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.
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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.
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Scouts are nothing new around Ball State University games.As usual, plenty of scouts watched Ball State 6-4 loss to Bowling Green State University on Wednesday morning. But one of the scouts in attendance took everyone at VA Memorial Stadium by surprise.General manager Theo Epstein led a strong Boston Red Sox contingent for the game.Epstein was watching Cardinals second baseman Kolbrin Vitek, who is projected to be picked in the first round of the MLB draft June 7. Epstein's attendance Wednesday showed the Red Sox are seriously considering the All-American junior.Boston has the 20th overall pick of the draft.
Understandably devastated after losing the Mid-American Conference regular season championship Saturday, Ball State University picked itself up and got on the bus to go home.Since its 8-7 loss to the University of Toledo that saw its goals get thrown out the window when it was unable to hold a four-run lead in the eighth inning, Ball State has worked to get back in good spirits.It started on the bus ride home from Toledo and continued at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio, on the eve of the MAC Tournament as Ball State's coaches took batting practice."It was a hard loss to take," All-American Kolbrin Vitek said Saturday. "We're just trying to lighten the mood now."The Cardinals (28-27, 19-8) understand their season isn't lost just because they failed to win the MAC regular season title and the No. 1 seed that accompanies it. Instead, Ball State will open the MAC Tournament Wednesday at 9 a.m. against Bowling Green State University.The winner of the double-elimination tournament will win the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week."We're disappointed we didn't win the regular season," coach Greg Beals said. "But we got a great bit of experience this weekend."Ball State won its three-game series at Bowling Green in April, taking the first two games. The Cardinals scored a program-record 32 runs in the second game of the series to easily defeat the preseason MAC East favorites.After scoring 44 runs in the first two games of the series, Ball State managed just three in their loss in the series finale. Vitek is confident about the Cardinals' chances."When we played them we took care of them pretty easily," he said. However, since giving up 32 runs to Ball State, Bowing Green has turned its season around. The Falcons were 8-17 after the big loss. Since that Saturday in April, Bowling Green is 20-4 and on a four-game winning streak.The only teams to defeat Bowling Green in the last six weeks of the season were the University of Michigan, Kent State University and Miami University. The Golden Flashes knocked off the Falcons twice to win the MAC East title."We whooped them pretty good," Beals said. "But give them credit. They bounced back and played awfully good."Bowling Green will throw its ace and last year's MAC Pitcher of the Year Brennan Smith on Wednesday. Ball State will counter with Perci Garner, who beat Smith when the two faced April 9. The Cardinals' offense will be bolstered by the return of shortstop T.J. Baumet, who left Saturday's game in the 7th inning with a separated shoulder. Ball State's next opponent will come from the final game in Chillicothe on Wednesday, between top-seeded Central Michigan University and Ohio University. A win would send the Cardinals into the winner's bracket against the winner of that game, while a loss would leave them one loss away from elimination.Vitek, the newly-minted MAC Player of the Year, is hopeful Ball State will be able to stay in the winner's side, something it's been unable to do since winning the conference tournament in 2006."Winning the first game is the biggest thing," he said. "Usually if you get the first one out of the way, you cruise through a couple wins."
