Champion stars accept D-I offers

Special to Tribune Chronicle Champion’s Drake Batcho, center, poses for a photo with his dad, Joe, left, and mom, Toni, right, Wednesday after signing a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at Cincinnati.

WARREN — It’s not often two players from the same school are offered scholarships to Ohio State. It’s even more rare that they each picked other schools instead.

It wasn’t anything against the Buckeyes for Champion’s Drake Batcho (baseball) and Megan Turner (softball), they just felt more at home at slightly smaller Division I universities.

The two signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to make their commitments official. Batcho, a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher, is headed to the University of Cincinnati, while Turner, a slick-fielding power-hitting shortstop, will join her brother at Kent State University.

Two of the area’s best baseball and softball players were routinely courted by numerous major Division I schools, but finding an environment that was similar to what they grew up around was their main goal.

“I’m a home person, so going far, it was an option, but it wasn’t really something that I wanted to do,” Turner said, “which is kind of why I turned down Indiana and Duke.

Special to Tribune Chronicle Champion softball player Megan Turner, middle, poses for a photo with her dad, Brian, right, and mom, Christy, left, after signing a National Letter of Intent to play at Kent State.

“I just felt more at home at Kent than I did at Ohio State. That’s an important factor when you’re committing.”

Turner, whose brother plays baseball for the Golden Flashes, is coming off a huge season. She batted .490 with 13 home runs, 48 RBIs, 17 walks and a .990 slugging percentage. She played a key role during Champion’s state-championship run. Her defense was on point as well, as she didn’t commit an error during the first 23 games of the regular season.

She said the coaches at Kent told her they were just fine with her as a shortstop, a position she has grown up playing, but she could also play several other spots on the infield.

“They really liked my hitting,” Turner said. “It was kind of the factor that set them to offer me. They basically told me, ‘If you hit, you’ll play the field.’ “

That shouldn’t be a problem for Turner, just like firing fastballs likely won’t be an issue for Batcho.

The 6-foot-4 lefty is coming off another spectacular season. Batcho finished with a 0.78 ERA, 90 strikeouts and allowed just 19 hits and five earned runs over 45 innings. He pitched several critical games down the stretch as Champion won the school’s first baseball state title.

With a fastball in the 90s, Batcho was a major Division I prospect. He, too, preferred to stay in Ohio, narrowing his choices to Ohio University, Ohio State and Cincinnati. The Bearcats won out in large part because of the scenic campus and strong academics.

“They have both academics and athletics that fit me well,” he said. “I feel at home there, from all the other schools I visited. I went to a lot of schools, and that was my favorite. I feel like they can help me get to the next level as well.”

The professional ranks are a real possibility for Batcho, and the opportunity could come sooner than later.

Considering his size, velocity and the fact that left-handed pitchers are more highly coveted by scouts, Batcho could be a prospect for the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft in June if he continues to develop.

He said he’ll make a decision on what to do if that chance presents itself.

“Right now, I’m taking it one step at a time,” he said. “When the time comes, I don’t know, I guess I’d have to talk it over with my family. If the price is right, maybe. Right now, I’m focused on Cincinnati.”

With several scouts at nearly every one of their games last year, Turner and Batcho said it was a big relief to make their commitments prior to their upcoming seasons, which have the potential to again end in Akron and Columbus, the sites for the state softball and baseball tournaments.