By Chuck Landis
Oak Hill shortstop Ryan Spaulding recently finished up a four-year baseball career that arguably was as successful as anybody who ever played for a Grant County high school team.
Spaulding graduated earlier this month holding 10 school regular-season and career offensive records, including a .472 career batting average. This spring, he led the county in the Triple Crown categories of batting average, home runs and RBIs.
It’s certainly no surprise Spaulding earned the Chronicle-Tribune Grant County Baseball Player of the Year honor. He previously was named top player in 2010 and was runner-up last year to Golden Eagles teammate Jake Althouse.
A model of consistency, Spaulding’s batted .495 this spring and never was under .400 in high school. His six homers matched his total from 2010, and his 11 doubles were four behind his school record of 15 set last year.
“You have to stay patient and positive,” Spaulding said. “I’ve been blessed to play at Oak Hill, and I had a great time the last four years.”
Although he had slumps like any other hitter, Eagles coach Shane Edwards said Spaulding was able to keep them to a minimum.
“There were times we had him bunt or hit-and-run and that would take the thought process out of (hitting),” Edwards said. “But what will make him successful at the next level is he’s such a smart hitter.
“He’s not going into college as just a good high school hitter. He’s going into college with a lot of tools,” Edwards added.
Spaulding said he will honor his commitment and play for Ball State University even though the coaching staff that recruited him was fired last month. Ball State has guaranteed Spaulding’s scholarship for his freshman year.
Edwards said another reason behind Spaulding’s consistency is he hasn’t deviated from what makes him a successful hitter. Spaulding doesn’t swing for the fences in every at-bat and instead sprays the ball to all fields.
“Ryan’s always hit in the No. 3 hole and he has opportunities to drive in runs,” Edwards said. “But his game is hitting doubles and getting on base and driving in runs. He’s not a typical No. 3 hitter, but that’s what we need from him.”
One of the few times Spaulding deviated from his approach came in the Grant Four Invitational semifinals against Madison-Grant. Spaulding launched a three-run homer in the fifth inning that lifted the Eagles to a 3-1 victory.
Argylls pitcher David Anderson had given up one hit before Spaulding homered on a two-strike pitch with two outs in the fifth inning.
“Anderson had been dominant, and I was able to hit a three-run homer and we went on to win the game,” Spaulding said. “I got goose bumps rounding first and hearing the crowd cheering. That was one of my most awesome moments in high school.”
For all the records he set, Spaulding said his only goal in high school was to win a sectional title. The Eagles won three Central Indiana Conference championships and also had Grant Four and Miami County titles but never a sectional.
“I would have liked to have won a sectional, but it always eluded us,” he said. “I would have liked to gone somewhere in the (state) tournament.”
Spaulding is spending the summer doing what he has always done since an early age — playing for a travel baseball team. He’s a member of the Indiana Prospects based out of Indianapolis and the team is playing a tournament this weekend in Cincinnati.
“Ryan is a special player and he’s leaving Oak Hill as the best pure hitter in Oak Hill history,” Edwards said.