By KEVIN HARRIS
When Drew Ellis entered the Jeffersonville High School baseball program in 2011, he was known as a talented player who could do it all.
Throughout his high school career, he lived up to his billing. That was especially the case this past season.
Ellis led the Red Devils in nine offensive statistical categories in 2014 in leading them to a 21-8 record. The Jeff senior played solid on defense at shortstop and he was an effective starting pitcher in the Red Devils’ rotation after throwing limited innings in his first three seasons.
Ellis’ stellar all-around execution in the batter’s box, in the field and on the mound enabled him to earn this year’s News and Tribune Player of the Year honor.
“It’s an honor to get this award,” Ellis said. “This year, I wanted to play hard and play every game. It’s a blessing to play the game of baseball and receive an award like this.”
No one is more proud of what Ellis has accomplished on the diamond than his father, Jeff head baseball coach Derek Ellis.
“Drew has left his mark as one of the best baseball players to wear a Red Devil uniform,” the elder Ellis said. “I haven’t coached a more complete player than Drew. From his leadership on and off the field, his work ethic and his God-given talent, I feel he is the best player in the state.”
Drew Ellis’ sweet swing put up some impressive numbers for Jeff. He ranked first for the Devils in batting average (.488), slugging percentage (.917), hits (41), doubles (13), home runs (seven) and total bases (77). The younger Ellis ranked second on the team in RBIs with 25, seven behind teammate and Jeff’s RBI leader, Chandler Dale.
Drew Ellis also led the Red Devils in runs scored (33) and on-base percentage (.632). But the most surprising statistical category he paced Jeff in was stolen bases. He had eight steals in nine attempts.
He credits his hard work in the offseason in gaining more quickness on the basepaths.
“The things I needed to work on were my range [at shortstop] and my speed,” he said. “I think I improved on my speed a lot. I’m definitely happy with the way I played this year.”
As a pitcher, Ellis compiled a 4-2 record with a 1.84 ERA. He recorded 29 strikeouts and 10 walks in 26 2/3 innings. The Jeff shortstop was named the Indiana District N Player of the Year, making him eligible for this year’s Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Indiana Player of the Year award. He also made the All-Hoosier Hills Conference first team.
Ellis helped the Red Devils achieve their biggest accomplishment of 2014. On June 2 at Mt. Tabor Field in New Albany, Jeff won its third consecutive Class 4A sectional championship by defeating archrival New Albany in the Class 4A New Albany Sectional final, 7-1. It was the first time the Red Devils have won three sectional titles in a row since the class system began in 1998.
“It definitely means a lot,” the younger Ellis said. “We all competed and wanted the best for each other. Over the last three years, we accomplished a lot.”
Unfortunately for Jeff, its season came to a shocking end and it involved its star.
In the bottom of the seventh inning with two out, Whiteland’s Austin Browning smacked a game-winning solo homer off Ellis to give the Warriors a 5-4 victory in the first semifinal of the Class 4A Evansville Reitz Regional on June 7 at Bosse Field.
“I wish I would’ve thrown a slider, but I threw a fastball and he put a good swing on it,” Ellis recalled. “I got down in the count, which screwed me. I had to put one over the plate and he put a good swing on it. Give credit to him. That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Derek Ellis says Browning’s walk-off shot should not dampen what his son and the Red Devils accomplished in 2014.
“I thought he had a great season. He had one of the best high school seasons for any player that came through Jeff,” the Jeff manager said. “I know they are disappointed that they didn’t go further in the state tournament. They wanted to win a state championship. But I’m proud of Drew and all the other guys for the season they had.”
One thing Drew Ellis will miss about playing at Jeff is having his dad as his head coach and his brother, Ian Ellis, as a teammate. This past season was the first time that the Ellis’ brothers were varsity teammates at Jeff. Ian Ellis played alongside his brother, as he primarily played third base.
“It was a blast,” Drew Ellis said about being on the same team with his dad and his brother. “My dad wants the best for me. I definitely come to him for advice. I’ll miss playing with my brother. I hoped to have passed along the things I know about baseball to him.”
Derek Ellis has coached his oldest son since Little League. That includes coaching Drew Ellis as the manager of the 2008 Jeff/GRC Little League All-Star team that reached the Little League World Series.
Derek Ellis will definitely miss coaching Drew.
“It’s been a great run,” Derek Ellis said. “The good lord has blessed me to be a head coach and be able to coach my two sons. I’m going to miss him being there. I’ll miss him being there at practice.”
Drew Ellis’ next destination is the University of Louisville, where he will play for the Cardinals’ baseball team. He is currently working with former Major League Baseball player and Louisville native Chris Burke to prepare himself for the NCAA Division I level.
“I’m going to do what I’ve always done and that’s work hard,” Drew Ellis said. “I’m lifting [weights] four to five days a week. It’s going to be fun.”
He will have a few familiar faces as teammates at Louisville. Dale will be a walk-on for the Cardinals next season, and New Albany graduates Josh Rogers and Jordan Striegel are on the roster.
“It’s going to be a fun experience,” Drew Ellis said. “Those guys are all competitors. It’s definitely going to help me out.”
Derek Ellis thinks his son has a chance to make an immediate impact for the Cardinals.
“Only time will tell,” said Derek Ellis, who played college baseball at Vincennes and Indiana State. “Louisville has a very strong recruiting class going into next season. He’s going to have to work hard, but I think he can play right away.”
NEWS AND TRIBUNE ALL-AREA BASEBALL TEAM
Drew Ellis, Jeffersonville senior (Player of the Year)
Kyle Beach, Floyd Central junior
Josh Burke, Jeffersonville senior
Cameron Cook, Silver Creek junior
Chandler Dale, Jeffersonville senior
Shae Durham, Silver Creek senior
Brandon Johnson, New Albany senior
Tucker Marcum, New Albany senior
Drew Reich, Charlestown junior
Brandon Smith, Floyd Central junior
Scot Ames, Eastern senior
Cameron Harvey, Providence freshman
Ryan Jones, Charlestown junior
Colton Kimm, Floyd Central junior
Kyle Kruer, Borden junior
Brian McGee, Borden senior
Ben Shahroudi, Providence senior
Jack Shine, New Albany senior
Garrett Vick, Borden senior
Tanner Wesp, Charlestown sophomore
Brayton Brading, Eastern; Austin Dickey, Providence; Ian Ellis, Jeffersonville; Trey Fulton, Floyd Central; Derek Hall, Henryville; Nick Jones, Clarksville; Wyatt Kissel, Clarksville; Cody McAfee, Henryville; Dustyn Miller, Eastern; Cody Razer, Silver Creek; Hayden Robb, Jeffersonville; Michael Springer, Floyd Central; Daniel Sprinkle, Charlestown; Tre Watson, Providence.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Chris McIntyre, New Albany