When Ball State University arrives at Ohio University for its first Mid-American Conference series of the year, the Cardinals will find a team very similar to them.
The Bobcats (2-15) have struggled through a difficult nonconference schedule and are dealing with injuries to their pitching staff. Both teams view this weekend as the start to the more important part of the season.
"It's important to get off on the right foot," Ball State coach Greg Beals said. "It's important for us to just play good baseball."
The Bobcats have struggled more than the Cardinals (6-14) this year and are on a seven-game losing streak.
"We've struggled mightily," Ohio coach Joe Carbone said. "It's a new season basically. It doesn't make any difference what we did before."
Ball State had hoped pitcher Morgan Coombs would return from an elbow injury this week to boost it going into conference play, but the senior has been shut down "indefinitely" as the team gets a second opinion.
Beals will use Perci Garner in Coombs' spot in the rotation. Garner has not started a game since returning to baseball after spending two seasons as the third-string quarterback at Ball State. He is 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA and 26 strikeouts in six appearances this year.
"I'm hoping he can give five [innings]," Beals said. "He threw four a couple times. I don't want him to try and do anything more than what he's already done. Hopefully he can get us off to a good start on the weekend."
Ohio is also missing their first two starters and will start three freshman this weekend.
"That's not ideally what we want to do," Carbone said, "but we'll roll the dice with them."
Offensively, the Bobcats are led by center fielder Gauntlett Eldemire. The preseason All-American is hitting .433 with 19 RBIs. Beals called Eldemire one of the MAC's best players.
"We have to make sure he's not the guy that beats us," Beals said. "We need to make sure the Ohio University team beats us and not just Eldemire."
Most importantly, however, Beals is hoping his team plays with a better demeanor.
He said while it has been a small problem all season, it came to a head after a disappointing 11-5 loss at Tuesday at the University of Notre Dame. In practice this week, Beals has made it a focus.
"It's not about winning and losing, its about doing the right thing," Beals said. "Playing with the right attitude, playing with the right intensity and making sure we're making all the right plays."
Ball State at Ohio at Bob Wren Stadium
Game No. 21
First pitch: 6 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Perci Garner (1-0, 6.00 ERA) vs. RHP Seth Streich (0-1, 9.64)
Weather: 45 degrees, sunny, north 9 mph
Game No. 22
First pitch: 3 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Cal Bowling (0-3, 5.85) vs. RHP Ryan Bores (0-4, 7.65)
Weather: 59 degrees, partly cloudy, SSE 8 mph
Game No. 23
First pitch: 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Kolbrin Vitek (0-2, 4.64) vs. RHP Brock Trimbur (0-1, 1.98)
Weather: 58 degrees, thunder showers, south 9 mph