It’s been said, only partly in jest, that some guys could roll out of bed in the middle of the night in the winter and hit a baseball.
John A. Logan College sophomore Keelin Rasch fits the profile.
He’s a tough out at the plate.
The two-year starter at third base has been as good as advertised since graduating Harrisburg High School in 2011 and making the short trek to Carterville.
Last year as a freshman, Rasch batted a more than respectable .291 with 48 hits in 49 games. He tied for the team lead in home runs with three and drove in 21 runs. But what was more impressive was how the young man performed in the postseason.
Despite the fact that he was playing on a badly-sprained ankle late in the spring, and with doctors advising against him playing, Rasch tossed caution to the wind and hit a staggering .529 with nine hits in 17 at bats in four games of the North District Tournament. While it was painful to watch him run the bases, it had to be even more painful for opposing pitchers to have to deal with him when he hobbled into the batter’s box.
“Last year was great,” Rasch said. “I wasn’t the guy the team looked for to drive in all the runs, so there was less pressure on me to perform. And I’m glad I was able to contribute like I did at the District Tournament. That was a lot of fun.”
Rasch said the experience he gained last year has been an immense help to him this season – a season in which he is hitting .342 with a team-high five home runs and 35 runs batted in. He has the second-most hits with 52; second-most runs scored with 30 and second-most doubles with eight. He is also a perfect 4-of-4 in stolen base attempts.
“I was pressing at the plate early in the season as I knew more would be expected of me, but I have been much more relaxed in recent weeks and am really seeing the ball much better,” Rasch said. “When you see the ball well, you hit better.”
Whereas hitting the baseball is Rasch’s forte, there is work to be done on the defensive end. The third sacker committed 11 errors all of last season, yet has 13 errors to his credit this season with some games left on the schedule. To his credit, he has made a handful of highlight-reel plays at the hot corner.
“There’s definitely room for improvement,” he said. “It’s all about being consistent.”
Not hung up on individual accomplishments, the sophomore said he is more focused on team accomplishments.
Page 2 of 2 - “There is no doubt that we have scuffled this spring (24-19 and 9-5 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference). I truly believe that we tend to play down to the level of our competition at times,” Rasch said. “But I am confident that, whether we win the conference or not, we will be tough to knock out in the postseason. We just have to take it one game at a time. I still think this is a very good team.”
The 20-year-old Rasch was a three-sport standout in high school, having played football, basketball and baseball. He said he realized by the time he was a sophomore that baseball was his ticket to a free college education.
“I owe a lot of my success to Jay Thompson (Harrisburg baseball coach),” he said. “He was a good friend and taught me a lot about the game. He helped prepare me for the next level.”
The Vols are certainly reaping the benefits.
“My experience at Logan has been great,” he said. “I’m not only a better baseball player today than I was a year ago, but I am a better person. I have matured. It’s always been my dream to play college ball and I am looking forward to playing at an even higher level next year.”
Rasch has already signed a letter of intent to play ball next fall at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, a Division I program. He is presently undecided on a major.
“I liked the campus. You can see it’s a tight-knit community unlike a big city where you don’t know anybody. It helped that I could talk to Cale Wine and Brandon Alexander (former Vols, now seniors with Louisiana-Monroe) about the program. They had only good things to say.”
For now, Rasch said that he and his teammates have unfinished business with the Vols.
“We want to go one step further than we did last year and make it to the JUCO World Series (Grand Junction, Colo.). I know that coming up one game short didn’t sit well with us sophomores. We just have to keep playing hard and pushing forward. We are a talented bunch and have a lot of baseball left in us.”