Weather delay; Broncos lead 4-0

T.J. caught Vinnie Booker, the first Western Michigan hitter of the game, looking at strike three for the first out of an ever-so important three-game, Western divisional weekend series. What appeared to be the start of a good afternoon for Weir quickly evaporated into thin air.

The next two Broncos’ reached base via hits before third-baseman Ryan McMillin drove in the game’s first run with a one-out sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring designated hitter Zach Thoma.

Weir found himself in a similar situation in the second frame. After setting down leadoff man Jared Kujawa on strikes, Weir hit shortstop Andrew Sohn. With one down and a runner on first, first baseman Troy Forton lined a sharp ground-ball to Cardinals’ shortstop Elbert Devarie, who settled, crow-hopped, pivoted and fired to second for what appeared to be the beginning of a 6-4-3 double play. But second baseman Mitch Widau fumbled the throw and both runners were safe.

Sophomore catcher Mitch Overley made up for Widau’s error by throwing out Sohn at third base for the second out of the inning. Weir got out of the jam by fanning second baseman Dan Shutes to end the inning.

The third inning proved to be back-breaker for Weir, who was unable to work his way out of trouble. After allowing a leadoff single from Booker, McMillin launched a two-run home run to left-center field, the first of back-to-back home runs for the Broncos in the inning.

By the time lightning struck, the Broncos were up 4-0 and still batting in the top of the third.

***

Starting Lineups

Western Michigan 

Vinnie Booker, cf

Zach Thoma, dh

Jack Scanlon, rf

Ryan McMillin, 3b

Patrick Duncan, lf

Jared Kujawa, c

Andrew Sohn, ss

Troy Forton, 1b

Dan Shutes, 2b

Ball State

Wes Winkle, cf

Mitch Widau, 2b

T.J. Weir, p

Billy Wellman, 1b

Blake Beemer, lf

Cody Campbell, rf

Tim Issler, 3b

Elbert Devarie, ss

Mitch Overley, c

***

As the season draws closer to the Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Cardinals (11-29) will host the Broncos of Western Michigan in a Western divisional showdown to close out the home portion of the 2012 regular season schedule.

The series kicks off at 3 p.m. Friday with games 2-3 taking place Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.

***

After a taxing week filled to the brim with final exams, coach Alex Marconi took it easy on his players as they devoted all of their free time to their academics. Marconi lightened the workload during practice. Instead of having intense practice sessions, Marconi insisted on having fun and loosening the mood of the team.

“I know they’re physically tired and now they’re mentally tired with the season plus exams this week,” Marconi said. “We did a couple of drills out there and played a couple of games to have some fun.”

But Marconi made sure his team got some mechanical work in prior to the weekend series with the Broncos.

It’s been anything but easy for the Cardinals, who’ve dropped three straight and four of their last five. But this three-game set with the Broncos could make or break the boys donning the red and white. At 6-12, the Cardinals find themselves in the cellar of the division. Meanwhile, the Broncos sit in fourth place at 7-10.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher for the Cardinals, who are looking to get back into the mix for the division. Marconi will go with sophomore right-hander T.J. Weir (2-7, 5.61 ERA) in the series opener, and Marconi has instilled all of his confidence in his young pitcher.

“I can say that T.J. Weir has done a tremendous job of helping us lesson the loss of Cal. T.J. has done a great job of keeping us in games on Fridays. That’s the competitor in him.”

Weir has done just that since taking over as the No. 1 starter after senior ace Cal Bowling broke his right hand. Weir might own a 1-2 mark over his last three starts, but he’s tossed a combined 19 2/3 innings, allowed eight earned runs off 18 hits while fanning 14.

Marconi said it’s crucial for his team to play their game. That will determine the outcome of this weekend.

“If we have good at-bats, if we have good pitching, play good defense, we’re going to have a chance to win. We’ve done that consistently here over these last four or five weeks and we just need to continue to do that.”

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