Kolbrin Vitek was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year on Monday, becoming the sixth Ball State University player to earn the honor.Vitek, the Cardinals All-American second baseman and pitcher, is projected to be a first-round pick in June's MLB Draft. He is hitting .368 and his 3.27 ERA is the best in the conference. The junior also leads the MAC in runs scored and is second in home runs and slugging percentage.Vitek is the first Cardinal to win the award since right fielder Brad Snyder in 2003. Snyder is also Ball State's last first round draft pick, going No. 18 overall to the Cleveland Indians. Three Cardinals, including Vitek, were named to first team All-MAC on Monday. Vitek was joined by catcher Zach Dygert and starting pitcher Perci Garner. First baseman Ian Nielsen also garnered second team honors.Ball State will open the MAC Tournament on Wednesday against Bowling Green State University at 9 a.m. The Cardinals are seeded fourth in the double elimination tournament taking place in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Six outs separated Ball State University from the regular season Mid-American Conference championship at the University of Toledo.The Cardinals held a four-run lead in a game they needed to win to bring home their first regular season title since 2001. That wait will continue for Ball State (28-27, 19-8). Toledo scored five runs in the final two innings to win 8-7 Saturday, becoming the first MAC team in more than a year to defeat Ball State in a series. Ball State's loss opened the door for Central Michigan University to win the conference championship, and it finished its end of the deal with a 10-2 victory against Eastern Michigan University. The Cardinals will be the fourth seed in next week's MAC Tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio. Ball State will open the double-elimination tournament against fifth-seeded Bowling Green State University at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Toledo took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning, but Ball State scored seven unanswered runs. Cody Elliott hit a three-run home run to tie the game in the fifth inning. It was Elliott's second game-tying home run of the series.Starting pitcher and designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek helped his cause with a pair of home runs. He gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning and provided what appeared to be all the insurance they would need with a three-run blast in the eighth.But the bullpen couldn't hold the lead for Vitek. Brad Piatt, who was Ball State's Opening Day starter, coughed up two runs in the eighth inning. The Cardinals took a two-run lead into the ninth, but the Rockets were able to work around a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Kirby Campbell.Seth Hobbs relieved Piatt in the ninth and allowed a leadoff home run. He walked the next hitter, who advanced to second on a wild pitch.Hobbs was lifted in favor of Derek Grabner, who had pitched multiple innings both Thursday and Friday. A sacrifice bunt attempt led to a pair of errors on Ball State and Toledo scored the tying run and advanced the winning run to third base. Two intentional walks and a ground out later, Jim Vahalik lifted a sacrifice fly to right field for the winning run. For more on the MAC Tournament and Ball State's loss at Toledo continue to check bsudailynews.com this weekend and read Monday's edition of The Ball State Daily News.
A Mid-American Conference regular season title may not have been the only thing Ball State University lost Saturday.Shortstop T.J. Baumet separated his shoulder in the seventh inning of Ball State's 8-7 loss at the University of Toledo, coach Greg Beals said. Baumet was injured diving for a ball. Tim Issler replaced him in the lineup and Mitch Widau slid from second base to shortstop.Beals said Baumet will have X-rays Sunday that will determine if he can play in the MAC Tournament, which begins Wednesday.This is the second time Baumet has been injured this year. He was hit by a pitch at Bowling Green State University on April 9th and missed two games. Beals said Widau would become the starting shortstop if Baumet had to miss more games.Baumet is hitting .342 with six home runs and 26 stolen bases as Ball State's leadoff hitter. He has also committed 24 errors.Closing time: Despite being in multiple save situations this weekend, Beals did not call on Aaron Hammons, who began the year as Ball State's closer.Beals said Hammons was available this weekend."I didn't feel like the situation was right for him," Beals said.Hammons has appeared in 18 games this year, notching five saves and a 3.71 ERA. He has not appeared in a save situation since April 24 against Central Michigan University, which he converted. The Cardinals were 1-for-3 in save opportunities this weekend. Seth Hobbs and Derek Grabner each blew a save in the series.Kolbrin Vitek, typically a starting pitcher, got the final out of Friday's 8-7 victory for his second save of the year. His first came when he pitched the final six innings of a suspended game at Western Michigan University."Closing the game [Friday], was a cool feeling," Vitek said. "It was something I'd never done before."In the clutch: Center fielder Cody Elliott hit two game-tying home runs this weekend, though both came in Ball State losses.Elliott went 5-for-12 with six RBIs at Toledo, breaking out of a month-long slump. In Elliott's last nine games, dating back to May 1, he went 4-for-30 with four runs and one RBI."We made an adjustment mechanically in his swing this week," Beals said. "It certainly seems like the adjustment paid off."
