Three members of the Saline baseball team signed letters of intent to play college baseball at a ceremony at Saline High School Wednesday.
Pitcher Cole Daniels committed to Kentucky, outfielder Ethan Collick committed to Central Michigan University and catcher Jayden Belskus committed to Albion.
Daniels, the son of Brian and Heidi Daniels, was the ace of the state champion pitching staff last year.
The left-hander started 10 games and went 8-0. He gave up just 19 hits and two earned runs in 54.2 innings to finish with microscopic earned run average of 0.26. Daniels also struck out 67 batters while walking 20.
At the plate, the left-handed swinger batted .360 with six home runs, 10 doubles and 43 RBI in 111 at bats. He also walked 15 times.
Daniels committed to the University of Kentucky, where he plans to study special education. Committing to Kentucky realizes a goal Daniels set years ago.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play college baseball, especially in the SEC,” Daniels said.
He decided on Kentucky after a visit in his sophomore year.
“I fell in love with (Kentucky). I went and visited the coaching staff. They were very welcoming and they all want to win. That’s what I was looking for,” Daniels said. “The conference they play in is the SEC and it’s a very elite conference in college baseball. That was one of the other things I was looking for.”
Daniels says the team sees him starting as a pitcher but will give him a chance to hit, too.
Daniels has had a great high school baseball career to date. The highlight is no surprise.
“It was obviously winning the state championship. In my sophomore year we lost. Coming back and winning it in junior year was just an amazing feeling,” Daniels said.
Obviously, he’s not done in Saline just yet. The Hornets have a tough act to follow – especially after graduating all but two starters.
“Our goal every year is to win the state championship. We have almost all our pitchers back so I think that’s going to help. We have kids every year step up and fill the holes that we need. So hopefully that will happen again,” Daniels said.
Former Saline baseball coach Scott Theisen, now the Interim Athletic Director at Saline High School, said Kentucky is getting a good baseball player.
“As a pitcher his biggest strength as that people don’t square him up very well. If you look at the opponent batting average and his earned run average, they don’t get hits and they don’t score runs. That’s a credit to his ball movement and his placement,” Theisen said. “At the plate, he’s a kid who can go both ways on inside or outside pitches and he’s got a lot of inside power.”
Ethan Collick, son of Stacy Collick, was the starting rightfielder for the state champion team last year. As the season went on, Collick took ownership of the rightfield position. He finished with a .307 batting average. He hit five doubles and a home run, while driving in 20 runs in 88 at-bats. As the season went on, he showed more and more power.
Collick received attention from several MAC schools and Michigan State before committing to Central Michigan University. Collick plans to study business and finance.
“It just felt like the right place. The coaches loved me and showed me the attention I wanted to receive,” Collick said. “They see me as a corner outfielder. They like my arm, they like my bat and they see me filling in the role of a kid who just got drafted.”
Even though he still has his senior year ahead of him, Collick has already accomplished a lot as a Hornet. Of course, nothing tops winning the state championship.
“It was so special. Coach T deserved it. All the guys wanted it so bad. The previous year we didn’t get it done so we felt like we had to fill their spot,” Collick said. “All the seniors were awesome to play with. It was definitely the best time of my life.”
Asked about his goal for his senior year, Collick made it plain.
“Of course we want to win the state championship again and win it back-to-back,” he said. “The incoming classes are good and we’ll definitely have a chance again,” Colllick said.
Theisen said Collick showed great improvement in his junior year.
“As the season went on he got better and better. He stopped overthinking and had a go-get-it mentality. He’s got a lot of tools. He’s got great power. He runs fairly well and he throws very well,” Theisen said. “At a place like Central Michigan he’s going to have to run very well because it’s a huge outfield. They really like his bat and his power. He’ll develop into a more balanced hitter.”
Jayden Belskus, son of Amy and Robert Braley, was to be the catcher whenever Sean O’Keefe didn’t catch last year. Belskus’s junior season was derailed when he broke his thumb early in the season. Early in the season he showed promise.
Belskus hit .421 in 19 at bats. He drove in seven runs with a double and six singles.
He’ll study business while playing baseball at Albion College.
“It thought it was the right fit. I just fit in there,” Belskus said. “They like my hitting a lot and they like me behind the plate.”
Belskus is looking forward to a healthy season and helping the Hornets continue where they left off.
“Obviously the expectations are high by we’re looking to get back where we were last year,” Belskus said.
Coach Theisen said Belskus has some pop in his bat and he’s strong behind the plate.
“I think with time he’ll develop some power to the opposite side and cover both sides of the plate a little better. Defensively, he’s very good at receiving and blocking the plate. He’s working on his throwing and his release. He works extremely hard so he’ll continue to improve,” Theisen said. “He would have started on many teams in our conference.