WHEELERSBURG — Cole Ratcliff is convinced that Kentucky Christian University is the best of all worlds.
Hence, Ratcliff — a Wheelersburg High School pitcher among playing other positions for the Pirates — has chosen KCU as his destination to play collegiate baseball.
Last Friday, in a virtual signing ceremony, Ratcliff —flanked by his parents Jeff and Amy Ratcliff along with his three siblings —officially announced his intention to play baseball for the NAIA-affiliated Knights, which are coached by Jason Stowers.
Ordinarily, Preston would be joined by his fellow Wheelersburg teammates and friends for his signing ceremony, but the threat of the coronavirus has forced ALL of Ohio’s school districts to be closed for the remainder of the academic year.
Kentucky Christian University is located in Grayson, Ky., and thus location, education and fit for the program is what drove his decision.
His roommate will be fellow Wheelersburg graduate Brady Warren, who joined Ratcliff last Friday for his own virtual ceremony — as Warren will play soccer for the Knights.
“I picked KCU because they gave me a chance and they’re close to home and I get to room with my best friend Brady Warren,” said Ratcliff. “It was just a good overall fit for me. I am stoked that I get to play the sport I love and be like my mom and dad and play at the next level. I want to keep the tradition going.”
No doubt the Pirate program puts out quality student-athletes each year, as Ratcliff captured Division III (Southeast District Baseball Coaches Association) all-Southeast District Honorable Mention accolades as a junior.
He was also second-team all-Southern Ohio Conference Division II — an overall strong league for baseball.
He played his freshman season in the SOC II as well —at nearby rival Minford.
While Ratcliff can be a five-tool performer, he said he was recruited primarily to pitch.
Stowers skippers a new Knights’ coaching staff, and that didn’t sway Ratcliff away from the area.
“From what I’ve seen, the team’s got potential, from them getting a new coaching staff to just how serious they are about playing,” he said. “I was recruited really for everything, but the main reason was as a pitcher. That’s because I fit into the scheme they are trying to build.”
Ratcliff pitched at Wheelersburg, of course, last season —being the 2019 and his junior campaign.
That’s because, to coincide with the cancellation of in-person attendance in Ohio’s schools, the Ohio High School Athletic Association officially canceled ALL of its 2020 spring sports seasons on April 20.
“To play for Wheelersburg was fun. Just the teammates and the all-around vibe you get when you play with a team that wants to win and have fun. But it was tough getting a spot, especially coming back to my home school. I was excited to play for them. I went from playing varsity my freshman year at Minford, and when I went to ‘Burg, I wanted to prove that I should be on that field so I did everything I could. I ended up getting some quality varsity time and eventually made the rotation,” he said. “This year, I just couldn’t believe the news. When they (OHSAA) canceled it (season), I didn’t know what had happened with all of the memories being stripped from me. I had high hopes in me and my guys on the field to go far. We were special, and if only everyone could’ve seen our team, especially our dedicated seniors. Experiencing this as a senior is crazy. I wanted my one last go-around in high school. But I just feel really bad for all the seniors that can’t go on to play college ball.”
But Ratcliff, fortunately, will.
He said he has been training to stay in shape — mainly lifting, throwing and hitting.
He also said with summer baseball coming up, he “wanted to keep in shape and myself healthy, but not push my body too much”.
Ratcliff plans to major in Business, as his goals as a Knight “are kinda simple”, he said.
For Ratcliff, KCU is the best of all worlds.
“I want to keep a 3.0 GPA and I want to get that starting spot no matter what it takes,” he said. “But I’m really excited about what’s ahead at KCU.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved