Archive for November 30, 2012

NEW BLAZER: WESTERN’S RONNIE SMITH SIGNS TO PLAY BASEBALL FOR UAB

Ronnie Smith was the winning pitcher for the Western Panthers in the 2012 IHSAA Class 3A baseball state championship game. (SJ photo: Dean Hockney)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB baseball team announced that right-handed pitcher Ronnie Smith has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Blazers in 2014.

The 6-foot-7 righty from West Middleton, Ind., was outstanding on the mound during his junior season at Western High School, posting a 10-4 record and 1.83 ERA. Smith pitched a total of 93 innings, totaling 89 strikeouts, along with posting two complete game shutouts and two games where he surrendered just one hit.

"One of our goals going into this recruiting season was to sign a potential 'Friday night arm'," head coach Brian Shoop said. "In Ronnie we feel like we signed one of the biggest 'sleepers' in the Midwest and now have a young man that can potentially match up with the great arms we face in our league. He is winner who has succeeded in every sport that he has played. He led his high school baseball team to the Indiana State Championship. Ronnie played for Ty Calloway in High School who is a member of the Indiana High School Coaches Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, so he is well prepared for college baseball."

Smith won four of the Panthers' seven games and earned a save in another, en route to Western HS winning the Indiana Class 3A State Championship last spring. In the state championship contest, Smith fired five innings, yielding one run on three hits as the Panthers captured the 3A crown along with earning Second Team All-Mid Indiana Conference (MIC) accolades.

"Ronnie is a great athlete having excelled in all three sports at his high school which is a rarity in this day and time," Shoop said. "He is a 6-foot-7 young man who will be a power right hand pitcher at this level. His arm slot reminded us of Dillon Napoleon, one the best pitchers we have ever coached."

In addition to his success on the baseball diamond, Smith has been a standout high school football and basketball player as well. Smith is a three-time All-Mid Indiana Conference selection in football as a wide receiver and named to the 3A All-State team in his junior season. In 2011, Western HS captured the MIC Championship. Smith also holds the Panthers' school record for touchdown receptions with 29

In basketball, Smith was a Second Team MIC selection as a junior and was a key member of the MIC Championship teams in both his sophomore and junior seasons

"We have worked hard to recruit young men who were both capable in the classroom and committed to earning their UAB degree," Shoop said. "He is a great student and should excel both on the field and in the class room at UAB. Ronnie fits the exact mold of what we are looking for – a young man who can compete in Conference USA, who will be a model student and who will be a great role model off the field. We couldn’t be happier to welcome Ronnie Smith into the Blazer baseball family."

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama Birmingham)

HOG TIME: PARKER SANBURN SIGNS WITH ARKANSAS

Kokomo High School senior Parker Sanburn.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - Not many people want to be known for following in their brothers’ footsteps. Most want to branch out and leave a mark on society that they created. But when it comes to Kokomo High School senior Parker Sanburn, following big brother is not a bad thing.

On November 15, Parker Sanburn signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball for the University of Arkansas baseball team – the same school where older brother Nolan made a name for himself before being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.

“I felt a sense of comfort since Nolan played there,” said Sanburn. “I know the coaches, I know the players, and I know the campus – so I just felt comfortable in making this choice.”

Sanburn said he has devoted his entire life to getting to where he is today, a college baseball signee. He said this is what he has dreamed since playing Cal Ripken Baseball at UCT.

“This has been the goal – going to college and hopefully going to the next level,” said Sanburn, who also plays tennis at Kokomo and was selected to the Academic All-North Central Conference team. “This is unexplainable on how excited I am with this gift that God has given me.”

Wildkat baseball coach Tim Weeks said Sanburn is more than deserving of earning a Division I baseball scholarship.

“He has some nasty stuff,” said Weeks. “Arkansas is recruiting him because of his physical tools. He throws an electric slider, probably one of the best I have ever seen in high school. The sky is the limit for his potential. I think he will be one of the top two or three pitchers in the state this year.”

But with all of the potential for dominance, Sanburn understands he still has some work to do – which his coach points out on a regular basis.

