Noah Powell, Ball State’s starting shortstop the last two years, was brought in from Saint Joseph’s College on the other side of Indiana.
Ross Messina, the team’s 2019 leader in runs, hits and RBIs, played at Cowley College in Kansas and Seminole State College in Florida before coming to Muncie.
Aaron Simpson, the Cardinals’ on-base percentage leader in 2019, and Chase Sebby, the 2019 Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, both came from Cypress College in California.
“We're willing to go wherever to find [talent],” head coach Rich Maloney said. “Our reach has become bigger. Wherever you can find it, you want to be able to get it.”
Maloney has developed a knack for recruiting players to transfer to Ball State and make an impact right away. Not even a month into their first season as Cardinals in 2019, Simpson and Messina had already established themselves as the everyday leadoff and three-hole hitters in the lineup, respectively.
Messina said his decision to come to Muncie was based solely on Maloney’s constant communication and support through the transfer process.
“Not to sound self-centered or anything, but my goal coming in here was to make an impact. You don’t want to go anywhere and just be mediocre,” Messina said. “I wanted to come in here and make an impact immediately. It didn’t start off that way right off the bat, but I played for a coach who believed in me, so he stuck with me, and it ended up being a pretty good year.”
Ask Maloney, and he’ll tell you “pretty good” would be understating how both Messina and Simpson performed.
The two were the only Cardinals to start all 57 games last season. They tied for the team lead in hits with 71 apiece. The duo was also in the team’s top three in batting average, home runs and slugging percentage.
“To say we thought they would do exactly what they did — I think that would be a pipedream because they exceeded what we could have expected at that time,” Maloney said. “That's how you win. You win when people step up and do some things that you had hoped they would do, but it was unproven, so you didn't know if they would do it.”
Now, Maloney knows what they’re capable of, and he said he’s expecting similar numbers this year. He still, however, has to play the waiting game with this year’s crop of transfers. Maloney said he’s especially excited to watch Devin Porter, a junior out of Iowa Central Community College.
In his two seasons in Iowa, Porter batted .355 with 21 home runs, 96 RBIs and 100 runs scored. He also recorded an on-base percentage of .519 and a slugging percentage of .691 — stats his current coach described as “phenomenal.” Maloney added that he plans to start Porter at first base and bat him fourth.
“Devin's a natural hitter. He's hit his whole life,” Maloney said. “He’s got a high ceiling … I've watched him really get better, and defensively, he's really worked hard and done a nice job getting better. We'll see how he does, but boy, I really, really like him.”
Porter said he’s been a fan of the team’s work ethic from day one, and his contributing goal is to simply do what he’s been doing for years.
“I just hit the ball hard. That’s my job, and that’s all I really want to do,” Porter said. “I see the amount of hard work and effort we put in. We should have a legitimate shot at winning the MAC this year. There shouldn’t be any big issues as long as we keep working hard.”
Other batters who have transferred to Ball State for the upcoming season include Adam Christianson, a catcher from Illinois Central, and Trenton Quartermaine, an infielder from Kalamazoo Valley Junior College.
At this point, having coached collegiate baseball for nearly 30 years, Maloney said finding the right transfer talent is all about knowing your needs and knowing the right people. Messina, Simpson, Porter and many others were recruited by direct contact through Maloney’s “network” of relationships.
“When we can find somebody to help us right off the bat, it's a no-brainer,” Maloney said. “When I look at taking junior college players, they need to be immediate impact guys — guys you think have a good chance of winning the job. They make your team better. Fortunately, we've been able to do that.”