BY DREW DUFF | Ball State Sports Link
After extended stints in Florida, South Carolina and Oregon, the Ball State baseball team will finally come home Saturday to face the Dayton Flyers.
This series with the Flyers is atypical in its style. After Friday’s game was rescheduled, a doubleheader will take place Saturday at First Merchants Ballpark. The two teams meet Sunday for a DH at Dayton.
The Cardinals have won four straight home openers, including a 9-3 win over Dayton last year. In that game, INF Sean Kennedy went 2-for-4 with two doubles and 2 RBIs.
This is the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in the past sixth seasons that these two teams have met on the diamond.
Ball State comes into the series sitting at an even 8-8, but this can be deceiving. Out of 299 teams in Division I college baseball, the Cardinals have the 44th toughest schedule. They have played teams such as the defending national champions Coastal Carolina, No. 6 Louisville and No. 4 Oregon State.
The Cardinals look to rebound from a tough series against the Beavers in Corvallis, Ore., dropping all four games.
To give some perspective however, Oregon State has reached the NCAA Tournament in 10 of the last 12 seasons. They also have won 81 percent of their home games since 2014. Very few, if any, teams could have ousted the Beavers on the road.
There are so many reasons Ball State baseball fans should be excited about 2017. The Cardinals topped No. 22 Maryland in their season opener, making it five straight seasons in which they have defeated a ranked opponent.
The team also boasts a talented freshman class, which includes John Baker, who was named co-Mr. Baseball in the state of Michigan following his senior season.
At the core of this team is its senior class. This class was Coach Rich Maloney’s first since his return to Muncie.
These seniors boast 104 wins, one MAC tournament championship and two MAC West division titles. They have played a major role in turning the program around and they have the ability to take this team to new heights this season.
Last season, the Cardinals biggest strength was their offensive production. They led the MAC in runs scored, RBI, doubles and total bases.
With the addition of transfers Justin Kirkpatrick and Jeff Riedel, Ball State has added more weapons to an already potent offense.
If the Cardinals want to sweep the Flyers, they will need the bats to come alive in full force.
Milestone Ahead: Head coach Rich Maloney needs one more victory to reach 400 career wins at Ball State. This is Maloney’s second stint as the Cardinals’ head coach and his 12th year overall with Ball State. He is 399-245-1 (.619) at Ball State and 740-489-1 (.602) overall as a head coach.
Quality Competition: The Cardinals have faced two teams during the non-conference portion of the schedule that have gone on to achieve the No. 1 national ranking this spring – Louisville and Oregon State. Those two teams currently hold the top two spots in the majority of the baseball polls. Ball State also faced defending NCAA champion Coastal Carolina in late February.
Scoring Early Equals Wins: Ball State is 6-2 when scoring first and 2-6 when the opposition scores first. The Cardinals have been solid at holding leads as well, going 8-1 when leading after six innings.