By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Madison Central’s Jimmy Wright and Ben Fisher haven’t played against each other in a meaningful, competitive baseball game since they were in middle school.
But, these teammates and friends will soon become rivals.
The Central seniors both signed national letters of intent on Wednesday in Richmond. Wright, a left-handed catcher, signed with Morehead State. Fisher, a hard-hitting first baseman, signed with Eastern Kentucky University.
So, starting next year, the long-time teammates will find themselves on opposite sides of one of the oldest and most heated rivalries in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I think it will be friendly,” Wright said.
Still, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a little good-natured fun between Fisher and Wright when they step onto the same field together starting in the spring of 2014.
“I’ll probably talk a little trash,” Fisher said. “It will just be fun to see each other and play against each other.”
Wright and Fisher are the 27th and 28th Central players to receive college baseball scholarships since 2001.
Jimmy Wright — Morehead State
Jimmy Wright had been drawing the attention of college coaches from all across the region for the past couple of years.
And with good reason.
Power-hitting, left-handed catchers aren’t easy to find.
That’s the main reason why the Madison Central senior was being recruited by Louisville, Western Kentucky, East Tennessee State, Ohio State, Miami (Ohio) and Butler among other schools.
Ultimately, Wright decided he wanted to play for Morehead State.
“I loved the campus. It was really nice,” Wright said. “I loved the coaches. I figured if it was good enough for Trey (Gross), It must be good enough for me.”
Wright is set to join Gross, his former Central teammate, on the Eagles’ roster.
“We put a premium on left-hander hitters, especially ones who can field and throw,” Morehead coach Mike McGuire. “Jimmy fits all of those variables. We certainly think he has a bright future.”
Wright has been the Indians’ starting catcher for the past two seasons.
Last year hit .358 with six home runs and 35 RBIs. He also had a .511 on-base percentage, a .511 slugging percentage and was hit by pitches 16 times.
Following the season, Wright was selected to play in the Kentucky Junior East-West All-Star Game.
Morehead State only has two catchers on its current roster — and one is a senior.
So, Wright should have a chance to earn some playing time next season as a freshman.
“That’s a position you need more than one guy,” McGuire said. “So, certainly he will be a factor for us right away.”
The left-hander is certainly eager to play at John “Sonny” Allen Field in Morehead. The facility’s right-field fence is less than 300 yards from home plate.
“That was a big selling point,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of easy home runs in that park.”
Ben Fisher — EKU
Madison Central standout first-baseman Ben Fisher has been a two-year starter for the Indians and following last season was named to the Kentucky Junior All-Star Team.
In 2012, Fisher hit .357 with 10 doubles, one triple, two home runs and 28 RBIs. He also scored 25 runs, had a .447 on-base percentage, a .518 slugging percentage and a .975 fielding percentage.
He also had a 4-1 record on the mound with a 3.86 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings pitched.
“He’s a guy who we think can hit for some power and we know he’s an excellent defensive player,” EKU coach Jason Stein said. “At the college level, first base is a position you need to get some offensive production out of and he can do that. He can hit for average and we are also going to give him an opportunity on the mound as well.”
As a sophomore, Fisher hit .359 with 13 RBIs, scored 15 runs, had a .444 on-base percentage and a .970 fielding percentage.
“He’s a team player and a great hitter,” Central coach Steve Roof said of Fisher. “He’s the best first baseman I’ve ever coached.”
Fisher helped lead the Indians to district titles in each of the past two seasons as the team compiled an overall record of 59-15.
“It’s too early to say (if he will play as a freshman),” Stein said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he is there on day one. We are going to have some freshman next year who are going to have to help us out and Ben certainly has the ability.”
The hard-hitting left-handed first baseman is set to join an EKU squad that is coming off a breakthrough season.
The Colonels won 31 games and tied for a share of the Ohio Valley Conference title with Austin Peay. EKU led the nation in home runs per game (1.25) and led the OVC in slugging percentage (.482), doubles (12), triples (21), home runs (65) and total bases (902).
“It’s good to have a local guy,” Stein said. “We want to recruit locally. We want to win the state as well (in recruiting) and we’ve got a quality player in Ben.”