Ball State baseball was recently picked to finish third in the Mid-American Conference preseason poll. Voted upon by the league's head coaches, Ball State received 73 votes to put it just behind Kent State (98) and Central Michigan (86).
The Cardinals have won at least 30 games in each of their last five seasons. Head coach Rich Maloney added 15 newcomers to this season's roster, the most he's seen in his tenure at Ball State. This roster will look to replace 78.8 percent of their home runs, 61 percent of their RBIs and 60.5 percent of their runs scored from a year ago.
"No matter what, we lost a lot of key players from last year's team, but we've got a bunch of great young players and we've got some veteran players that are eager to prove themselves," Maloney said earlier this season.
Ball State opened up its first weekend of play in South Carolina at the Shipyard Classic on Feb. 16. With a pair of wins over UMass Lowell and a pair of losses to Morehead State, the team sits at 2-2.
William Baker, a junior new to Ball State's roster this season, led the team with a .625 batting average in the four-game span. In the opener against UMass Lowell on Feb. 16, the outfielder went 4-5 with a double and run scored in the 8-5 win. Baker rounded out the weekend recording multiple hits in three of the four games. To cap off the weekend, Baker was also named MAC Baseball Player of the Week.
Although the team doesn't start MAC play until March 23 with a three-game road series at Kent State, the team already has a goal in mind when it comes to conference play.
"We always want to be at the top of the MAC," Maloney said. "I think we got a real shot, I think we've got a competitive group and it's all about getting some momentum and hopefully staying healthy and making the routine play routinely, throwing some strikes and getting a timely hit. If we do that, we'll be pretty good."
The Cardinals won 14 of their 18 MAC games in 2017 to finish in a tie for second in the MAC West Division. Like last season, Kent State once again is favored to sit a top the MAC this season. The Golden Flashes finished 37-18 overall (18-6 MAC) and took home the MAC regular season title in 2017.
Ball State will continue the nonconference portion of its season Feb. 23-25 when it travels to New Orleans to compete in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Baseball Classic. Friday's game against New Orleans is slated for 7:30 p.m.