High school baseball players set to enter new realm following NCAA decision to give back year
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As college baseball takes a season off, it’s difficult to project the sport’s landscape whenever it returns.
But one thing is for certain: 2021 will not be a typical year of baseball.
After having their high school seasons canceled, players whose college dreams have been affected are realizing that.
The two sports also will serve as a test module for other sports, including NSAA-sanctioned sports in the fall.
Elkhorn South’s Max Mosser had already committed to play at Division II Augustana in South Dakota prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and his plans haven’t changed at all. However, the situation he finds himself in has changed.
As a result of the canceled season, Mosser will have to compete for a spot against a four-year starter who would have graduated college otherwise. The NCAA granted spring sport seniors another year of eligibility on March 30.
“It could be a benefit because he’s (college senior) been around the block a little bit, so I could learn some good things about how to adapt to the speed of the game,” Mosser said.
At the Division I, II and III levels, college seniors won’t count against the team’s scholarship limit, nor the roster limit for Division I schools. However, such decisions to retain seniors are up to the individual schools, which means coaches will need to weigh positional scarcity and playing time.
A shortened MLB Draft adds even more incentive for college seniors to remain in school. As a result, schools such as Nebraska could experience some positional logjams.
Husker senior catcher Luke Roskam, who started 14 of 15 games before the season’s cancellation, tentatively plans to return for another season. Catcher Gunner Hellstrom will be a senior next year, too.
All told, NU commit Drew Wessel joins a competitive group of catchers.
Nevertheless, the former Millard South standout is taking it in stride.
“I think it’s awesome they gave those seniors another year because this could possibly be their last chance to ever play baseball,” Wessel said.
Of course, each player’s situation will depend on his school’s situation. Lincoln Southwest’s Nate Matthews is going to Midland next year, and while he knows things might be different from a normal year, Matthews said he will focus on controlling what he can.
Matthews might be in for some additional competition next year, as will Elkhorn South’s Ty Beckwith, who will attend Wayne State. Both player’s college coaches have been in contact with them, trying to encourage the players to stay in shape and be ready for whenever baseball resumes.
“There’s going to be seniors there and some incoming freshmen, so I’ll just have to work hard this summer and in the fall,” Beckwith said. “I’m going to show what I’ve been doing all throughout high school and just try to get on the field somewhere.”
While graduating seniors will face a changed college landscape next year, the residual effects of COVID-19 have also affected high school juniors who were counting on a big season of recruiting.
Lincoln East’s Charlie Mosser had been in contact with coaches before the season, and said those coaches were going to evaluate his play in the spring and summer before offering a scholarship.
Now, that opportunity is gone.
“Because I’m a junior, this was going to be the biggest year for me recruiting-wise,” he said. “Most of the DI schools are starting to get hot on juniors and with the spring season being canceled, it’s a downfall for recruiting because that’s the juniors’ time to shine.”
Fellow East junior Sam Wragge is going through a similar experience, because he was counting on a breakout year to show his skills as a pitcher. He’s still been able to talk to some coaches over text and through calls, but his arm hasn’t been able to speak for itself.
Baseball will have some changes at both the high school and college level next season because of the suspended season, which could bring additional pressure upon players and coaches alike.
“In the fall and next spring, I really have to showcase my skill, so that puts some pressure on us (juniors) to try and get that scholarship,” Wragge said. “It’ll be the same thing for most kids, so there’s going to be a lot of pressure and competition for those juniors.”
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