By Kyle Shaer
VERSAILLES – Versailles senior Cole Niekamp fulfilled a dream when he committed to play baseball for The Ohio State University.
Niekamp, the son of Stan and Diane Niekamp, signed his letter of intent to play for the Buckeyes on Nov. 8 then had a signing ceremony on Tuesday evening at Versailles High School.
“I wanted to be a part of Buckeye Nation for a long time now, just growing up a Buckeye fan, so when the opportunity came up I couldn’t pass,” Niekamp said.
Niekamp is a 6-foot 2-inch right-handed pitcher. This past season he led Versailles with 45 innings pitched, recording a 1.56 ERA with 66 strikeouts. As a sophomore he posted a 2.78 ERA and 36 strikeouts across 40 1/3 innings as he helped lead the Tigers to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state final four.
“We’ve been pretty lucky to have some guys go some places,” Versailles baseball coach Ryan Schlater said. “Ohio State is definitely one of the biggest schools that we’ve been sending guys to play, but Coach (Greg) Beals runs a great program over there. I think he’s going to do well. He’s got the prototypical size of a right-handed pitcher. He’s big, strong, throws hard. He’s working on his off-speed pitches so I think that’s a great fit for him.”
Niekamp is good at working hitters, Schlater said, and worked to improve his curveball and slider this past season. The off-speed pitches compliment his ability to throw heat.
“He’s just a great overall pitcher. He overpowers guys at the high school level,” Schlater said. “In high school ball when you’re used to facing 75, 78 (mph) and you get a guy like Cole that’s 85 to 90, it’s a lot different for the hitters so definitely have trouble catching up to him.”
Niekamp is one of 10 players in Ohio State’s recruiting class. The Versailles senior is one of six pitchers who committed to the Buckeyes this year.
“Cole is a great competitor with sinker-slider type stuff,” Beals said, according to Ohio State’s official athletics website. “The command of his breaking ball is his strength.”
At Ohio State, Niekamp hopes to contend for a spot in the starting rotation as a freshman.
“I want to try and start as a freshman and work my way into the rotation then just be a high-end starter for them throughout my career there,” he said.
Niekamp, who is undecided on his major, said he feels ready for the challenge of playing college baseball.
“I feel I’ve worked hard during this summer facing good players throughout the summer and other people going to colleges so, yeah, I feel like I’m ready,” he said.
Before moving on to college, Niekamp would like to win a Midwest Athletic Conference championship and lead the Tigers on a long run through the OHSAA tournament.
“It should be a good year for us,” he said. “We’re hoping to make it pretty far in tournament and hopefully win the MAC again this year.”