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Sophomore first baseman Ian Nielsen and the Cardinals travel to ninth-ranked Louisville for a three-game series. Friday's game is set for a 3 p.m. first pitch at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Photo by: BSU Photo Services /BSU Photo Services
Baseball Travels To No. 7 Louisville This Weekend
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What's On Tap . . .
Ball State continues its 23-game road swing to open the 2010 season this weekend as it travels to ninth-ranked Louisville for a three-game series in a battle of Cardinals at Jim Patterson Stadium ... This weekend's series will mark the third meeting for Ball State against a nationally ranked opponent (Arkansas and Coastal Carolina) and the second weekend series this season at a top 15 opponents (Arkansas) ... The Cardinals enter the weekend with a 5-11 overall record after posting a 3-6 mark in their annual spring break trip ... The trip consisted of nine games in a 10-day stretch in South and North Carolina ... Ball State is led by eighth-year head coach Greg Beals ... Louisville enters the weekend ranked ninth in the country by numerous polls and own a 15-1 overall record ... The Cardinals opened the season with 12 straight wins, including a three-game sweep over defending MAC regular season champion Bowling Green ... Louisville's only loss came last weekend as it won two out of three at No. 17 Mississippi ... The Cardinals are led by fourth-year head coach Dan McDonnell.

Dygert Named To Johnny Bench Award Watch List . . .
Senior catcher Zach Dygert has been named to the 2010 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award delivered by Papa John's Pizza ... The Johnny Bench Award is awarded awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate catcher based on athletic ability, sportsmanship, team leadership and character.

Dygert, a 48th round draft pick by the Washington Nationals last season, is a two-time All-Mid-American Conference selection. He finished last season fourth on the team with a .350 batting average as he tallied 69 hits. He was second on the team with 58 RBI and also scored 42 runs ... This season, he is second on the team with 13 RBI and three home runs during the first 16 games of the year. He recorded a big eighth inning home run this season to lead the Cardinals to an upset victory over No. 15 Arkansas in the first weekend of the year.

Dygert is one of four catchers from the MAC on the 2010 Johnny Bench Watch List. He is joined by Toledo's Aaron Dudley, Bowling Green's Tyler Elkins and Akron's John Turk.

Series History . . .
Ball State and Louisville have met 18 times prior to this weekend's series ... BSU trails the all-time series by an 11-7 margin as Louisville has won the last four meetings between the two teams.

Last season, Ball State suffered a 5-4 12th inning loss at Louisville (4/1/09) ... The game was a pitchers' duel as seven Ball State pitchers combined to allow just three earned runs and limited Louisville to only seven hits in the loss ... The two teams last played a weekend series during the 2006 season ... They split the four game series with Ball State sweeping the Saturday doubleheader (5-3, 6-4) while Louisville won the series opener and finale (4-0, 4-2)

Last Time Out . . .
Ball State posted a 1-2 record last weekend at the Caravelle Resort Classic, hosted by Coastal Carolina ... The Cardinals suffered a 12-8 loss to Michigan and a 10-3 loss to Illinois, while recording a 14-5 victory over Lipscomb.

On the weekend, junior second baseman Kolbrin Vitek paced the Cardinals' attack as he posted a .667 (8-of-12) batting average in the three games ... Vitek tallied three doubles on his way to a .917 slugging percentage ... Freshman third baseman Stephen Claypool turned in his best weekend as he posted a .583 (7-of-12) batting average in the three games and drove in four runs.

On the mound, senior right-hander Scott Brothers Jr. earned the Cardinals' lone victory as he worked 4.0 innings of shutout baseball in relief against Lipscomb ... Right-hander Heath Riley made two appearances on the weekend and posted allowed just two hits in 2.2 innings of work.

This Weekend's Starters . . .
Ball State will send three right-handers to the hill this weekend ... Senior Brad Piatt gets the nod Friday, sophomore Cal Bowling and junior Kolbrin Vitek Sunday afternoon ... Louisville will counter with right-hander Thomas Royse, left-hander Dean Kiekhefer and right-hander Tony Zych.

Piatt enters Friday's game with a 0-1 record and a 6.75 ERA in 10.2 innings ... He will be making his fourth start of the season and has tallied eight strikeouts while walking nine batters ... Bowling will be making his fifth start of the year as he has a 0-2 record ... He has a 6.35 ERA in 17.0 innings of work while striking out 10 batters ... Vitek will be making his fifth start of the season as well as he has a 0-2 record with a 5.71 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched ... He has tallied nine strikeouts and has walked five batters.

Royse will be making his fifth start of the season as he has a 3-0 record on the year with a stellar 0.74 ERA in 24.1 innings of work ... He has struck out 22 batters while walking 10 ... Kiekhefer brings a 1-1 record with a 4.95 ERA in 20.0 innings of work ... He has struck out 14 batters while walking eight ... Zych, a freshman All-American honoree last season, has a 1-0 record with a 9.64 ERA in 14.0 innings pitched.

Scouting The Cardinals . . .
Ball State enters the weekend with a 5-11 overall record with all 16 games coming on the road ... The Cardinals are batting .272 this season and have scored 88 runs in 16 games ... The pitching staff owns a 5.58 ERA on the season as opponents are batting .283 on the year.

Junior second baseman Kolbrin Vitek leads the team offensively with a .418 batting average ... He also leads the team with 28 hits, 18 runs scored, 16 RBI, six doubles and four home runs ... Sophomore Ian Nielsen is second on the team with a .299 batting average while senior catcher Zach Dygert is second with 13 RBI.

