DARKE COUNTY – Two pitchers who had dominating seasons are The Daily Advocate’s baseball and softball players of the year for the 2018 season.
Versailles’ Cole Niekamp is The Daily Advocate’s baseball player of the year, and Bradford’s Skipp Miller is The Daily Advocate’s softball player of the year.
Niekamp was Versailles’ ace, posting a 1.11 ERA with a 5-2 record in 44 innings on the mound.
“I think we got a little spoiled with that the last few years with Cole,” Versailles baseball coach Ryan Schlater said. “Every time we sent him out there we were going to get at least five, six, seven innings of solid pitching.”
Niekamp allowed 29 hits and 18 walks while striking out 43 batters during his senior campaign. He’s an effectively wild pitcher, Schlater said, as he works the batters.
“I think he had a tremendous year,” Schlater said. “He’s been a solid player for us the past four years.”
One of Niekamp’s best performances of the year came in mid-April against Fort Recovery. The future Ohio State University pitcher matched up against Nick Thwaits, who was drafted this summer by the San Diego Padres. Niekamp pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing four hits and four walks. He ended up with a no-decision in the game as Fort Recovery won in the ninth inning.
“Every game he pitched he came out and threw very well,” Schlater said.
Niekamp throws a “heavy” ball, Schlater said, and his pitches seem much faster than they actually are.
As a senior, Niekamp also was a key part of Versailles’ offense.
“He was one of our guys we had slotted into the middle of the order all year, and we counted on him to drive in some runs,” Schlater said.
Niekamp hit .324 as a senior with seven doubles, a home run and 17 RBIs in 23 games. He also drew nine walks and had a .407 on-base percentage.
“This year he really turned it on with his bat,” Schlater said. “He hit the ball very well, very hard a lot.”
Niekamp will continue his baseball career at Ohio State, and his high school coach expects him to get even better in college.
“He’s going to have the opportunity to develop into a really good college pitcher there,” Schlater said.
As Bradford’s ace pitcher, Miller helped lead the Lady Railroaders to the final four of the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament for the first time.
“Amazing season,” Bradford softball coach Shon Schaffer said. “Set a bunch of records, not only pitching but set the single season doubles record, too. She’s a good, young ball player. Only getting better.”
As a pitcher, Miller led Darke County softball players with a 0.77 ERA. With her pitching, Bradford was competitive in every game it played.
“We are going to be in every single game regardless of the talent level of the team that we are playing,” Schaffer said.
Miller also excelled at the plate with a .549 batting average and 32 RBIs.
“For Skipp to come in and put .500, that’s amazing in itself,” Schaffer said. “I can only assume when she’s a senior she’s going to be putting up some gaudy numbers.”
Miller, who is verbally committed to Ohio University, exceeded every expectation this year.
“I knew her coming in, playing the high level of travel ball that she plays, that she would come in and have an immediate impact,” Schaffer said of Miller. “I didn’t know if she’s have the composure to put on the orange uniform to play with seniors and against seniors and contribute at that high level. She’s been a sweet surprise.”
Miller earned first team all-state honors from the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association. She also provided great leadership throughout the season.
“She’s a great kid, 4.0 student and every coach in every sport that she plays has nothing but positive things to say,” Schaffer said. “She’s a top-notch student-athlete. Not just softball player. She’s a great kid all-around.”