Non-conference games may not have an impact on a team’s Mid-American Conference standings, but that doesn’t mean Ball State coach Rich Maloney will overlook this weekend’s series against Morehead State.
Maloney said he plans on using the time to evaluate his team, considering he was introduced as the head coach just last June.
Maloney returned to Ball State with virtually no knowledge of the players on the team and the individual talents they possess.
The squad of assistants he brought is from across the country, and all have the same problem he’s encountered.
He wants to use these games to learn about his team and what needs to be changed so the Cardinals can have success once they start MAC play.
“It’s like there’s a preseason and there’s a MAC season,” Maloney said. “Our job because we’re new to the program and have barely seen these kids play live, is to gather as much information as we can.”
Adjustments are still coming as the team progresses through its non-conference schedule. Once it’s over, the pitching rotation in particular should be finalized.
“Once we’re in MAC play, we have our 1-2-3 pitchers set up, we have our closer set up, we have our late inning reliever set up,” Maloney said. “We want to be the best we can be to compete in those close games.”
Maloney is excited about some of the relieving prospects he’s seen so far, praising two of his long inning relievers.
“[Jon] Cisna and [Clay] Manering were tremendous for us,” Maloney said. “I hope they can keep this up against Morehead State and continue it down the line for us.”
Ball State will also need pitchers to step up for their occasional Tuesday and Wednesday games.
One choice, redshirt junior Kyle Raleigh, was rocked against Bradley on Sunday. The Cardinals don’t have much time to figure it out. After their weekend series ends, Ball State travels to play South Carolina on Tuesday.
Ball State’s Friday starter, senior Chris Marangon, has already established himself after two impressive starts this season.
His shot for his second win of the season comes against a team that’s scoring five runs per game and is hitting .272, with just a 4-5 record.
Although he’d prefer to win the series, Maloney thinks learning about his team is most important at this stage.
“You always want to win,” Maloney said. “On the flip side, we have a bigger picture here and it’s grooming this team for MAC play.”
Despite the upcoming series against Morehead State and a two-game stretch against South Carolina immediately after, Maloney remains focused on his own team.
“You put through the kids through drills and watch how they respond during specific in-game situations,” Maloney said. “Sometimes you have to take a calculated risk to determine if they’ll be successful. I need these games to evaluate them.”
Ball State opens MAC play on March 22, giving Maloney plenty more time to evaluate his team.
Starters for Ball State vs. Morehead State
Friday: RHP Chris Marangon, (1-0) 2.92 ERA, 12.1 IP
Saturday: LHP: Nestor Bautista, (0-1) 10.38 ERA, 8.2 IP
Sunday: RHP: Scott Baker, (2-0) 2.25 ERA, 12 IP