By Kyle Shaner
VERSAILLES – Versailles senior Austin Knapke committed on Thursday afternoon to play college baseball at the Indiana Institute of Technology.
Knapke, the son of Bernie and Nicole Knapke, said he chose Indiana Tech because he felt comfortable with the school’s campus and baseball program.
“I really loved the campus,” Knapke said of the university in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “It was a nice home feeling. It’s pretty modern, which I really liked. And they have a solid baseball program. I fell in love with the coaching staff. It’s just a great baseball team to be on.”
Indiana Tech is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics member that competes in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference along with schools in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan: Aquinas College, Concordia University, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Lawrence Technological University, Lourdes University, Madonna University, Marygrove College, Rochester College, Siena Heights University and the University of Northwestern Ohio.
Indiana Tech, which is ranked 18th in the nation, has a 44-14 record and advanced to the NAIA national championship opening round. The Warriors have had nine consecutive winning seasons and haven’t had a losing season since 2005.
“That was a big part of my decision,” Knapke said. “Definitely is more fun playing on a winning program and with all their winning history it’s just even more the reason more to go there.”
At Indiana Tech Knapke expects to study business. In baseball he plans to pitch and play in the field at least during his freshman season.
“I’m going to try to do both my first year and see where that leads me,” he said.
This season Knapke has a .277 batting average and a .413 on-base percentage. In 26 games he has 23 RBI and four doubles.
As a pitcher the Versailles senior has a 2.487 ERA and a 5-0 record. In 25 1/3 innings on the mound he’s struck out 21 while allowing just nine walks.
“He’s battled through a couple injuries, but he’s been a great player for us,” Versailles baseball coach Ryan Schlater said. “Going to Indiana Tech is a great school for him, a great fit for him. I think he’s going to have a lot of success the next few years with them.”
Whether it’s in the field or at the plate, Versailles knows it can depend on Knapke whenever he’s called upon, Schlater said.
“Just being stable the whole time,” Schlater said of Knapke’s greatest strengths as a baseball player. “He doesn’t get too high, too low. He’s kind of even-keeled the whole time. He’s just a solid overall player for us.”
Knapke, a four-year varsity letter winner for Versailles, has received all-Midwest Athletic Conference recognition in each of the past two seasons. While he’s had success in high school, Knapke said he’ll have to continue to work hard to prepare for the college level.
“I know I’m not where I need to be at today, but hopefully put on some muscle when I get there, maybe get my fastball up a little bit,” he said.