University was out of the question.
Greg Beals doesn't care how much snow Muncie got over the weekend. In fact, Ball State University's baseball coach barely noticed.
For the second time this year, second baseman/pitcher Kolbrin Vitek has been named to a preseason All-American team. Ping! Baseball named the junior a third team All-American at the utility position.
Without ever playing a game at second base, Kolbrin Vitek is an All-American at the position.
University of Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate and quarterback Jimmy Clausen announced Monday they would forego their senior seasons and enter the NFL Draft this April.
Concerns about losing two junior starters in his infield to the MLB Draft in June led coach Greg Beals to focus on adding depth in his 2010 recruiting class.Beals said that in addition to All-Mid-American Conference second baseman Kolbrin Vitek, who is likely to be a high-round pick, shortstop T.J. Baumet could also be lost to the draft."We had two things we needed to accomplish with this recruiting class," Beals said. "Like every year, we needed a couple pitchers and beside that I felt like we needed a few infielders to improve depth and quality. We have concerns about Vitek and Baumet in the draft, about them not being back. We put a greater emphasis on the infield."Of the seven-member class, three are listed as infielders. Beals is excited to get third baseman Kenny Mahala into the middle of the Ball State University lineup. "Kenny is a left-handed hitter who can hit for some power," Beals said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but I think he can be in the [Ian] Nielsen mold and hit right away as a freshman."Nielsen was a Freshman All-American after hitting .352 with 53 RBIs.Ball State also added three right-handed pitchers, but Beals said only two will exclusively pitch. Jacob Brewer and Tyler Jordan will join the Cardinals' staff and T.J. Weir will pitch and play in the infield."I believe he'll do both," Beals said. "There will probably be a slightly greater emphasis on being a position player, but he has a great curveball. He can have success on the mound."Of the seven recruits, three played summer ball for the Indiana Bulls. Beals said that familiarty is good for the program."That's as high a level as you can play at 17 in the country," he said. "They played together and know each other. They're excited about being teammates in the future."There is also a local element to the class. Six of the seven recruits are from Indiana, and outfielder Cody Campbell is from Muncie. Campbell attended Cowan High School and will join his brother Kirby in the Ball State outfield next year."Cody can really play," Beals said. "They're very talented. We could have two Campbells roaming the outfield next year."Beals said the recruiting class isn't finished yet. There is still one scholarship avaliable for the 2010 class."We're still looking a little bit," Beals said. "We have one scholarship open and two spots overall. It's never done. We're not done with this class and we're eager to get started on the 2011 graduates also."
After sitting out last year with a medical redshirt, junior Ali Bishel was not about to let her shot at nationals slip away."I had already waited two years for this chance to advance to the championships," Bishel said. "I was not about to wait another year and leave with excuses."At the 2009 NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Saturday, Bishel pushed all her doubts aside and took home a seventh-place finish overall in the race."I had no physical hindrances, nothing to get in my way," Bishel said. "The biggest challenge going in was being prepared mentally."With cross country coach Randy Heisler's decision to keep the team at home for the regional, Bishel was the lone representative for Ball State University."It is not fun to succeed without a good support system to share triumphs with," Bishel said. "I was running for my teammates and for all their experiences."With her teammates in mind, Bishel sprinted to a season best 6K time of 21:07. She finished 24 seconds behind race-winner Emily Macleod of Michigan State University."Throughout the race, you could see Ali was in the zone," Heisler said. "Long distance runners learn to block out the pain in their races and keep on going somehow. From the beginning, you could see Ali was in that mode."After finishing fourth at the Mid-American Conference Championships, Bishel crossed the line first among all MAC runners in the regional meet. She beat MAC Champion Ari Fisher of Toledo University by over four seconds."I don't think I am in any better physical shape than before," Bishel said. "I think I have just gotten better mentally and grown as a runner because of that."Run on the same site as the Sam Bell Invitational, Bishel used her knowledge of the tough hills and terrain to power through the regional."It helps being familiarized with the course and what side of the hills to go on," Bishel said. "Having run the course before, I knew when to pick it up and make a move."The championships are held on a Terre Haute course with a similar terrain. Bishel has already competed on this course as well, finishing first overall. Heisler hopes to use their knowledge of this course to their advantage."This Terre Haute course has a lot of downhill grade," Heisler said. "If Ali leans into and runs downhill, she will pick up valuable time."Whatever the course brings, Heisler knows Bishel will be ready."Right now Ali's confidence is high," Heisler said. "I know that when the gun sounds, she will be right there in the front with the best runners in the country."
