The last time Ball State baseball lost eight consecutive games, it was 2012 and the impending Mayan apocalypse was dominating headlines.
This weekend, the Cardinals (11-17, 0-6 MAC) were swept by the Ohio Bobcats (14-12, 3-0 MAC) to extend their losing streak to eight games, but head coach Rich Maloney wants to make it clear that the world isn't ending for Ball State.
"We know we're better than we're playing, there's no question about that," Maloney said. "I mean, 11-9 in our first 20 games against a really good schedule, and then these last eight games, starting against Purdue, we haven't gotten it done."
Bad luck has played a role in the streak — Purdue somehow managed to score 16 runs while recording just two extra-base hits when the streak started March 22, Kent State needed a diving catch in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win in the Mid-American Conference opener on March 24 and the Cardinals were also dealing with some injuries — but the losses are still adding up.
Part of the problem is that Ball State is hitting .215 over the last eight games after hitting .241 in its first 20 — which included four games against Oregon State, which has the top pitching staff in the country.
Ball State statistics (First 20 games)
Batting average: .241
Ball State statistics (Last 8 games)
Batting average: .215
Maloney said the Cardinals are maybe too aware of their struggles at the plate.
"Each man has to look inside their own being and make sure they're doing what they've been taught to do and working hard at it," Maloney said. "They're trying, but they're over-trying. You've just got to have that game where you finally win and break through the ice. And it needs to happen soon."
It doesn't help that the pitchers have struggled at the same time as the bats. Ball State's 7.13 ERA over the last eight games is well above its 2.76 ERA before the streak — which was 15th in the nation at the time.
"It's a humbling sport," said redshirt senior left-handed pitcher Kevin Marnon, who was credited with the loss Sunday. "You go through ups and downs, and your downs — you've got to minimize them. It's just the way baseball is."
In his 22nd season as a head coach, and 12th at Ball State, Maloney said there's no secret motivational speech that will turn around the Cardinals' fortunes.
"If there were some magic words, then everybody would win," Maloney said. "That's what makes winning so hard."
Through Maloney's previous 11 seasons at Ball State, split between 1996-2002 and 2013-16, his teams have lost eight consecutive games just one other time — the Cardinals lost eight straight from March 2-14, 2001. Ball State ended all 11 of those seasons with winning records.
"This is uncharted waters for us," Maloney said. "This is hard on all of us. But we're going to fight, we've got 28 games left. The season is not over. Hey, we've just got to fight and claw and try to get better. I believe these guys are better. I'm hoping that somehow, some way, we find a way to catch fire."
Ball State's next chance to get a win will be at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday in Bloomington, when the Cardinals take on Indiana (14-11-2, 3-2-1 Big Ten).
"Hopefully we'll get that W and get that monkey off our back," Marnon said.