Keplar signs to play baseball at Evangel
Neosho senior Wyatt Keplar signed his letter of intent to continue his academic and athletic career at Evangel University on Jun. 9 as he signed to play baseball at the Springfield school.
“We expected Wyatt to be our no. 1 pitcher coming into the season and he did that for us,” said head coach Danny Powers. “He did a good job competing all year long, I think he had 78 strikeouts in 48 innings. He was a big guy to come in and start games off. He really worked himself out of a lot of jams, especially early in the season.”
“He showed up nearly every day for summer weights, competed hard in the summer and played a lot of baseball to improve his arm strength and mechanics,” added Powers on Keplar’s improvements over his four years at Neosho.
“Evangel is getting a great kid. Someone that represents a program well,” said Powers. “He’s a polite, respectful kid and a great competitor. That’s also what Neosho will be missing from him, not only was Wyatt one of our better arms on the mound, he hit over .300 for us and played well in the outfield. Neosho will not only be losing a great kid on a baseball team but they’ll have big shoes to fill in the outfield and on the mound.”
Below is a Q and A with Keplar about his journey and commitment to Evangel.
How long have you been playing baseball?
I’ve been playing since I could start walking, t-ball and little league, then I started playing travel ball and started really getting competitive when I got to high school.
Did you play other sports growing up?
Well, growing up I played football and wrestled in junior high. Whenever my freshman year started, I decided to stick with just one sport. I knew my passion was baseball, so I stuck with that.
What stood out about baseball?
I just love the game, it’s so mental. I love the relationships you gain from it, just playing summer ball, fall ball, all these different teams. You meet a lot of people and gain a lot of good friendships, that’s what I love about it.
When did you know you might want to continue your playing career after high school?
My sophomore year. My freshman year I didn’t know If I would ever be good enough to play college ball. My sophomore year I started getting varsity time and I knew I could play with those guys that were varsity level. At that point I really started working hard. I knew I could play college ball.
Favorite memory in your time competing for Neosho baseball?
Mainly just the relationships and friendships I made. Last year we had a really good senior class. We were all so close for those couple weeks we had practice before COVID cancelled the season. That summer, we all played summer ball together because we knew we wanted to play together one last time. We all were just super close. The friendships I’ve made with the sport and the coaches, they’re all great. The friendships I’ve made are something that can never be taken away. I love it.
Senior year, what did it mean to get a season?
It felt great. The year didn’t go the way we wanted but we got a brand new field and we didn’t really care about how good we were. We were thankful we got to have a full season without restrictions, I still made a lot of great memories with my teams. A lot of my best friends play baseball, so I got to be with them almost every day, it was great.
Recruitment wise, when did you begin to talk to schools or when did schools begin to reach out to you?
I was late with the whole recruiting thing; I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go and there were a couple schools I really wanted to go to.
A couple weeks ago, Evangel’s coach called me. I always wanted to go to Evangel, its only an hour away, and it’s a really good school. I’ve known people that’ve gone there that’ve said great things about it.
A couple days after I talked to the coach on the phone, I went on a visit there, threw a bullpen for him. I toured the campus, my family and I sat down with him and talked financials. He gave me an offer and the next day after I texted him and told him I’d like to commit.
I knew as soon as I got there if he was going to offer, I was going to commit because I loved the school, coaches and facilities. I’m really looking forward to spending four years there.
What stood out on the official visit?
Mainly, my tour guide. He was really cool, I asked a bunch of questions and he gave truthful answers.
During the visit, I got to look at the dorms, basically everywhere I would be if I went to college there and at that point I really wanted to go there. I went down to the fieldhouse, talked to (the coaches) and we were just talking. I threw a bullpen, talked to the head coach and he was a good guy. Easy to talk to, I feel like I can ask him any questions I wanted.
It felt like home, that’s what I really wanted out of a college and I’m glad I found the one that’s the best fit for me.
What was your reaction to getting offered from Evangel?
I was just really excited. All my hard work paid off. The main thing for me was being close to home. Springfield is only an hour away. Being able to go there, play the sport I love, get an education and being able to come home really anytime I’m free, it’s a big deal to me. I couldn’t be more thankful I got that opportunity.
What will your role be next year?
In NAIA they have JV and varsity teams. The coach said for incoming freshman in the fall they have games for JV. He said in the beginning, most freshman play JV games in fall. If I perform well and they see a lot of growth from fall to spring, I’ll be a bullpen guy in the spring and get some innings every week.
That’s what I’m looking for right now, to grow and get a lot better from the fall to spring so I can get some varsity innings in.
It’s cool they have JV, it’s also one of the reasons why I committed. It gives you more experience and a lot of opportunity for growth before spring comes around.
What do you want to improve on in that time?
I’m going to try and hit the weight room a lot harder than I did in high school. College, the grind is a lot more serious and I’m ready for that, to work my tail off and have good grades in the classroom because academics comes before athletics.
I’m going to work hard in everything I do because I know if I work hard everything will pay off.
What will you be studying at Evangel?
I’m studying physical education. I took a class in high school, I was a teacher’s aid for a physical education class, and I was talking to my teacher.
At this point, this was probably December of senior year, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, and I was starting to think about it. I talked to my teacher and she said me being a physical education teacher, or teacher in general, working with kids, she thought I was good at it. I really loved it.