As a kid, Darren Willis told his father he was going to play Division I baseball.
The Rummel senior came through on his promise.
Willis committed to UNO in a decision that came down to the tradition being installed under first-year coach Blake Dean.
“I know (Dean) has the experience of playing at a high level and knowing that he’s a competitor,” Willis said. “He won’t accept losing and wants UNO to be a winning program.”
Willis will play shortstop and pitcher for Rummel this season after playing mostly at second base as a junior.
Last season, he batted .259 with 10 doubles, three triples, one home run, and 18 RBIs and 21 runs. On the mound, he went 3-2 and earned a 4.82 ERA, coming up with 14 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.
“He has great hands, great hand-eye coordination,” Rummel coach Nick Monica said. “He’s put on some weight and filled out. And he’s just a great student-athlete, a good kid off the field as well.”
Willis also saw interest from North Carolina, Clemson and Southeast Missouri.
Dean, who played at LSU and helped the Tigers claim the 2009 national championship, played a major role in Willis’ decision.
“I had opportunities to go to other big Division I schools, but UNO is doing great things with their program and I wanted to be a part of the rebuilding (process) of the program,” Willis said.
“Coach Blake is doing a great job with the program. (My decision) came down to wanting to help restore the UNO baseball tradition and playing for coach Dean.”
Salmen penalized by LHSAA
The Salmen football program was fined $100 and placed on a year’s probation for the use of an ineligible student-athlete.
The LHSAA announced the penalty Friday.
According to Spartans Principal Brennan McCurley, the school along with LHSAA officials caught the use of the ineligible player when reviewing paperwork and noted the violation.
“We inadvertently played a student who was not eligible to play,” McCurley said. “We are going to use this as a teaching lesson for the future.”
The unnamed player participated in the Spartans 20-10 loss at Bogalusa on Sept. 25. Because the game was not won by the Spartans, it did not have to be forfeited.
According to the release from the LHSAA, “the student shall remain ineligible until he meets the requirements of the LHSAA’s Scholastic Rule. Additionally, when and if he meets these requirements, he must then remain ineligible for the same number of contests he participated in as an ineligible student or first regular season contest of the 2016 season.”
In addition, Salmen coach Jerry Leonard is required to take the LHSAA online handbook certification class or the LHSAA/NFHS Online Fundamentals of Coaching.
David Folse contributed to this report.