Cal Bowling hasn't needed his alarm clock this week. The senior right-hander is so excited for baseball season to begin Friday; he has been waking up well before he needs to each morning. Tuesday, it was an hour early. Wednesday, an hour and a half.
"I won't sleep," Bowling said earlier this week. "It's awesome. I love it, though."
Ball State will open its season at noon in Spartanburg, S.C., against Dayton with Bowling getting the nod as the Cardinals Opening Day starter for the second year in a row. Last season, he took a no-decision after allowing two runs in 4 1/3 innings at Kennesaw State. Ball State went on to lose 3-2 in the ninth inning.
This year, Bowling said he feels better as the season begins. He was just three months removed from back surgery at this time last year. He had another surgery this offseason to repair a herniated disk, but it happened six months ago, giving Bowling plenty of time to recover.
"My body actually feels strong instead of trying to rush it back," Bowling said. "I feel fine."
In addition to playing Dayton on Friday, Ball State will visit USC-Upstate on Saturday and Wofford on Sunday. There are four schools convening in Spartanburg to play a loose round-robin tournament with Wofford and USC-Upstate playing host.
The result is the Cardinals getting to play three different teams in one weekend. Marconi said his opinion is split on whether he likes playing multiple teams in a weekend, as opposed to a traditional three-game series
"There's good where you get a fresh look at three different teams," Marconi said. "There's bad where it's a little more difficult to prepare for three teams. Whereas if it was one team, you know what you're getting the whole weekend."
After getting swept on opening weekend last season and losing 17 of their first 19 games before starting Mid-American Conference play, the Cardinals want to get off to a better start this season. Marconi is optimistic the added year of experience he and most of his young players have will be beneficial.
Already, Marconi said the Cardinals have looked better in preseason practices. But until they get out on the field, he can't know for sure.
"I can say that we are way ahead – we are miles ahead now – from where we were last year," Marconi said. Does that mean we're going to win? No, but it means we're miles ahead and that's all I know at this point."
Ball State vs. Dayton
Game No. 1
First pitch: 12 p.m. Friday
Pitching matchup: RHP Cal Bowling (5-5, 3.41 ERA in 2011) vs. RHP Burny Mitchem (8-2, 2.07)
Weather: 58 degrees, mostly cloudy, NNE 5 mph
Ball State at USC-Upstate
Game No. 2
First pitch: 4 p.m. Saturday
Pitching matchup: LHP Nestor Bautista (0-5, 9.11) vs. LHP Scott DeCecco (5-6, 5.08)
Weather: 57 degrees, showers, ENE 6 mph
Ball State at Wofford
Game No. 3
First pitch: 1 p.m. Sunday
Pitching matchup: RHP T.J. Weir (1-1, 6.75) vs. RHP Jesse Morris (0-0, 6.65)
Weather: 52 degrees, rain, NNW 16 mph