A pair of Crowder College baseball players signed letters of intent on Friday to continue their collegiate baseball careers at the next level.
Neosho native Jacob Barnes signed off to attend the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith where he’ll join former NHS and Crowder teammate Kyle Dickens.
Barnes, 6’3, 215 pounds and the son of Scott and Roxie Barnes, sat out last season due to injury, but says he’s excited to be joining coach Dale Harpenau’s Lions.
“I’ve definitely been looking forward to it for a while,” Barnes said. “I had to sit out last year due to injuries, and I didn’t expect a whole lot (of offers) real early. I’m excited about Fort Smith. It’s somewhere close to home, good facilities.
“It seems to be another great coaching staff. Coach Shohn Doty, their pitching coach, seems to have a similar demeanor to coach (Travis) Lallemand here, so it’s a good correlation. I’m just looking forward to everything next year.”
The NCAA Division II Lions, who went 29-22 overall last season, compete in the Heartland Conference.
“It’s a good team, they’ve got a good program,” Barnes said. “They’re going to need pitching to come in because they’re losing some key guys. I’m hoping that I can step into that role and become one of their guys next year. Kyle Dickens went there last year, so I’ll get to play with him again and I’m excited about that.
“They have a good degree program. I’m wanting to go into biology, and they offer a good program down there. It’s just overall a good choice for me.”
Joining Barnes on signing day was Oklahoma native Josh Johnston, who inked with Division-I Southern Illinios. Johnston, a Tulsa, Okla., native, came to Crowder during the summer at semester and, after overcoming his own injury setbacks, should provide a punch for the Roughriders this season.
“It’s a pretty monumental day,” Johnston said. “I’ve looked forward to this every since I was in high school. The dream of playing Division-I baseball is finally coming true.
“We’ve still got a big spring ahead of us, hopefully we’re going to do some pretty big things here, but yeah, I’m definitely excited to get to Carbondale (Ill.) in the fall.”
A standout at both Union and Victory Christian High Schools, Johnston says he’s ready to help the Roughriders to a successful season.
“I’ve been working since middle school to get to this point,” Johnston said. “Coach Lallemand here has got a pretty tough program. I think we’ve got a good team this year. We’ve been doing all of the little things right. We’ve been putting in long days and had a pretty good fall. I think we’re looking pretty tough for the spring.”
Page 2 of 2 - While he admitted it’s always good to send players on to bigger and better things, Lallemand admitted feeling a personal connection during Friday’s signing.
“With Barnes, I’ve known him since he was about 10 years old,” Lallemand said. “So having him play for me and finally be healthy this year (is good). He had a great fall for us and proves to be a big part of our bullpen in the spring. I’m really, really happy for him just because of the relationship we’ve had.
“Josh was a transfer in at semester over the summer break, but a guy that was highly touted out of high school we brought in here. He had arm surgery and he rehabbed and had a great fall for us, and is a difference-maker in our lineup come spring. Both of these guys signing early is no surprise, obviously, but I’m just happy for them that they got a good opportunity.”