Ball State, Indiana State starting lineups

Starting Lineups

Indiana State

Curry, CF (.378/.411/.462)

Kraemer, 3b (.326/.463/.381)

Ort, 1b (.383/.585/.450)

Lucas, C (.404/.660/.453)

Burnam, LF (.385/.438/.430)

McCurdy, DH (.431/.647/.516)

Hileman, RF (.196/.304/.361)

Wampler, SS (.290/.366/.350)

Miera, 2b (.286/.357/.459)

Ball State

Winkle, CF (.333/.426/.327)

Widau, DH (.276/.345/.328)

Beemer, LF (.261/.275/.363)

Weir, SS (.280/.360/.349)

C. Campbell, 1b (.250/.393/.317)

Estep, 3b (.256/.308/.326)

Devarie, 2b (.255/.309/.323)

Godfrey, RF (.213/.277/.309)

Wellman, C (.182/.227/.217)

***

Ball State departed Dayton, Ohio Tuesday night with a sour taste in its mouth. The Cardinals (4-15) had just been thumped 14-5 against an opponent that appeared to be evenly matched with them. But in the world of baseball, a short memory is vital, and the Cardinals will need to quickly forget the outcome that transpired just 23 hours ago, as they play host to the Sycamores of Indiana State in their home opener at Ball Diamond Wednesday.

Following Tuesday’s game, I got a chance to catch up with second-year coach Alex Marconi and asked him what the vibe of the team will be for the home opener.

“I think everybody is relieved a little bit to not have to get on a bus to go play a baseball game,” he said. “It’ll be a good change of pace and gives us an opportunity to play at our home ballpark.”

The Cardinals’ skipper couldn’t be more right. After all, the club’s 19-game road trip to open the 2012 season wasn’t much of success. The team went a combined 4-15 on the trip and dropped two of three in its Mid-American Conference series opener at Akron last weekend. In the 19 games on the road, the Cardinals managed to score just 65 runs as opposed to their opponent’s 138. As a team, the Cardinals are batting .244 compared to their opponent’s mark of .296.

Those are just some of the statistics that stand out. For now, the focus turns to the Sycamores, who are by no means a cupcake. Since being swept at Southeastern Louisiana to open the season, the Sycamores have been on fire, posting a 20-2 record since then. The Sycamores have scored 10 or more runs in nine of their 25 games this season, all of which resulted in victories.

Offensively, the Sycamores are dangerously explosive, especially with junior catcher Jeremy Lucas and his .404 batting average (second best on the team), his team-leading 38 hits, 34 RBI, 62 total bases and .660 slugging percentage.

The Cardinals will turn to sophomore left-hander Nestor Bautista (0-3, 14.21 ERA) to keep the Sycamores’ lethal offense at bay. Bautista has made four starts this season and five appearances, recording just 12 2/3 innings, allowing 20 hits and 20 earned runs. Yes, Bautista’s statistics are both brutal and alarming. And yes, the young lefty has struggled of late. What a better time to start Bautista against a very good offensive team in an attempt to regain his confidence. Am I expecting Bautista to go the distance? Absolutely not. Am I expecting him to cruise through the Sycamores’ lineup? Of course not. This is a very important start for Bautista, especially if he wants to get his coach’s confidence back after a few shaky outings.

On the mound for the Sycamores will be freshman right-hander Kyle Rupe (4-0, 0.72 ERA). The rookie has been sensational for head coach Rick Heller this season by tossing a combined 25 innings, allowing just two earned runs off of 23 hits while striking out 18.

The Cardinals certainly have their work cut out for them. They will need to be patient, but aggressive and work the count to their favor. Though Bautista’s four starts haven’t overly impressive, the lefty hasn’t received much run support from the offense. In his first two starts combined, Bautista received a lone run from the Cardinals’ bats. His start at Mizzou on March 3 was his worst of the season as Bautista failed to make it out of the first inning, surrendering five runs, four of which were earned. Four days later at Tennessee, the offense gave Bautista a three-run lead to work with. But he couldn’t maintain it, ultimately allowing the Volunteers to jump ahead 6-3 before he was yanked.

That’s all for now. I’ll have more coverage from Ball Diamond closer to game time.

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