Ball State hits the road in must win scenario

If Ball State has any hopes of turning a very disheartening and disappointing season into something worth writing home about, it must start winning and doing so swiftly.

Despite showing signs of liveliness at times, the Cardinals (12-32) have struggled for the majority of the season.

Their (8-12) mark in the Mid-American Conference doesn’t sit well with anyone, and first year coach Alex Marconi will be the first to admit it. His high expectations set at the beginning of the season have not been met. At least not yet.

For now, the goal is to string together a winning streak to slip into the MAC Tournament, which is set to begin on May 25, less than two weeks away.

Ball State will have their hands full as it travels to DeKalb, Ill., for a pivotal three-game weekend series with the Northern Illinois Huskies (24-22), who currently sit in fourth place in the MAC West division with a record of (12-9).

At first glance, it appears that barring any farfetched outcomes, the Huskies will secure one of the eight spots in the tournament.

The foreseeable future isn’t so clear for the Cardinals, who are 1 1/2 games behind Western Michigan, who swept them last weekend, in the West.

The Huskies enter this weekend’s series, which is set to begin Friday with a 3 p.m. first pitch, holding a .277 team batting average, fifth best in the conference.

Junior infielder Alex Jones owns the fifth best batting average in the MAC, at .356, and sophomore Jamison Wells leads the team and is second in the conference with 21 steals on the season.

The Cardinals will try to contain the Huskies offense by sending Cal Bowling, Derek Grabner and Devin Wilburn to the mound.

Bowling, a junior right-hander, will be making his team-leading 13th start of the season. Despite owning a (4-5) record and a 3.15 ERA, Bowling has tossed a team-high 74 1/3 innings, including three complete games for Ball State this season.

The tone of the series will certainly depend on Bowling, who has the opportunity to give Ball State a much needed victory in Friday’s series opener.

It’s been a rocky last few outings for Bowling. Bowling is winless in his last three starts and has recorded an 8.24 ERA over that span. He’s also allowed 20 hits and his command has been sketchy, as he’s walked and struck out a combined six hitters.

Nonetheless, Ball State will need a solid outing from its No. 1 pitcher Friday afternoon, otherwise, the series could potentially be over after one game.

Look for Bowling to pitch to contact, as he’s done so all season. The key is for Bowling to be effective with his fastball and off-speed pitches.

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