About an hour drive northeast of Indianapolis is Muncie, IN, a town with a population of 70,000 and home to Ball State University. The university is the second largest employer in Munchie and Ball State has the privilege to call one of those employees Head baseball Coach, Rich Maloney.
Coach Maloney is entering his 13th season with Ball State in his second stint (coached Michigan for 10 years in between). Coaching in the Big Ten and the MAC has undoubtably given him some experience with power five conferences and non power five conferences and the role each play in a sport like baseball.
“The MAC is a wonderful conference that certainly doesn’t have the same resources as the Power 5 conferences” Coach Maloney says about the Mid-American Conference “but competes extremely well in all our sports.”
There is no denying the recruiting is different for non power five conferences. “The coaches in the MAC have done a great job of identifying athletes that with development can be good if not better than their competitors”, says Coach “In my years in the MAC we have made our mark on finding late bloomers and developing them.”
Coach Maloney was apart of something special at Ball State when in 2002 he coached future number one overall pick Bryan Bullington. Although Bullington was not the success everyone was hoping for he still made MLB appearances from 2005-2010. Developing a talent like Bryan in 2002 is the exact coaching style that led to Maloney being offered the head coaching position at Michigan.
The Cardinals are looking to get back to that coaching style and the NCAA Tournament where they last appeared in 2006. The only way for that to happen when you’re a mid-major is to win the MAC Tournament. In a season that they went 30-28 (14-10 MAC), the worst record in Maloney’s second stint, they are very optimistic in the underclassmen to lead them.
“We lost several outstanding offensive players from last years team and those will be tough shoes to fill but we have several players capable of picking up the slack from those losses” Coach says, “I very much expect us to be in the thick of the Mid-American Conference race.”
Recruiting is the key to any success in college sports and baseball is no different. If we are giving out grades for recruiting classes, the Ball State’s 2017 class would get an “A”. The Cardinals landed the 2017 PBR Player of the year of Ohio in (RHP) Kyle Nicolas and the 2017 PBR Player of the Year of Indiana in (OF/RHP) Drey Jameson.
Along with two freshmen they will lean on sophomore (RHP) John Baker. Baker was selected a 2017 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American and with 10 starts last year is expected to gain even more starts this year.
Being that in baseball a player must either get drafted out of high school or after their junior year of college, Ball State will have some draft picks on their roster for at least two seasons if not more. Under the helm of Coach Maloney, the expectation is to get back to the NCAA Tournament with this class of MLB prospect talent.
The Cardinals will kick off their season on February 16th in Charleston, South Carolina as part of the Shipyard Classic.