BASEBALL: Coach announces first recruiting class
Three high school seniors sign with Ball State
Then-assistant coach Alex Marconi spent much of the summer as a one-man recruiting team while he waited for Ball State's search for a head coach to finish. By the time his promotion to head coach was made official in late July, the first recruiting period for high school juniors was already half over.
Marconi said he doesn't think those obstacles affected his first recruiting class, which was announced Monday. Ball State's 2011 recruiting class has three players: infielder Brandon Estep, right-hander Scott Baker and shortstop Elbert Devarie.
The first-year coach said he already had his eye on Estep and Baker before former coach Greg Beals left Ball State to become the head coach at Ohio State in June. Marconi kept watching Estep as the search for the Cardinals' next coach continued.
"I just did some cross-checking on Brandon and knew if I was named head coach, they were a couple guys I was going to move on," Marconi said. "I don't think the lateness of the hire and me being by myself had much of an impact."
Estep is a senior at Wapahani High School and will become the latest player to come to Ball State from the local high school. Jeremy Hazelbaker, an All-American center fielder and the Boston Red Sox fourth-round draft pick in 2009, and freshman left-hander Devin Wilburn also graduated from Wapahani before playing at Ball State.
Marconi said he expects the good relationship that existed between Ball State and Wapahani while Beals was coach to continue.
"Coach [Brian] Dudley does a good job there," Marconi said. "He always has kids that work hard and play the game hard. That's something I like and Brandon is no exception to that."
Marconi said he thinks Baker can become a key pitcher for the Cardinals as he grows into his 6-foot-4-inch frame.
"We're excited about having him on board," Marconi said. "Either his junior or senior year, he should be draft guy for us if he progresses the way we think he can."
Devarie comes from the fertile baseball recruiting grounds of Florida. Ball State has not typically gone into Florida to recruit in the past, but Marconi said new pitching coach Jeremy Plexico was able to use some of his contacts to find the shortstop. Devarie is from Puerto Rico and has lived in the United States for one year.
Marconi said Devarie's background may have caused him to get overlooked.
"He's new to the states and speaks English very well," Marconi said. "He's a lot like [left-hander] Nestor Bautista, who is from the Dominican Republic, but fell through the cracks. We're pretty excited to get him."
Marconi said Devarie's strength is his defense. He could become one of the potential replacements for shortstop T.J. Baumet, who will graduate this year.
One more recruit will likely join the class in the spring signing period, but Marconi said he will be careful with the scholarship.
"We're going to be picky for what we do with this last spot," he said. "Things can change. You never know what's going to happen with the draft, but we're looking to keep it very small going forward."