By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Jonah Kelsey wanted the opportunity to pitch and also contribute offensively in college — and he was extremely interested in finding a school that would give him the chance to do both.
“I definitely wasn’t ready to give up either one yet,” the Madison Central senior baseball player said.
He won’t have to.
The Madison Central senior signed a national letter of intent to play for Indiana University-Southeast on Wednesday. Kelsey was also drawing interest from Morehead State, Asbury, Alice Lloyd and the University of the Cumberlands.
IUSE coach Ben Reel said at Wednesday’s signing ceremony that Kelsey will get the opportunity to showcase all of his skills at the next level and that the senior is the kind of multi-dimensional player he likes to have on his team.
“That’s what we wanted him for,” Reel said of Kelsey’s skills. “That’s gives us a little more flexibility. This year we have seven seniors, possibly eight if we get a transfer at the break. But even next year, we will have five to seven seniors. So, flexibility is something we are looking for in this recruiting class. We want multi-dimensional guys because at this point, versatility equals value.”
Kelsey got some playing time as a sophomore, but cracked the line-up full-time last year. He was a fixture in the middle of the batting order and was used in the outfield, at first base and as a designated hitter.
Kelsey hit .313 with 17 RBIs. He had a slugging percentage of .384, a on-base percentage of .354 and a OPS of .737 for a Central team that won 21 games.
He is expected to take over as the starter at first base this season, following the graduation of Ben Fisher.
“We look for him to be in the middle of the line-up again this year and lead the (offensive) attack as a senior,” Central coach Steve Roof said.
On the mound, Kelsey pitched 18 innings and had 19 strikeouts. He posted a 1-1 record with one save and a 3.50 earned run average.
He started a couple of games, but mostly pitched in relief. The senior, who has a low 80s fastball and a good curve, pitched against top-notch 11th Region and had solid season.
“There’s no radar gun for the ribcage,” Reel said. “You can’t measure what is inside someone’s chest. He wants to be the best he can be. He wants to be better than the guys around him. He just fits us.”
Kelsey’s toughness and competitiveness are his best attributes, Roof said.
“He’s definitely a competitor,” the Central coach said. “He pitched in a lot of big games last year. He’s really worked hard. He’s not afraid. He wants the ball in the biggest games.”
This past summer, Central played some games at IUSE’s field in New Albany, Ind. That gave Kelsey another chance to consider the school.
“I had been up there once and taken a tour of the campus,” Kelsey said. “But, being on the field and being around campus again, I really liked it a lot.”
In the past five years, the Grenadiers have won four Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season titles and two KIAC Tournament titles.
Under Reel, IUSE has had eight players sign professional contracts, including Cameron Conner, who was taken in the 20th round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Kansas City Royals.
“He’s gonna have guys around him showing him what to do,” Reel said of Kelsey. “He’s not going to have to carry the load as a freshman.”
Kelsey wanted to make the decision official prior to the season so he could focus on the helping the Indians achieve their ultimate goal this year.
“I’m ready to get that region title,” Kelsey said.