Coach Greg Beals called the University of Toledo the toughest competition on paper in the Mid-American Conference for Ball State University.Two games into their three-game series at Toledo this weekend, that assessment has proved correct.The Cardinals kept their MAC regular season championship hopes alive with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings Friday. Ball State (28-26, 19-7) came from behind twice to remain in first place. Trailing 5-4 headed into the ninth inning, shortstop T.J. Baumet hit a solo home run to tie the game. The Cardinals had also tied Thursday's game with a solo home run in the ninth, only to lose in the bottom of the inning when reliever Derek Grabner gave up a leadoff home run.Friday, coach Greg Beals called on Grabner again. This time the left-hander was able to keep the Rockets off the scoreboard and send the game to extra innings. Center fielder Cody Elliott, who hit Thursday‘s home run, gave Ball State the lead with an RBI-single in the 10th. With two outs in the inning, left fielder Ryan Chenoweth brought home two insurance runs for the Cardinals.The insurance proved to be much needed in the bottom of the inning. Grabner (4-2) got the first two outs after an error by second baseman Mitch Widau started the inning. Grabner was unable to end the inning however, giving up two runs with two outs.Beals called on Kolbrin Vitek, who is scheduled to start Saturday's game, to close out the victory. Vitek struck out Matt Delewski, who represented the winning run, to earn his second save.Vitek, who also played as Ball State's designated hitter, seemed to snap out of his slump, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Friday was the All-American's first multi-hit game since May 9.Chenoweth went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs. The senior added a home run.Ball State will play its final regular season game of the year Saturday at 1 p.m. A win would give the Cardinals their first MAC regular season championship since 2001.
Four Ball State University seniors will play their final home games this weekend, but their focus continues to be on the Mid-American Conference championship.Ball State will host Northern Illinois University in a three-game series at Ball Diamond in hopes of holding its lead in the MAC West. Ball State has a one-game lead over the University of Toledo and a de facto two-game lead over Central Michigan University because of tiebreakers. Though Northern Illinois is a distant six games behind and in fifth place, it won't roll over this weekend. The Huskies are in ninth place in the conference and only the top-eight teams will play for the MAC title in Chillicothe, Ohio at the end of the month. Northern Illinois trails eighth-place Ohio University by a game.Zach Dygert, one of the four seniors, said this weekend has to be about winning games, not the seniors."This weekend doesn't mean anything if we don't win the MAC outright," he said. "Other than winning this weekend – Senior Day, all of that – is a small issue."Ball State has lost its last two games, both on the road, dropping the series finale at Western Michigan University and a midweek game at Ohio State University. But returning home to Ball Diamond should give the Cardinals a boost. They are 10-2 at home this year.Ball State has its best MAC record to start the season since 2005 and has won nine consecutive conference series dating back to last year. Coach Greg Beals said that is all the Cardinals need to worry about this weekend."Our goal coming into the year was to win every [MAC] series," he said. "So far we've done that. We need to just keep playing good baseball on the weekends."For seniors Aaron Hammons, Ryan Chenoweth, Brad Piatt and Dygert these are the final three times they will play in Muncie. Both Dygert and Hammons have had solid final seasons, while Chenoweth and Piatt have seen their roles reduced by the emergence of other Cardinals. Hammons has five saves as Ball State's closer and Dygert is behind only Kolbrin Vitek in most major offensive categories. Piatt began the year as the Cardinals' Opening Day starter, but has fallen out of the rotation and Chenoweth has become their fourth outfielder, starting just 22 games.Dygert, this year's captain, has begun to reflect on his four years with the Cardinals."I'm really, really enjoying this season more than I have years past," Dygert said. "I know its coming and I'm ready for it. I want to make the most of these last few weeks and games we have."
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Throughout the cold, damp night, Ball State University played catch up at Ohio State University.After giving up a run in each of the first three innings, the Cardinals (24-24) were unable to ever get ahead and lost 8-4 Wednesday night. Though the Buckeyes (26-19) pulled away at the end, the Cardinals had multiple chances to take the lead."We were right in that game," coach Greg Beals said. "We were one play, one hit away more than once."Ball State's best chance to take the lead came in the eighth when they had the bases loaded with one out and two runs home in the inning. Reliever Eric Best walked in a run to cut the Ohio State lead to 5-4, but was able to recover. The senior forced Cody Elliott to pop up and Ryan Chenoweth grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat.Taking advantage of escaping a potentially game-altering jam, the Buckeyes tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the inning when Chenoweth dropped a fly ball in left field that would have ended the inning.Chenoweth had pinch hit for Kirby Campbell in the seventh inning and has not played much left field this year. Beals made it clear that wasn't an excuse for misplaying the ball."It's a fly ball," he said. "High school kids can run over and catch it. It's a catchable ball and it needs to be caught regardless of what position you're playing."Campbell and Chenoweth are filling in for Kory Benbow, who was declared academically ineligible when grades were released by Ball State on Tuesday. The pair combined to go 0-for-4 with a strikeout.Brad Piatt started the game on the mound for Ball State, allowing three runs in three innings. Beals said the pitching staff did everything it needed to give the Cardinals a chance Wednesday."I didn't think Brad was all that bad," he said. "We were right in that game."Ball State has won just one midweek game on the road, defeating UNC-Wilmington during Spring Break. Ball State is 1-6 in midweek road games this year, including its first loss to Indiana University since 1998. Zach Dygert said the Cardinals hadn't noticed the problems, but the captain thinks it might be a focus problem. "You get so ingrained in the conference and the standings and what you've got coming up in the weekend," he said. "You tend to lose a little bit of focus and we need to do a better job gaining that focus. They are games you'd really like to win."But even with their problems Wednesday, Ball State had a chance to beat Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, for the second consecutive year.Dygert, who hit his 10th home run of the season Wednesday, said the Cardinals just came up one play short of a victory."We had opportunities to get big hits, big plays, but it didn't work out for us," he said. "Sometimes that's the way baseball goes."