Preseason rankings are often blown off by coaches as meaningless accolades.The Ball State University baseball team will get a firsthand look at why so many ignore preseason polls. The University of Missouri baseball team, the Cardinals' next opponent, began the season ranked No. 20 in the country. The Tigers have started the year 3-7, including a seven-game losing streak.Despite Missouri's struggles, coach Greg Beals said he expects a strong test for Ball State in its four-game series beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday."I'm expecting to see a very good baseball team," Beals said. "They got off to a tough start, but playing against great competition. We're expecting the same team that was picked in the preseason to be in the top 25."Included in the Tigers' losses are Arizona State University and Oregon State University, teams Beals described as "top-shelf programs in the country."Missouri also lost to Ball State's fellow member of the Mid-American Conference, Northern Illinois University, 5-2. All of the Tigers' losses came on the road before they won their home opener 8-0 against Western Illinois University on Thursday. The Cardinals enter Columbia, Mo., looking to stay hot after sweeping their two games in the Austin Peay Invitational last weekend. "We have to play our style of baseball," junior reliever Aaron Hammons said. "We did a real good job this last weekend."Ball State's offense will face tough opposition from the Tigers' pitching staff. Junior Kyle Gibson has started the year 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA. The Greenfield native played with Hammons in high school and was named a preseason All-American."Gibson is a first round draft pick," Beals said. "They're solid all the way around, but their strength is pitching. It's going to be tough."Junior catcher Trevor Coleman also earned preseason All-American honors, but has so far struggled at the plate, hitting only .216. Senior outfielder Ryan Lollis leads the Tigers offensively with a .395 average, 13 RBIs and 11 runs.Early in the season the Cardinals' bullpen has been a position of strength. Beals will need that to continue as the team enters a stretch of 10 games in 10 days."They bring a confidence that we're going to be strong in the last three innings of a game," Beals said. "If we're in a close game down the stretch we've got as good a chance as anybody to win the games."Hammons said the bullpen's experience has allowed them to start the season so well."We're veterans on the team," Hammons said. "We did this last year."After the Cardinal's successful weekend, which included beating Indiana University, the team talked about why it had a good weekend Beals said."I told them hard work at practice pays off at game time," Beals said. "We're all willing to do that. We'll pay that price during the week if we know we're going to get that payback on the weekend."Ball State at MissouriGame No. 7First pitch: 7:30 p.m.Taylor Stadium at Simmons FieldPitching matchup: RHP Brenden Stines (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (1-1, 1.38)Weather: 63 degrees, cloudy, from southeast 7 mphBall State at MissouriGame No. 8First pitch: 2 p.m.Taylor Stadium at Simmons FieldPitching matchup: RHP Brad Piatt (1-0, 3.00) vs. RHP Ian Berger (0-1, 6.75)Weather: 67 degrees, scattered thunderstorms, from SSW 20 mphBall State at MissouriGame No. 9First pitch: 5 p.m.Taylor Stadium at Simmons FieldPitching matchup: RHP Adam Quinn (0-0, 6.75) vs. LHP Kelly Fick (1-2, 4.85)Weather: 62 degrees, cloudy, from SSW 15 mphBall State at MissouriGame No. 10First pitch: 2 p.m.Taylor Stadium at Simmons FieldPitching matchup: RHP Kolbrin Vitek (1-1, 6.14) vs. RHP Nick Tepesch (0-1, 6.10)Weather: 51 degrees, scattered thunderstorms, from west 18 mph