In the past four years the Hinckley-Big Rock baseball team has never had to worry about the catchers’ position – Mitch Ruh has made sure of that.
The graduating senior Royals backstop has decided he will continue his play on the diamond for Division III-Augustana College in Rock Island.
“I play on a summer traveling team, the Longshots baseball club out of Downers Grove, and a lot of college coaches come and watch us play,” Ruh said. “After one of our games, Augustana assistant coach Tim McChesney asked me if I’d like to go out for a visit. I really like the campus and felt really comfortable there.”
The Vikings finished this past season with a 34-11 record and won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament to advance to the NCAA Division III tournament.
Vikings coach Greg Wallace said the coaching staff likes what they have seen from Ruh and hopes he can fill a void for next season and beyond.
“We’ve have been following Mitch for a while,” Wallace said. “From a catching stand point we have a senior catcher moving on and we felt that was a focus point, on a position we needed to fill. We really like his defense, but it is his ability on offense that has really impressed us as well.”
This past season for H-BR, Ruh helped lead the Royals to the Little Ten Conference co-championship by hitting for a .517 average, driving in 39 runs and stealing 10 bases. He was also named the team’s most valuable player and was named to the All-LTC team for the third time.
His junior season, he batted .526 with 34 RBIs and 31 runs scored. He was also named to the All-LTC academic team.
“This year more pitchers were pitching around me so I wasn’t getting a lot of good pitches to hit,” said Ruh, who wants to study chemical engineering. “I’ve just worked on being patient and swinging at good pitches. Coach [Brad] Unger has really helped me become a better baseball player this season.”
Unger was himself a standout catcher and earned all-conference honors at Waubonsee Community College and Elmhurst College. He feels Ruh’s natural talents and the structure of the Royals practices and game plans will help him reach his goals.
“I knew Mitch was going on to play at the next level and I’ve been there,” said Unger, who felt it was the mental part of the game he helped Ruh with the most. “Our program is built on wanting to get them prepared, that if they choose to go on to play baseball collegiality, they’ll be ready and know what to expect. I know he is going to succeed at [Augustana], he has the will and the drive and is ready every single day.”
Martenson signs at Sauk: Dillon Martenson didn’t meet with the coaches at Sauk Valley Community College until the winter of his senior season.
The Indian Creek senior baseball star had started the recruiting process late, but drew late interest after a showcase with his travel team before his final high school season began. Eventually he took a visit and, on Thursday, signed to play baseball at the two-year college in Dixon.
“I liked the atmosphere down there. It’s more out in the country, the more coaches were more friendly,” Martenson said. “I just felt really at home down there and I could see myself going there.”
Martenson also considered Quincy, Aurora, Beloit, Harper and Lewis and Clark, but decided on Sauk for a number of reasons, including the prospect of immediate playing time during his freshman and sophomore years before eventually transferring to a four-year university.
Martenson said Sauk Valley will play him in the outfield and the college’s proximity to home was also a positive.
“I can get my feet wet. My parents can come down and watch me for the first two years,” Martenson said. “After that i can see going somewhere farther away.”
• Ross Jacobson contributed to this report.