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Grades and some bad news for Ball State University were released Tuesday morning.The Cardinals found out that left fielder Kory Benbow was academically ineligible after the spring semester. The senior has played his final game in a Ball State uniform.Coach Greg Beals said Wednesday that Benbow will not play again this year.Benbow, a telecommunications major, is a four-year starter for Ball State. He played in 45 of the Cardinals' 47 games this year before being ruled ineligible. Benbow hit .285 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs in his final season.Zach Dygert, the Cardinals' captain, didn't have much to say about Benbow's situation."Kory was a good teammate and is still a good friend," Dygert said. "When the season wraps up, we'll still be friends."Ball State will lose its starting left fielder and six-hole hitter. Stephen Claypool moved into Benbow's spot in the lineup Wednesday at Ohio State University and Kirby Campbell started in left field. Beals said he will use a platoon of Campbell and Ryan Chenoweth.
Ball State University waited through rain all weekend to take on Mid-American Conference doormat Western Michigan University.When the skies cleared and the field dried out Sunday, the Cardinals didn't miss their opportunity. They won two games in a rare tripleheader to complete Friday's suspended game and make up Saturday's rainout. The victories gave the Cardinals (24-23, 15-6) a one-game lead in the MAC and extended their conference series winning streak to nine. Ball State's 15-6 start to conference play is its best since 2005.The Cardinals' big day began with four runs in the top of the fourth inning of the suspended game to take the lead. Kolbrin Vitek would pitch the final six innings, allowing two runs. Ball State hung on for a 4-3 victory and Vitek earned his first career save. Brad Piatt (3-3) picked up the win after throwing two innings of relief Friday after a rain delay forced starter Perci Garner out of the game after the first.The Cardinals struck quickly in game two, beginning with Vitek's solo home run in the first inning. Ball State scored two more in the second, before Western Michigan (12-35, 5-16) cut the lead to one run in the third inning.Ball State broke the game open with seven runs in the fifth inning. The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate and got Cal Bowling all the runs he would need for his fifth victory of the year.Bowling (5-3) allowed three runs in the bottom of the fifth, but no one could score the rest of the way and Ball State won its seventh straight series with a 10-5 victory.The Cardinals needed just three pitchers to get through the first two games Sunday. Derek Grabner saved the bullpen with four scoreless innings in relief of Bowling. The left-hander allowed two hits and struck out seven to lower his ERA in MAC play to 2.03.Throwing just one inning Friday allowed Garner to start game three. Western Michigan scored the first six runs of the game to salvage the final game of the series. Garner (5-2) allowed three runs in four innings for the loss.Ball State used the same lineup throughout Sunday, which led to Zach Dygert catching 23 innings.Sunday was Ball State's first tripleheader since 2007 at Ohio University. The situation was similar four years ago, when the series opener was suspended and completed Sunday in addition to the remaining two games of the series. The Cardinals lost the first two games of that triple dip.
Due to heavy rain in Kalamazoo, Mich., the opening game of Ball State University's series at Western Michigan University was suspended in the fourth inning Friday.The Cardinals were trailing the Broncos 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning. First baseman Chris Lewis hit a solo home run in the third inning off reliever Brad Piatt for the only run of the game. Perci Garner started the game for Ball State, but pitched just one inning.Catcher Zach Dygert was the only Cardinal to reach base in the first three innings, drawing a walk in the second off Casey Webber.The game will be resumed Saturday at 12 p.m. as part of a doubleheader.
