Coming off of a successful 38-19 season a year ago that included a MAC West regular season title, Ball State is hoping to make a run at the MAC's auto bid this season.
The cornerstone for having a successful 2015 campaign lies in the hands of sophomore pitcher Zach Plesac, out of Crown Point, IN. Plesac is the son on Dan Pleasac, who played multiple seasons in the league and now works as an analyst on MLB Network. Last season, the six-foot-three, 200 pound sophomore brought home multiple pieces of hardware for the Cardinals, including All-MAC first team and multiple National Freshman Pitcher of the Year awards. The communications major had a 2.11 ERA and went 12-2 in 25 appearances.
Who Pleasac will be throwing his pitches to is another big name to watch for Ball State. Sophomore Jarett Rindfleisch played in 42 games last season and hit at .352, all as a freshman. He was named a Freshman All-American and was the MAC's Freshman Player of the year.
But the news that makes 2015 even better is that the Cards are starting 2015 ranked #31, and that they only have four seniors on the roster, Jarrett James, Scott Baker, Elbert Davarie and Brandon Estep. Estep will likely be taking on a bigger role than James will, considering that he started 41 games last year and had his best season hitting, batting at .259. James, on the other hand, out of Whitney Young High School in Chicago, managed just 26 appearances and hit only .125 in 19 at bats. Baker, a team captain and pitcher out of North Manchester, Indiana, will be aiming for a return to his 2013 self, when he went 12-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 16 starts. Last year, his ERA rose to 4.04, as he went 7-5 in the same amount of starts. Davarie will also be looking for a return to 2013 levels, at least in games played, as he played in 55 games that year, compared to just 28 a season ago.
The hometown kid, sophomore infielder Alex Maloney, hit .250 last year as an infielder, and played and started in 54 of the Cards' 57 games in 2014. He also pitched in seven games, with five holds and a 3.68 ERA.
Another hometown product, junior Nick Hollowell, played in 21 games and started seven times at DH. He should be taking up a larger role at the position this season.
Junior Ryan Spaulding will also be looking to have a repeat of 2014, when he was named to the All-MAC first team and appeared in 55 games. He batted .292 with 61 hits on 209 at bats, posting 40 RBIs and 13 doubles on the season.
Some other returners to watch include Sean Kennedy, Matt Eppers, David Current, Caleb Stayton, BJ Butler and Alex Call
Ball State did very well last year with local talent, and they look to do the same this season, with 18 players coming from Indiana and several others coming from surrounding states.
The Cards start their season with four tournaments, three of which will take place in the Carolinas. They'll kick their season off by facing Kentucky at the Buffalo Wild Wings Battle at the Beach on February 13. The Wildcats stand just five spots out of the Collegiate Baseball top 40. The Cardinals will finish off the tournament by playing UNC-Wilmington and Richmond on the 14th and 15th. Five days after that, the Cards will travel to South Carolina to take on Indiana State, Elon and South Dakota State. BSU will move on to play in two more classics, where notable teams include Illinois, West Virginia, Northwestern and Indiana.
Then, the regular season kicks off. Right from the get-go, the Cards will jump into MAC play by taking on Miami in Muncie, followed four straight in Dayton before welcoming Rutgers to town.
After that, MAC play begins, with just a few non conference disruptions along the way. Big series in conference play include home stands with Akron and Central Michigan. The bulk of BSU's big series come on the road, as the Cards will travel to play Bowling Green, Kent State, and Buffalo. Last year's two division champs: Ball State and Miami will not meet up for a series.
Overall, expect another breakout season for Ball State, with the Cards right in the hunt for a MAC title from the start.