Tyler Poslosky

After sweeping a shortened Mid-American Conference series at Buffalo last weekend, Ball State returns to Ball Diamond for a five-game homestand, starting with Butler this afternoon and Northwestern Ohio on Wednesday.

Coach Alex Marconi said he's pleased with the way his team's playing of late, but there are still areas in need of improvement.

"If we continue to pitch the way we have, we're going to be in most games," Marconi said. "We've got to continue to take better at-bats, which is something we've got to work on."

The Bulldogs (15-16) will be making their first trip to Muncie since the Cardinals recorded an 8-3 victory on April 26, 2006. Ball State (10-23) has won four of the past six meetings.

Senior right-handed pitcher Morgan Coombs will start this afternoon for Ball State. Coombs (3-3, 4.50 ERA), who was scheduled to start Sunday versus Buffalo, will be making his sixth start of the season.

Marconi said he was cautious when deciding whether or not Coombs would get the midweek start.

"You've got to be careful with him, especially since he's coming off of two surgeries," Marconi said. "We wanted to make sure he's comfortable throwing [today]."

Wednesday marks the first meeting between Ball State and Northwestern Ohio (15-24).

The Cardinals will send freshman lefty Nestor Bautista (0-4, 9.14 ERA) to the mound. Bautista, who has worked 21 2/3 innings for Ball State, will be making his fifth start of the season.

Bautista has started three midweek games for the Cardinals. He was handed losses against Indiana State on April 6 and Indiana on March 23.

The break from conference play allows Marconi to incorporate different players in his lineup.

Players needing work in the field, at the plate and on the mound will be used in both games.

With just 10 wins on the season, Ball State is in no position for an at-large bid come postseason play, which gives Marconi more reason to get some experience out of his younger players.

Marconi said he uses these mid-week games to rest some of his regular starters, but only to a certain degree.

"It's not like we have 50 guys on our roster," he said. "There's not going to be nine new guys playing. There's just going to be a couple different hitters here and there and more of our bullpen arms to get those guys some extended innings."

First pitch for both games is set for 4 p.m.