After playing the first 17 games of the season on the road, Ball State baseball (8-9) will play its first home game at 3 p.m. March 18 against the Dayton Flyers (3-11).

Cardinal head coach Rich Maloney said his team is ready to finally play at home before starting Mid-American Conference play next weekend.

“This is our last prep, Dayton and then Purdue on [March 22], before our conference starts,” he said. “You better be to be ready to go, because there isn’t tomorrows when you start playing in the conference season.”

Probable starters

Friday: Ball State LHP Kevin Marnon (2-1, 3.42 ERA, 16 K) vs. Dayton RHP Charlie Dant (1-0, 4.09 ERA, 11 K) 

Saturday (game 1): Ball State RHP Zach Plesac (0-1, 5.09 ERA, 18 K) vs. Dayton LHP Mason Kutruff (0-2, 9.58 ERA, 11 K)

Saturday (game 2): Ball State RHP Brendan Burns (2-1, 3.72 ERA, 19K) vs. Dayton RHP Zach Beaver (0-3, 4.70 ERA, 18 K)

Sunday: Ball State RHP Colin Brockhouse (1-2, 3.78 ERA, 12 K) vs. Dayton RHP Sam Brunner (1-2, 6.43 ERA, 13 K)

The Cardinals just returned from a Spring Break road trip that included a 7-1 victory at seventh-ranked Louisiana State University on March 11. Maloney said it was a signature win for the program.

“It’s one thing to be in the hunt, and it’s another thing to be over the top,” he said. “Now mind you, when they were freshmen — the junior class here — they beat Kentucky, … and each year they’ve been beating somebody who’s been ranked. But never at this magnitude in that place, where LSU wins 85 percent of their home games.”

Redshirt junior lefty Kevin Marnon earned the win at LSU by allowing just one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched. Junior right-handed pitcher Zach Plesac, who was scheduled to start [March 19], earned the save after pitching the final 3.1 innings.

Maloney said “it’s quite possible” that he uses the same strategy — using the next day’s starter in relief — throughout the season.

The Cardinals were “really on all cylinders” against LSU, Maloney said, hitting four homeruns in their victory.

On the season, Ball State hits a combined .268 batting average, and while the pitching staff has a 4.66 ERA, Dayton has only hit .216 with a .289 on-base percentage.

Maloney also said returning to Ball Diamond at First Merchants Ballpark Complex brings an additional benefit — the artificial turf field.

“Certainly our field’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s a great field, it’s pretty much the same every day whereas grass gets divots; … it is different. You’ve gotta get used to it."

The March 18 game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. March 19's doubleheaders are scheduled to start at noon and 3 p.m, while the series finale will start at 1 p.m. March 20.