MINFORD — Throughout his high school career, Minford standout Brayden Davis carried a quiet persona on and off of the field of play.
However, Davis’ impact — on both the soccer pitch as well as the baseball diamond — was always loud and fast.
Davis, an all-Southern Ohio Conference talent in both soccer and baseball, will get to continue his career in the latter sport — and do it close to home as the outfielder will suit up for Shawnee State in the fall.
For the two-time SOC II champion, the opportunity to continue playing on the diamond is certainly thrilling.
“It’s exciting to get to continue to play the sport that I love,” Davis said. “I’m personally excited to have the opportunity to make more memories on the field.”
After playing football all throughout his youth, Davis made the switch to the soccer pitch as a high school sophomore and immediately stood out for the Falcons, notching 37 career goals and 11 career assists in three seasons while helping the Falcons accumulate a 31-19-5 record in his three years as a varsity letterwinner and starter.
He was named as a second-team all-Southeast District honoree in 2018, and helped lead Minford to two Division III sectional championships in 2017 and 2019.
“I played football throughout my youth,” Davis said. “During my sophomore season, I decided to switch to soccer. I believe it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made. Even though that I was learning an entirely new sport to me that my teammates and opponents had been playing their entire lives, Coach (Dave) Gampp and my teammates helped and encouraged me every bit of the way. I’m grateful for all of the memories and achievements that soccer has brought me, even though I only played three years.”
However, it was clear, even from the beginning, that Davis’ main sport was baseball.
After helping lead Minford to the Division III district finals as a freshman, Davis really stepped up his level of play over the following pair of seasons — while pushing the Falcons to new heights as a sophomore.
Establishing himself as the leadoff hitter on what would become the best team in school history, Davis helped lead the Falcons — a team with just two seniors on their entire roster and one in the starting lineup — to a record-setting campaign.
Minford claimed its first outright Southern Ohio Conference II (SOC II) championship in 50 years, a Division III district championship, and the school’s first-ever Division III, Region 11 championship and Final Four appearance under Aaron Hopper.
Minford finished 22-2.
In 2019, Minford — playing a heavier schedule — got even more production from Davis.
The outfielder, playing under Anthony Knittel during his junior year, set an individual program record for stolen bases in a season (35) and helped the program set a season record for stolen bases (140) — as Minford went 29-2 with a co-SOC II championship, its second straight Division III district championship, and a berth in the OHSAA Division III, Region 11 finals.
“It was an incredible feeling being on the first team in school history to go to state, even though we didn’t win the title,” Davis said. “We knew that we would have a majority of our current players back the following season and were expected to go deep in the postseason again. While we fell short of winning the state championship again, I’m glad that I got to share some memories with my teammates. It was a blast playing under Coach (Aaron) Hopper and Coach (Anthony) Knittel. We had amazing success and had lots of fun doing so.”
As with most student-athletes who have played multiple sports in high school, Davis found that soccer, as a whole, helped with his confidence on the baseball diamond — especially considering that even the best hitters fail seven out of every 10 times at the plate.
“Both sports helped me with my endurance and concentration, especially soccer,” Davis said. “However, one of the main things that soccer helped me with was getting over the fear of failure that I had. I knew that I wasn’t going to be the best at soccer starting off, and that I was going to struggle, which helped me realize that it’s alright if I make mistakes or don’t succeed every now and again.”
In addition to his outstanding career with Minford, Davis also played for Portsmouth Post 23 over the summer.
In 2018, Davis helped lead Post 23 to a runner-up finish in the last Gene Bennett Classic to date.
“Post 23 was always a fun summer baseball experience,” Davis said. “I was able to develop further as a baseball player in the offseason and was able to play with friends from other schools.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of the 2020 season, Davis and his Minford counterparts explored playing over the summer — while representing the Red and White that they’d represented over the past three years.
While competing with Minford, Davis — with the aid of Knittel and SSU assistant Casey Claflin — decided that he wasn’t done calling Branch Rickey Park home.
“I was previously set on going to West Virginia Tech and playing baseball, but decided to just go to Shawnee State,” Davis said. “One of my first games this summer with Minford was against Post 23 at Branch Rickey Park. Coach (Anthony) Knittel talked to Coach (Casey) Claflin about me. In the following days, Coach Claflin called me and asked if I wanted to be a part of the team. Talking to them and getting to know what the program is all about has been great.”
While his high school career was a blur, Davis knows what sports did for him.
As a Southeast Ohio Baseball Coaches Academic Team honoree to back up his strong standing in the classroom, he’s plenty aware of what sports will help him accomplish in the future — with the proper effort put in on all ends.
“I hope to get a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering,” Davis said, “and continue to make memories on and off the field.”
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