The road back to Ball Baseball Diamond has been a long one for Ball State University.
Since the season began Feb. 19, the Cardinals (8-15) have played all 23 games on the road, visiting teams in seven states.
So the team is understandably excited about its home opener Friday at 3 p.m. against Miami University (11-12).
"It's going to be fun to get back out here," outfielder Kory Benbow said. "You can tell the excitement level is up a little bit, not having to worry about travelling, packing, getting everything ready."
Ball State carries some momentum into this weekend after winning its first series of the year last week at Ohio University. The Cardinals got a big weekend from All-American Kolbrin Vitek, who was named a player of the week by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper this week. The junior threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits in the rubbermatch with the Bobcats. He also went 6-for-12 at the plate during the series.
Overall, Ball State played well in two crucial aspects of the game, which allowed it to be successful.
"We got good, quality starting pitching, we need to continue to get that," coach Greg Beals said. "We played good defense, and we played good defense this week in practice. That's something we need to maintain."
The pitching staff will still be without Friday starter Morgan Coombs, who is out indefinitely with an elbow injury. Last week Perci Garner filled in beautifully, winning his first career start.
Taking over Garner's spot as the relief ace has been left-hander Derek Grabner.
Grabner transferred to Ball State from Lincoln TrailCollege this year. After a rough start to the season, the junior has allowed just two runs in the last 9 1/3 innings.
"His last couple outings have been very good," Beals said. "He pitched well at Louisville and he pitched well at Ohio University. He is showing that he is more than capable of handling that role."
While the entire team is happy to be home, the hitters are even happier. The wind will likely be blowing out at Ball Diamond this weekend, creating a very hitter-friendly park. Benbow said he enjoys those days, but they can't start swinging for the fences.
"We're trying to stick to our gameplan," he said. "Not trying to get too big when the wind is blowing out, staying back, hitting with the barrel."
Miami at Ball State at Ball Diamond
Game No. 24
First pitch: 3 p.m.
Pitching matchup: LHP Tyler Melling (1-2, 8.04 ERA) vs. RHP Perci Garner (2-0, 4.70)
Weather: 76 degrees, partly cloudy, south 16 mph
Game No. 25
First pitch: 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Brooks Fiala vs. RHP Cal Bowling (0-3, 5.47)
Weather: 64 degrees, scattered thunder storms, SSW 24 mph
Game No. 26
First pitch: 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: RHP Mac Thoreson vs. RHP Kolbrin Vitek (1-2, 3.49)
Weather: 71 degrees, partly cloudy, SSW 17 mph