(Photo credit to James Smith)
Ball State finished the 2017 season with a record of 30-28. They look to incoming talent to give the team a boost, having lost key players to graduation and position changes.
The Cardinals lost Caleb Stayton a pivotal middle-of-the-lineup bat that had key hits all season. To replace him, one player they will look to is a JUCO transfer, power-hitting corner infielder, John Ricotta. As a freshman at Monroe Community College, he earned Region-3, Division II honors for hitting .401 with five home runs and 61 RBIs. This past season Ricotta broke the program record hitting 15 home runs in 197 plate appearances while hitting .410.
Colin Brockhouse was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays as a pitcher last year, but returned after a physical revealed issues in his arm where he had Tommy John surgery in high school. Brockhouse has returned back to BSU and will be making the change to a position player. Last year he was a full time designated hitter, now he will play the field and Coach Maloney is high on Brockhouse saying, “He has plus big league power potential.” They love his athleticism here in Muncie and think after the offseason workouts and his role as a full-time position player, he has potential to offer the Cardinals five tools.
A couple key freshmen are Kyle Nichols, Drey Jameson. Nichols was the Ohio baseball Player of the Year. He is a 6-foot-4 pitcher who sits 90-92 mph and can touch 94. He throws five pitches – curve, slider, changeup, cutter, and fastball – and will earn his innings as a true freshman. Drey Jameson is a two-way player who will see time in centerfield and on the mound, whom Coach Maloney called a “gritty” player. Jameson sits 90-91 mph and can touch 94 which is impressive for his small stature, Maloney said he stands between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10. These two freshmen will be key as the replace Brockhouse and Kevin Mannon on the pitching staff.
The prized target of BSU’s returning players has to be John Baker, chosen to the Freshman All-American team this past season. He had big moments against Louisville and an almost no-hitter last year. Baker throws his fastball around 88-90 mph but Coach Maloney said, “He is a guy that knows how to pitch, and those guys are becoming rare.” He is a good pitcher who mixes his pitches well with a fastball, curve, changeup, and cutter. Evan Marquardt is another returning pitcher looking to have a big season. Marquardt has the stuff to be a really good MLB prospect, listed at 6-foot-6 and with stuff that sits 90-94 mph.
Ball State’s strength this season will without a doubt be its rotation. 2018 will be interesting to watch, especially to see how Ricotta and the Cardinals’ two freshmen develop in a Division I baseball program.