Okay, I realize that spring isn’t exactly here just yet. As we deal with snow delays and weather cold enough to freeze your coffee into a lump of coal inside your travel mug, I have been thinking about baseball. Those who truly know me know that I am always thinking about baseball. “I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house,” Yogi Berra once told a New York Times reporter.

In this week’s column, lets take a peek at the former Ripley Viking sluggers who are now playing at the collegiate level.

Jared Taylor, who played for retired head coach Ray Swisher, enters his junior season as a pitcher for West Liberty University, returns after hurling the second most innings on the pitching staff (39.2) and the second most appearances (13) for the (10-33) Hilltoppers. While his ERA was (10.44) and he finished his sophomore campaign (1-6), Taylor threw very well in the second half of the season after a slow start. He also was credited with a base hit and an RBI in four plate appearances.

Heath Swisher, the son of current Ripley softball coach and former Glenville State shortstop Ken Swisher, is having a rock solid career for the revitalized Glenville State College baseball program. The second bagger hit (.285) as a freshman last season and looks to build on that going into the spring. Swisher garnered attention with his consistent play with the glove and strong fundamentals.

Derek Mullins, who played for his father Steve (former Viking pitching coach), enters his sophomore season after a strong showing with the bat as a frosh that saw him hit (.381) for coach Cal Bailey’s West Virginia State University Yellow Jackets. Mullins suffered a nagging ankle injury that is now in the rear view mirror as he enters his second collegiate season. Versus Notre Dame in a double header last season, Mullins was 5-for-6 with 3 RBI providing a glimpse at his potential on the diamond. The former Ripley flame-thrower hurled three innings from the mound in relief for the Yellow Jackets last season.

Jonathon Murphy joins Swisher on the Glenville State roster this season after a fine career as a Ripley Viking. Murphy is the nephew of Ripley assistant boys basketball coach Steve Hunt. “Murph” logged mostly relief work for Ripley in his senior season while hurling (31.2) innings and going (1-1) with a (2.47 ERA) for coach Shane Casto.

“We are proud of all of these guys and I follow all of their careers closely,” said Coach Casto.
I will be making my rounds this season watching each of these young men play and will report back to you with my road trip experiences that will be choc-full of interviews and photos.

In my next column, we will track the careers of Lady Vikings softball players who are making their mark at the next level.
This will include slugging senior shortstop Michelle Sayre who is enjoying a remarkable career for Marietta College.
 Baseball is in the air, you just can’t smell it yet.