As the last finals are wrapping up at Ball State University on Friday and cars stream out of the Lafollette parking lot, the baseball team will begin its three-game series at Western Michigan University.The Cardinals travel to Kalamazoo, Mich. to take on the last-place Broncos at 3 p.m. Friday. Ball State is tied for first place in the Mid-American Conference with the University of Toledo with just three weekends left before the conference tournament. Ball State (22-22, 13-5) is off to its best start in MAC play since 2005, but a disappointing loss Sunday to Eastern Michigan University dropped it into a first-place tie. The Cardinals know they have to take advantage of the chance to open a lead in the division again."We've going to head into Western looking to get that first game," left fielder Kory Benbow said.Western Michigan (11-33, 4-14) is toughest on Friday's when ace Casey Webber pitches. The left-hander has three of the Broncos' four-MAC victories. His 5.25 ERA isn't the most impressive, but it is three runs better than the team's 8.13 mark.Because of finals, Ball State didn't play a midweek game for the first time since before Spring Break. To stay fresh, the Cardinals played a scrimmage on Wednesday. Coach Greg Beals also tried to work the practice schedule around his players' finals."We'll do a lot of individual-type practices," he said. "Guys will come out and get a workout in whenever it fits their schedules."Western Michigan snapped a six-game losing streak with a 9-8 victory at Oakland University on Wednesday. The Broncos have lost their last five MAC games, including getting swept by the Rockets last weekend.Toledo, meanwhile, will host third place Central Michigan University this weekend. The Chippewas are a game behind the leaders, but the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker by virtue of beating them in a head-to-head series. All-American Kolbrin Vitek said Ball State is keeping an eye on the standings as the season draws to a close."We're always looking at them," Vitek said. "You've got to keep an eye on that at all times, but we've just got to keep winning games."
Closing out series has been a problem all year for Ball State University, but it has always stayed upbeat, happy to be winning series.That refrain ended Sunday at Ball Diamond. Ball State lost yet another series finale, snapping its five-game winning streak with a 10-5 loss to Eastern Michigan. Instead of being happy they had won six straight Mid-American Conference series for their best start to conference play since 2005, the Cardinals focused on their missed opportunity."We won the series [Saturday]," coach Greg Beals said. "There was a game to play today and we needed to win today's game." With the loss, Ball State (22-22, 13-5) dropped into a first place tie with the University of Toledo. Eastern Michigan (22-23, 11-7) also was able to cling to its hopes of a division title, pulling within two games of the leaders in fourth place. Ball State opened the game looking like they would be able to finish up their second sweep of the season. Though Kolbrin Vitek (2-4) allowed two runs in the top of the first, Eastern Michigan starter Kendall Lewis (6-2) struggled mightily with his command in the bottom of the inning.Lewis, the National Pitcher of the Week after an 11-inning shutout last week, walked five Cardinals in the first. But with the bases loaded and two runs home, third baseman Stephen Claypool grounded into an inning-ending double play. Eastern Michigan added two more runs in the second and again induced an inning-ending double play, albeit an unusual one, in the bottom of the inning. With one out and runners on first and third, Vitek chased a pitch in the dirt for strike three. But he began to run to first base, which sent Blake Beemer hesitantly to second. Eagles' catcher Matt Skirving threw to second, but the ball was cutoff and returned to home plate to cut down T.J. Baumet trying to score."We let [Lewis] off the hook big time," Beals said. "We should have knocked him out of the game in the first two innings. We allowed him the opportunity to settle in."The Cardinals would pull even again in the fourth inning, but was unable to take the lead. Eastern Michigan left fielder Ken Battiston, who had watched plenty of home runs go over his head in the first two games of the series, broke the tie for good in the sixth with a two-run shot. Only two Ball State batters reached base after the fourth inning. Except for two errors, Lewis retired the lineup in order the last time he faced it. Reliever Steve Weber continued the trend, retiring the final nine Cardinals to earn his first save."I think [Lewis] made an adjustment, but it was also about us not keeping the approach" Kory Benbow said. Ball State has lost three of its last four series finales, including its only two losses at Ball Diamond this year. Those losses can add up in the MAC standings, which the Cardinals are keeping a close watch on."We're always looking at them," Vitek said. "You've got to keep an eye on that at all times, but we've just got to keep winning games."