Ursuline grad Hake ready for one more season

Tribune Chronicle / Robert Hayes Youngstown State graduating baseball players Kip DeShields, left, and Joel Hake from Ursuline were honored before Saturday’s game at Eastwood Field.

NILES — Before Saturday’s regular season finale at Eastwood Field, the Youngstown State baseball team honored two graduating seniors who were unable to attend the spring commencement ceremony a few weeks ago due to a road series at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Kip DeShields and Joel Hake were both given diploma covers, and were recognized for their academic achievements at YSU. The road to graduation hasn’t been easy this past season for Hake, a graduate of Ursuline High School.

Hake was one of the Penguins’ best arms out of the bullpen last season, but struggled with hamstring issues in the early part of the season, which ended up sidelining him for the season after only three appearances.

He’s been trying to balance baseball, after being given a medical redshirt, while also working hard on his nursing degree.

“It’s really been tough, he hasn’t been able to do much,” YSU coach Dan Bertolini said. “Being a nursing student, and graduating, he’s on his feet every day, all day. He hasn’t had an opportunity to rest it (his hamstring.)”

The life of a nursing student requires a lot of attention physically and mentally, according to Hake.

“It’s a little tougher than people might think, because I’ve got a couple clinicals every week that are at 6 a.m., on top of our 6 a.m. lifts (with the team).

“Then we have practice for a couple of hours in the afternoon all fall. With traveling it takes a lot of time management. I’m tired a lot of the times, so I’m excited next year, I get to kind of of enjoy the baseball side of it a little bit more and not have the clinical hours,” he said.

He has had a team high in appearances out of the bullpen in two out of the three seasons he’s played at YSU. Although being a student-athlete is a difficult task, Hake wanted to be a nurse so he could give back to others.

“I always was interested in the human body, and I really like helping other people. There’s a lot of pathways that you could go for nursing.”

“He’s just a super tough kid,” Bertolini said. “He has a great GPA, he’s like the epitome of what we’re trying to get as a student-athlete.”

Hake still has to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) this summer, but he’s ready to start preparing for baseball again soon.

“I want to build my body up to be stronger than I’ve ever been in the past to hopefully prevent future injuries,” he said. “I’m just really looking forward to get after it with these guys and being able to dedicate all my time to doing this next year.”

Not being able to play has also helped Hake gain a new appreciation for baseball.

“I’ve been able to learn about how much I really enjoy playing the game, it’s tough not being able to. It makes me much more excited to get out next year,” he said. “It also allowed me to kind of watch our guys, and see what we really have coming back next year, and what I have to do to become a leader on the team next year.”

YSU will travel to Wright State University this week for the Horizon League tournament. The Penguins will take on Milwaukee in a single-elimination game in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

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