Drey Jameson. Chase Sebby. John Baker. Will Baker. Kyle Nicolas. Chayce McDermott.
Adam Christianson. Nick Powell. Trenton Quartermaine. Tyler Ruetschle.
Two crops of leaders. One program.
Christianson, Powell, Quartermaine and Ruetschle each expressed their disappointment toward last season’s omission from a NCAA Regional bid after placing second in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the slot Ball State Baseball has finished in three of the last four seasons. Whether it be leading by example with their on-field play or taking younger players under their wings, they’ve emphasized stepping up as leaders for the Cardinals in their final year with the program.
“Being able to be a part of such a special team that didn't end up getting rewarded taught us a lot about dealing with failure, dealing with things that you can control and dealing with things you can't control,” fifth-year pitcher Ruetschle said. “I think that's probably the biggest life lesson I've taken away this year.”
The student-athletes are 4 of 9 fifth-year seniors on the Cardinal roster, along with five seniors. Fifth-year outfielder Nick Powell said he wants to make a positive impression on Ball State’s young players before he hangs up the red, white and black uniform.
“The guys who leave always talk to you about leaving your impact, leaving your footprint on the program,” Powell said. “[I’m] talking to the freshmen and trying to help them so that next year when I'm not here they're still performing at a high level, and representing Ball State [is important].”
Powell said he and his teammates stay connected and form relationships off the diamond through playing video games such as Call of Duty or Madden together, whether that be in person or online. He said the Cardinals go out to eat together and believes the culture is the most relaxed he’s ever been a part of at Ball State.
Ruetschle credited Ball State head coach Rich Maloney for creating an environment he’s never experienced before and said success comes from various levels.
“There's a lot of different responsibilities and the game of baseball is the same, but the lifestyle and just the way of life is different,” Ruetschle said. “I think that coach has done such a good job of breeding a culture where there's no hierarchy from class, and we have plenty of freshmen who have impacted the game.”
When Christianson first came into the program in fall 2019, he was behind 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, catcher Chase Sebby. Christianson said he hasn’t always been a leader, but has grown from his experience at Illinois Central from 2018-2019 and learning from his mentor, Sebby.
Christianson started in 15 combined games during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, before starting 27 of 39 games in 2022. Maloney said Christianson is a strong leader for the Cardinals after learning from Sebby.
“Adam Christianson waited his turn behind Chase Sebby,” Maloney said. “He never complained, but kept working and now he is making the most of his opportunity.”
As a catcher, Christianson said he knows everything happening during games and leads the pitchers throwing to him because “the ship is only as strong as its captain.” Christianson said he recognizes that playing and leading with confidence is essential to Ball State’s success.
“When you're playing baseball, it gets tough, because it's a mental game,” Christianson said. “When you're playing with confidence you're a much better player, so I tell pitchers to throw with conviction and the position players to go out there and play with no fear. You can't be scared to make an error, you can't be scared to strike out, you can’t be scared to mess up.”
Powell said he wished he understood during his freshman and sophomore seasons that it’s acceptable to fail. Powell credited his effort to building relationships with his teammates and self-growth in confidence to his success.
“Building up those relationships builds your confidence, builds your leadership skills, your communication, it all trickles down and everything,” Powell said. “You're more confident and you play better, you play faster, you do everything better.”
Fifth-year first baseman Trenton Quartermaine said the three years he’s spent at Ball State have been the best of his life. For underclassmen and future players, Quartermaine said the program runs deeper than the current players. He offered advice for those staying in the program or coming in the future.
“Just don't take the game for granted,” Quartermaine said. “It's bigger than us and there's a lot of players that came before us that we're playing for, don’t take plays off.”
Christianson, Powell, Ruetschle and Quartermaine came into Ball State as non-starters who looked up to previous upperclassmen and eventually grew into leaders. Now, the Cardinals are hunting for a MAC regular-season championship as they sit second in the MAC with a 19-4 conference record.
Christianson is a biology major and is thinking about moving into medical sales in the future, but this summer he has a job at a warehouse in Peoria, Illinois, that holds race car parts. Powell said he is majoring in accounting in Ball State’s Master’s program and is studying to take the Certified Public Accountant Exam, something he said is tough to balance with academics and baseball, but is teaching him time management skills.
Ruetschle graduated with a business administration degree in spring 2021 and is working on obtaining a coaching certificate. However, he said he has interest in video media, something he’s done for the past three years. Quartermaine is working on securing his Master’s in marketing this summer and is currently coaching a 17u travel baseball team for Between the Lines Academy.
Maloney said all four fifth-year student-athletes have grown as players and human beings over the course of their Ball State careers.
“These four guys and others have been a joy to coach and watch them grow from young men into young adults,” Maloney said. “They are our glue.”
Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @smedley1932