“He will need to cut down on walks and get a little better control,” said Weeks. “This is nothing I haven’t told him 100 times. He throws hard, but he threw a flat fastball last year. But he got a lot more movement on the ball during summer and I think he is going to have a really dominant year. And that slider, wow.”

Sanburn credits his time on the tennis courts with helping him on the baseball field. He said the concentration needed for pitching is much like the concentration needed to hit a tennis ball. As team captain, he helped lead the Kats to a 15-6 record and a sectional championship. The squad was 6-1 in the conference and finished second to Marion.

“It has really helped me with my mental game,” he said. “And it has helped me with arm strength in serving. Tennis is much more frustrating than baseball, and it has helped me to contain that (frustration) and concentrate. I really feel my mental growth from last year to this past fall has been exponential. Nothing shakes me as much. Last year, if someone got a home run off me, I was down and didn’t want to be out there. This year, I want to face them again. I give tennis credit for that mental aspect.”

Week’s agreed with Sanburn’s assessment of his mental game.

“From last year to this year, I have really seen him mature as a person,” said Weeks. “And I think a lot of that was that the pressure is off. This was a big step and something people wanted to know. And he has really matured in his confidence. He was his own worst enemy during his sophomore season. He doubted his ability even though everyone else could see it. This year will be a big year with his confidence.”

Following the Wildkat baseball season this spring, Sanburn will play summer baseball before reporting for duty in Fayetteville and Baum Stadium at George Cole Field. He said he is excited to play in the Southeastern Conference, which has produced three of the last four NCAA national champions (LSU in 2009 and South Carolina in 2010 and 2011). Last season, Arkansas – with Nolan Sanburn on the squad – traveled to Omaha, Neb., and finished third in the College World Series. The younger Sanburn hopes to lead the Razorbacks to a return trip to the CWS.

“I still have a lot of work to do before then,” he said. “First, I need to concentrate on our (Kokomo) season.  But when I get on the (Arkansas) hill and face the cream of the crop, I can promise you this – I will be ready.”

And Kokomo will be ready to watch another Sanburn stand on the hill for the Arkansas Razorbacks – and hopefully on ESPN during the College World Series.

KRISTEN SNODDY RESIGNS AS IU KOKOMO VOLLEYBALL COACH

Kristen Snoddy resiged after two seasons as the head coach of the IU Kokomo volleyball squad.

KOKOMO, Ind. – After two seasons leading the Indiana University Kokomo women's volleyball team, Kristen Snoddy has announced her resignation as the first head coach of the Cougars.

"I feel very honored to have been a part of the initial phase of the Cougar athletic program. What has been particularly special for me is that I was able to combine two of my passions – athletics and the IU Kokomo campus," Snoddy said. "Even though I have stepped down as a head coach, I will continue to follow this new aspect of student life with pride as it matures."

Snoddy guided the Cougars to a 9-25 record in her second season, including a historic first NAIA win – a tough four-set match – against Purdue University Calumet at the Illinois Institute of Technology Kickoff Tournament in August.

"Coach Snoddy was this program's foundation, and without her we wouldn't be where we are today as a team and program," said veteran player Emily West, a sophomore. "She means the world to me, specifically by being there to talk to and get advice."

The Cougars finished the 2012-2013 inaugural NAIA season with a hard-fought, five-set win over Aurora University. They recorded a total of nine wins, eight of which were on the road, as well as a home victory against IU Northwest in a three-set sweep at the end of September.

"Coach Snoddy genuinely cares for our team and wants us to succeed in the classroom and on the court," said sophomore libero Lael Burrus. "She helped establish something that is going to continue at IUK for years to come. I have a great amount of respect for her."

Off the court, Snoddy, a senior lecturer in English, played an important role in helping her team stay focused on academics. She encouraged and mentored the student athletes to concentrate on succeeding in the classroom. In addition, the team devoted time to community service projects, such as spending time with senior citizens during the Senior Olympics at the Kokomo Senior Center.

"We are very appreciative to Kristen Snoddy for launching our women's volleyball program. Having a faculty member as a coach emphasized the campus commitment to an athletic program with a foundation of academic excellence," said IUK Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke. "Kristen is an outstanding instructor who created a quality volleyball program with solid student athletes. Her efforts provide a great vehicle for future successes."

(Courtesy Indiana University Kokomo)