In the bullpen, Heath Riley has made a team-high seven appearances and has a 3.38 ERA in 8.0 innings of work ... Seth Hobbs has also made seven appearances and has a 5.87 ERA in 7.2 innings of work ... Senior closer Aaron Hammons has appeared in just three games after coming back from an injury and has one of the Cardinals' three saves this season.

Scouting Louisville . . .
Louisville enters the weekend as the ninth-ranked team in the country with a 15-1 overall record and a 10-0 mark at home at Jim Patterson Stadium ... The Cardinals have scored 131 runs this season and are batting .327 on the year ... On the mound, Louisville owns a 3.10 ERA and is holding opponents to a .211 batting average.

Adam Duvall leads the team with a .413 batting average ... Duvall also leads the team with 31 hits, 23 runs scored and 12 doubles while he is third on the team with 17 RBI ... Phil Wunderlich leads the team with 21 RBI and is tied with Duvall with six home runs.

In the bullpen, closer Neil Holland has made eight appearances has has a 0.54 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched and leads the team with three saves ... Gabriel Shaw has also appeared in eight games and has a 1.64 ERA in 11.0 innings of work.

Cardinals Tabbed Favorites . . .
Ball State earned their Mid-American Conference record seventh MAC West Division title in 2009 after closing the year with five straight wins to chase down Toledo for the division title ... The Cardinals have now won seven of the 13 MAC West Division titles since divisional play began in 1998 ... Only Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan have won MAC West titles with both teams claiming three each.

Ball State enters the 2010 season as the preseason favorite to claim the MAC West Division and MAC Tournament titles, as chosen by the league's head coaches in the preseason poll ... The Cardinals received a league-high 72 points to claim the MAC West Division's top spot and were chosen by five coaches to claim their second MAC Tournament title in program history.

Road Warriors . . .
Ball State opens the 2010 season with 23 straight games away from home, including all of its games in the months of February and March ... The Cardinals will play 18 true road games and five games in neutral sites to open the season ... Ball State will not open the home portion of the 2010 schedule until April 2 when it hosts Miami in its second Mid-American Conference series of the year ... The Cardinals will play a total of 40 road games this season, while only playing 16 games at Ball Diamond.

Vitek Honored By MAC . . .
Junior second baseman Kolbrin Vitek was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week (March 1), marking his second straight weekly honor from the league to open the season ... Vitek, a preseason All-America selection, paced the Cardinals' attack at UAB as he posted a .389 batting average (7-of-18) and a .944 slugging percentage in the four-game series ... He tallied three home runs on the weekend while scoring a team-high six runs and driving in four runs ... On the season, he is leading the team and fourth in the MAC with a .438 batting average as he leads the conference with 14 hits in his first seven games ... He also tossed 5.0 innings of one-run baseball Sunday as he limited the Blazers to just five hits.

Coombs & Vitek Honored . . .
Senior right-hander Morgan Coombs was named the Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Week and the CollegeBaseball360.com National Primetime Pitcher of the week (Feb. 22) after leading the Cardinals to a 5-2 victory over nationally ranked Arkansas ... Coombs tossed 5.0 strong innings of relief Saturday afternoon ... He did not allow an earned run during the outing as he limited Arkansas to just four hits ... He struck out a career-high eight batters in his first stint as a middle reliever after leading the Cardinals with six saves last year.

Junior second baseman Kolbrin Vitek was named the MAC West Player of the Week for his performance against No. 15 Arkansas ... Vitek, a preseason All-America selection, posted a .500 batting average (7-of-14) in the three-game series against the nationally ranked Razorbacks ... He tallied a season-high four hits in the Cardinals' 5-2 victory over Arkansas as he scored three runs and drove in a run ... This is the fourth MAC weekly honor of his career.

Vitek Earns Preseason Honors . . .
Junior second baseman Kolbrin Vitek has been tabbed as one of the top players in not only the Mid-American Conference but in the country as he has received preseason All-America honors by three different publications ... Vitek was named Second Team All-America by Baseball America, Louisville Slugger and Ping! Baseball.

Vitek earned First Team All-MAC honors at the utility position last season as he played third base and was one of the Cardinals' weekend starters ... He finished second on the team and sixth in the MAC with a .389 batting average ... He also led the MAC in doubles (25), was second in RBI (67), third in slugging percentage (.736), third in total bases (153) and was fourth on the mound in opponent batting average (.268).

Vitek led the conference in MAC games with a .455 average and a .828 slugging percentage against conference foes as he drove in 30 runs ... He also posted a 4-3 record with a 5.65 ERA in 11 starts this season as part of the weekend rotation ... He set the Ball State single-season record for walks per nine innings at 1.41 as he only allowed nine free passes in 57.1 innings.

Vitek continued his strong play over the summer as he was picked as Baseball America's top prospect in the Great Lakes League (GLSCL) ... He won the league's first Triple Crown in 23 years as he hit .400, tallied six home runs and drove in 38 runs ... He also stole 10 bases and was named the GLSCL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player.

Dygert Named Team Captain . . .
Senior catcher Zach Dygert has been named the 2010 team captain by head coach Greg Beals ... Dygert posted a .350 batting average last spring and was second on the team with 58 RBI when he earned First Team All-Mid-American Conference accolades ... He was selected in the 48th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft by the Washington Nationals ... Collegebaseballinsider.com rated Dygert as the best fielding catcher in the MAC for the third straight season in its preseason publication.

Looking Ahead . . .
The Cardinals continue their road swing Tuesday evening as they travel to Notre Dame for their final non-conference contest before Mid-American Conference play.

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