Mon October 31, 2011
By Chris Webb
Within the next two weeks, the two top players in Ohio for the class of 2012, Taylore Cherry and Matt Smoral, will both sign a National Letter of Intent with the University of North Carolina. The declaration the duo will sign cements their desire to play college baseball in the Atlantic Coast Conference, attending the Chapel Hill, NC school and leaving Ohio in the process.
In their second season in Columbus, the Buckeye and head coach Greg Beals received a verbal pledge that speaks to a significant stride in their aggressive approach to recruiting and commitment to keep the states top players in Ohio.
Worthington Kilbourne right-handed pitcher Jacob Niggemeyer issued a verbal commitment to Ohio State a little more than a month into his sophomore year of high school. Niggemeyer was the first non-2012 graduate in Ohio to give a commitment, one that marks Ohio State's return to being a force in the regional recruiting ranks.
If Ohio State is to see top talent from the Buckeye State choose to be Buckeyes, there is no hiding of the fact they need to make in-roads early in the recruiting process, before the likes of North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia Tech and others are routinely exposed to their talent as upperclassmen. For Niggemeyer, the early interest from Ohio State played into his desires.
“I wanted to commit early and take the pressure off that comes with the whole recruiting process,” said Niggemeyer. “Now I can just enjoy the game and focus on working hard on improving my game.”
Though just a sophomore, Niggemeyer is advanced beyond his years both physically and on the mound.
With a projectable 6'5, 205 frame, from appearance you might mistake Niggemeyer as a current college player. When pitching, with a four-pitch repertoire of change, curve, slider, and a fastball that can reach 87, disbelief may set in when realizing he has three high school seasons yet in front of him. The high-end potential is what makes Niggemeyer one of the state's top underclassmen. One that will be staying close to home.
“I was looking for a good academic and athletic program. I also wanted a good environment and close enough to home for family and friends.”
Niggemeyer chose Ohio State over Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland and others as he is coming off a successful freshman year with the Kilbourne varsity team and an impressive summer slate between the Midland Braves and Teays Valley Vikings.
For the spring of 2011, Niggemeyer compiled 38.2 innings going 4-2. Converting all three save chances, the righty struck out 24 against 11 walks on his way to receiving second-team all-Ohio Capital Conference-Central division honors.
The accolades Niggemeyer received in the summer went beyond local and state recognition, as Niggemeyer was named a first-team USSSA All-American and chosen to play for the 16U USSSA National team at the Gold Medal Games next summer.
Though he has a college commitment under his belt, high school and summer honors, Niggemeyer has has not changed his goals.
“To keep working hard for the future and improve on the things that I need to become a better athlete,”
said Niggemeyer who alludes to his composure and command of the strikezone with his fastball as strengths. “If anything, it will make me work even harder now.”
In addition to wanting to get stronger, Niggemeyer wants to continue to improve the control of his off-speed pitches. At the college level, he feels he will have the guidance to make him better.
“I really liked the coaches personalities and the way they interacted with the players and participated in the practices with the players,” Niggemeyer said of reasons how the Ohio State staff stood out. “I also really like the fact that they have two knowledgeable pitching coaches.”
Before Coach Stafford and Newman are able to work with Niggemeyer, the local product has more than two years of high school remaining. With this time, Niggemeyer will continue to add treasured prep baseball memories, such as one of his most fondest baseball experience; a 2008 trip to Cooperstown where his team went 10-0 capped by a championship game two-hitter on the mound and home run at the plate.
But, looking forward, both Ohio State and Niggemeyer can look to the future and dream of what is to come as the top Ohio players are no longer on the leave.