Baseball: Ball State Preview
The Final Home Game of the Season
Ball State (27-24)
Tuesday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Notes: Michigan beat Ball State 12-8 at the Coastal Tournament. That made the
all time series 17-1.
Much has happened since these two teams squared off just 2 months ago (formatting on that has changed by itself, taking out all of my paragraphs breaks). Michigan has seen their Preseason-All American return to the lineup. Ball State has turned their season back around after starting 3-9. Both teams are in the thick of tight conference pennant races.
This time around, the stakes are equally unimportant in the long run, but both teams need to keep their momentum going as they enter their last full week of regular season games.
Quick preview after the jump.
Ball State's Season
As mentioned the previous meeting of these two teams had Ball State exiting at a 3-9 record, struggling to find a team identity. They continued to struggle for another week, dropping games to Illinois and Notre Dame (and going 1-2 against top ten Louisville in between) before really starting to hit stride.
The slump buster you ask? That would be the MAC conference season. The Cardinals have won at least 2 of every three games in each conference weekend, including a sweep at Miami (NTM). Somehow, that type of season will earn you a top 100 pseudo RPI according to Boyd. They sit at #96 as of Monday night.
Ball State's Star
The Cardinals' best hitter is Kolbrin Vitek. The Cardinals' best pitcher is Kolbrin Vitek. The Cardinals' star is definitely Kolbrin Vitek. Michigan won't see him on the mound as he threw a 5-hit shut out against Northern Illinois on Sunday, but Vitek will most certainly hit.
Vitek is currently hitting .363 with a .696 slugging percentage and .448 on base percentage. For those of you bad at math, that's a 1.144 OPS, which is damn good. His 15 homers leads the team, as well as his 17 doubles, and is second in steals with 13 (out of 16 attempts).
The Cardinal's leadoff batter is T.J. Baumet. He enters the game on a 6-game hit streak and a .343 batting average. He's slugging a respectable .479 and getting on base at a .420 clip. He is their major stolen base threat, swiping 24 of 28 on the season.
Behind Vitek is clean up hitter Blake Beemer. Beemer is third on the team with a .337 batting average, but his slugging percentage is one of the lowest on the team, at least of hitters not at the bottom of the order. Beemer does well to get on base, but has only 22 RBI on the season.
Zach Dygert is the other home run threat, blasting 11 on the season. He's hitting .303 with a .594 slugging percentage, second only to Vitek.
On the Rubber
BSU hasn't listed their probable starter yet, but over the last few weeks, their first choice on mid-week games has been Brad Piatt. Piatt is a 6'4", senior right hander. On the season, he's 3-4 with a 6.87 ERA in 13 appearances (9 starts). In 38 innings pitched, he's walked 19 and struck out 23 while giving up a team high 7 homers. Opponents are hitting .373 (!) against him.
His last start was brief. He lasted 3 innings at Ohio State, giving up 4 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks, and no strikeouts. He also had a 5:3 fly ball to ground ball ratio. His starts have progressively gotten shorter over the last few weeks, going from 5 down to three. Hopefully that trend continues.
The Cardinal bull pen is formidable. They have two guys with ERAs in the 3.5-4 range that should be solid. One of those is their closer, Aaron Hammons; the other from that group is Jon Cisna. Of those, Hammons is the bigger strikeout guy with 13 Ks in 16 innings pitched.
Thoughts and Predictions
This game means nothing other than the fact Michigan needs to keep the momentum of Sunday's epic win rolling. Ball State is in a similar situation, with a one game lead over Toledo, the team they face this weekend with the MAC West on the line.
I have no idea who pitches for Michigan. With Matt Miller unavailable, and the need to keep Gerbe rested for Penn State, I have to figure we see Ben Ballantine go as long as he can. After that, it's probably a staff day so everyone can just skip the bullpen and get live work.
The only thing I'm praying against is throwing Katzman, and – to pull an MGoObes – for not the reason that you think. In Katzman's previous two outings, he's been the definition of horrible. Having followed Katzman for a few years now, it's become evident that Katzman is brilliant in every third appearance. Save him for Penn State so he can mow through a couple innings in relief. That's my gamble.
Not knowing who's pitching, this is a totally blind guess, but I think Michigan wins this by 2-3, with the score something like 8-5. The offense is clicking, the pitching, well, let's not look at the pitching.
This is the last home game of the year, so make it out to the Fish to support the team. They'll need every ounce of momentum as they head on the road to glorious Lubrano.