With Ball State baseball’s 2014 season just around the corner, the team sees reasons to be optimistic.

“We are expected to compete with the top teams in our league,” head coach Richard Maloney said. “The guys are hungry … they want to win a prize … We are expecting to compete for the prize.”

The 2013 season saw Maloney, lead the Cardinals to one of the biggest turnarounds in college baseball. The team went from a record of 14-36 in the 2012 season to 31-24 in last year’s season. Had it not been for an extra inning loss against Northern Illinois the last game of the regular season, the Cardinals would have been crowned winners of the Mid-American Conference’s West division.

Preseason standings for the 2014 season have the Cardinals once again competing for the division’s top spot along with Northern Illinois and Central Michigan.

In order to fulfill the predictions, Ball State is going to have to lean heavily on the strength of their starting rotation.

Coming off a strong 2013 campaign, junior Scott Baker is poised to lead one of the deepest pitching staffs in the conference. Baker led the team last season with a 12-2 record with a 2.18 ERA, allowing only 94 hits in 111.2 innings pitched.

Following Baker in the Cardinal’s rotation will be senior T.J. Weir. Weir will be looking to build on a solid 2013 season where, as a junior, he pitched to a 4-2 record and a 3.90 era in 18 appearances. He also tied for the team lead with three saves on the season.

The third and fourth spots in the rotation will be held down by seniors Clay Manering and Jacob Brewer. In 10 appearances last year Manering pitched to a respectable 3.98 era in 20.1 innings pitched. Only three of those appearances came as a starting pitcher, however, so Manering will be asked to take on a much larger role with the team this season.

“[The starting pitchers] are the catalysts,” Maloney stated about his veteran pitchers. “All four of those guys are capable of winning. None of them are off the chart first round draft picks, but all of them are really good, competitive college pitchers. They are good pitchers. I think all four of them have a chance [of playing pro].”

When asked what the everyday batting lineup might look like to begin the season, Maloney smiled and said that he would probably figure it out on the team’s trip to South Carolina.

No matter what the final batting order is, however, right fielder Sean Godfrey is expected to play a key role.

As a junior last season, Godfrey led the Cardinals in batting average (.329), at bats (222), runs scored (45), hits (73), total bases (107) and slugging percentage (.482%) on his way to being named the team’s offensive player of the year. That production, along with his senior leadership, has Godfrey penciled as the teams number three hitter.

“After we had 31 wins last year, and we were able to make it to the tournament championship game these guys are hungry,” Maloney said. “We got as good of a chance as the other teams … we really want to win a championship.”

The men’s baseball season begins over the weekend as the team travels to Spartanburg, S.C. to play four games against Morehead State, Dayton, South Carolina Upstate and Wofford.