OWENSBORO — For one former Jeffersonville baseball standout, a strong summer in the Ohio Valley League, a wood-bat summer collegiate league, seemed inevitable after a huge second half of the spring season.
For another former Red Devil, it was the chance to shine after suffering through a back ailment that caused a medical redshirt during his first college season.
The former is Ian Ellis, who hit four of his eight home runs for Kentucky Wesleyan in his last 12 games in the spring. Ellis hit seven more — tying for fourth in the league — in 36 games this summer for the Owensboro RiverDawgs.
The other All-OVL performer is Bailey Falkenstein, who will be a freshman at Olney (Ill.) Central next year after the medical redshirt. The infielder finished the regular-season third in the league in hits (46) while posting a .393 batting average with 10 doubles and three home runs.
Both played instrumental roles for the RiverDawgs who finished 23-14, one game behind the Henderson Flash in the OVL East. However Dubois County swept the best-of-three quarterfinal series against the RiverDawgs last weekend, ending big summers for the former Red Devil pair.
For Ellis, he went into the summer looking to continue his power production, but also improve in getting on base at a high rate.
“One of my main focuses going into the summer was get on base more and squeak out a higher average. I was able to do both of those things,” said Ellis, who hit .323.
The right-handed slugger walked 24 times for a .459 on-base percentage that was among the OVL’s elite. Ellis credited improving his discipline, while maintaining an aggressive approach, to his success.
“I was definitely taking more walks than I did [in the spring]. I’m starting to figure that part of it out. Basically, [I’m] just not chasing and getting on-base,” Ellis said.
For Falkenstein, it was just a matter of being thrilled to be on the field after dealing with a back ailment that forced him to miss his freshman season. He got to producing right away, hitting over .500 the first few weeks before leveling out at about .450 by midseason.
“I’ve had a solid season. I wish it would have been better,” he said. “I feel like sometimes I’m a little bit hard on myself, but I’ve had a solid season altogether. In the second half, I hit about .350 and I’ve been a little frustrated. I’ve been getting myself out a lot.”
Falkenstein hopes to man third base next year at Olney with the goal to produce at a level that draws the attention of a Division I coach.
“I’m hoping to get to Division I and eventually get drafted,” Falkenstein said. “Nothing’s gonna be easy. If I keep on working hard and doing what I’m doing. I’m really grateful to be playing right now.”
In order to stay healthy, Falkenstein has continued to work on his flexibility.
“I’ve just been stretching. You’ve got to stretch everything — the back, the hamstrings, the hips. I can touch my toes for first time in my life,” he said.
Ellis shares the goal to play professionally and is hoping his improvement this summer helps prepare him for an even better season for Kentucky Wesleyan in 2020.
“Hopefully that’s what works out,” said Ellis, who hit .246 with seven doubles and 31 RBIs last season for the Panthers. “Sometimes you’ll find a ball on a metal bat that will go if you don’t find the barrel just right. But if you square it up just the same, it goes just as far with a wood bat.”