After Ball State baseball (15-11, 2-1 MAC) beat Valparaiso (8-14, 4-2 Horizon League) 3-2 yesterday, the Cardinals are currently 2-0 against other Indiana universities.
Against Valparaiso, Ball State came back to win 3-2 after falling behind 2-0. The team also overcame a 7-0 deficit against Purdue (4-17, 0-3 Big Ten) in a 9-8 victory March 22.
Junior shortstop Alex Maloney, the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week, said those come-from-behind victories, especially against in-state rivals, shows “the true fight” of the Cardinals.
Unlike most other NCAA sports, it is common for baseball teams to play non-conference opponents in between their weekend conference matchups.
Ball State usually plays non-conference games on Tuesdays and will play a total of six mid-week games against other Hoosier schools. Maloney said the Cardinals take these games “very seriously.”
“It really helps with recruiting,” he said. “You want to win those in-state battles to solidify your program.”
Maloney earned MAC West Player of the Week honors after going 7-16 last week. Against Purdue (4-17, 0-3 Big Ten), he was 3-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Junior right-handed pitcher Zach Plesac won the MAC West Pitcher of the Week award after a two-hit complete game shutout against Miami March 26.
The Cardinals have four remaining games scheduled against in-state teams — at Indiana April 13, at Purdue April 19, versus Indiana State May 11 and at Butler May 17.
Head coach Rich Maloney said the Cardinals emphasize those games, but the recruiting edge is gained from winning against any team you play, not just in-state schools.
“It doesn’t hurt, absolutely, but I don’t know how much influence a kid puts on that,” he said. “I think a kid wants to be in a winning program, period."
Instead, Rich said recruits focus on how much scholarship money they’re offered, as well as the academics and facilities of the schools trying to recruit them.
Plesac, however, said beating other Indiana teams helps mark where Ball State’s program stacks up within the state.
“Bragging rights, territory rights — that game has a little more feel to it, a little more nerves," he said. "I think it’s really good to get a win because it shows us that we’re a strong school in the state of Indiana.”
Though the Cardinals have to wait until April 13 to play their next in-state opponent, Ball State will host defending MAC Tournament champion Ohio University at 3 p.m. April 1.