Daniel Ayers’ high school baseball career didn’t end the way he wanted, but fortunately for the hard-throwing left-hander, he has plenty of baseball still ahead of him.
The recent Columbus North graduate was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 25th round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. If he doesn’t sign, he has a scholarship waiting for him at Western Michigan.
“Just being drafted in the first place is an honor,” said Ayers, The Republic Athlete of the Year for Baseball. “How I pitch (this summer) is going to determine how much money they offer. It’s a win-win situation either way. I go to college for three or four years, or I start my professional career right now. There’s not a losing side to it.”
Ayers wasn’t on the losing side much during his high school career. He went 4-1 this season with a 1.24 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 45-1/3 innings. He was 4-0 with a 0.67 ERA during the regular season.
“I threw the ball well,” Ayers said. “My ultimate goal was to finish with around a 1 ERA and strike some guys out. I kind of fell off at the end of the year, but overall, I was pretty pleased with my year, and I was pleased with the way the team played, being so young. I was really proud of my team.”
On a typical start this spring, Ayers was usually greeted by about a dozen professional scouts with radar guns.
“It’s a little bit easier when you know what the atmosphere is going to be like when the season starts,” Ayers said. “I moved on from the college scouts to the pro scouts. The pressure is going to be there, but it’s still a game. I just try to go out there and do what I do best, and that’s throw.”
“He had a great season,” North coach Brian Muckerheide said. “He did a great job of just overcoming all the pressures that were put on him, not only having 10 to 15 professional scouts at every game that he pitched, but just the pressure with being our No. 1. I can’t give him enough credit for overcoming all the pressures during the season.”
Ayers cut down on his walks during the regular season, allowing 24 in 42 innings.
“Throughout the year, he did have very good control,” Muckerheide said. “He was able to spot his fastballs and spot his offspeed (pitches). He had always been able to spot his fastball, but we worked on spotting his offspeed pitch more this year. He really did a good job of focusing and doing a great job for us in that aspect.”
The Bull Dogs, who went 24-3 and won a conference championship last season, finished 14-12 this spring and lost in the first round of the sectional. They started three freshmen and three sophomores for most of the season.
“As a team, we didn’t necessarily accomplish what we were going for, but as a young team we made some pretty good strides,” Ayers said.
This summer, Ayers is playing with the Indiana Redbirds U18 team. They played in a tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich., over the weekend and are headed this weekend to East Cobb, Ga., where he will pitch in front of Orioles scouts.
“They were pretty much the first team to start scouting me,” Ayers said. “They were there throughout the whole thing. I built a pretty good relationship with a couple of their area scouts. They’ve been busy trying to sign their top 10 guys, but they’ll be there.”
The rest of The Republic’s All-Area Baseball team:
Devin Mann, Columbus North: The sophomore led the Bull Dogs with a .532 average, 11 doubles, seven home runs, 32 RBIs and 32 runs scored.
Coleden Hoeltke, Columbus North: The senior batted .322 with six doubles and 22 runs scored.
Brice McDaniel, Columbus North: The freshman batted .316 with seven doubles, 12 RBIs and 16 runs scored.
Zach Brown, Seymour: The senior went 4-1 with an 0.54 ERA and 73 strikeouts; led the Owls with nine doubles, two home runs, 22 RBIs and 25 runs scored.
Tanner Belcher, Seymour: The senior led the Owls with a .425 average and two triples; had 14 RBIs and 12 runs scored.
Dakota Glenn, Columbus East: The senior went 6-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 40 strikeouts.
Brian Wichman, Columbus East: The senior went 3-6 with a 1.31 ERA and 59 strikeouts; batted .321 and led the Olympians with 15 stolen bases and 23 runs scored.
Christian Wichman, Columbus East: The junior led the Olympians with a .371 average, 13 doubles, four home runs and 22 RBIs.
Caleb Eder, Jennings County: The sophomore led the Panthers with a .398 average, nine doubles, two home runs and 22 RBIs; went 3-4 with 3.35 ERA and 54 strikeouts.
Matt Gatewood, South Decatur: The senior led the Cougars with a .481 average and three home runs and had 20 RBIs; went 3-4 with a 2.75 ERA.
Taylor Kopplin, South Decatur: The junior batted .465 and led the Cougars with four doubles and 27 RBIs; went 5-1 with four saves and a 1.20 ERA.
Sammy Wilkerson, Edinburgh: The senior went 5-3 with a 1.26 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 61 innings.
Trent Tatlock, Edinburgh: The senior led the Lancers with a .553 average; had 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored.
Brown County: Tanner Hamm, Dakota Isley.
Columbus East: Cam Curry, Peyton Gray.
Columbus North: Canaan Baum, Cody Burton, Christian Glass, Collin Lollar.
Edinburgh: Trevor Armel.
Hauser: Jared Compton, Rory Thayer.
Jennings County: Jordan Diss, Sam Miller, Austin Rath.
Seymour: Gabe Jordan.
South Decatur: Connor Hermesch.
Trinity Lutheran: Andrew Cain, Jacob Harless.