Academy duo soon to compete in Big Ten
The Columbus Academy baseball program continues to gain exposure at the collegiate level.
A year after Nick Sergakis received a scholarship to play at Division I Coastal Carolina, Zach Ratcliff and R.J. Watters are heading to Division I programs to continue their baseball careers.
Friends on and off the field and residents of Blacklick, Ratcliff and Watters now will be competitors in the Big Ten Conference.
Ratcliff will play at Ohio State and Watters will play at Northwestern.
"They have put in a lot of hard work," Academy coach Jim Collis said "They've played a lot of baseball over their careers, so it's more a credit to them than anything else. They've worked at it extremely hard and put themselves in this position to be successful, so hopefully everything works out for them."
Ratcliff and Watters led Academy to a 17-11 overall record this spring. The Vikings' season ended with a 6-5 loss to second-seeded Fredericktown in a Division III district semifinal.
The Vikings defeated Hartley 10-9 in the second round after having a first-round bye. They finished fourth in the MSL-Ohio Division at 6-8, behind champion Granville (13-1).
Watters, a center fielder, was first-team all-league and all-district after hitting .390.
He will have the chance to visit Europe while preparing to play at Northwestern, as he has been selected to participate in a tour through the Old World Baseball program as part of the Diamond College Advisory Team.
The team will play in Holland, Belgium and Germany later this month.
"This will be my first experience of playing with a new group of kids ..., which I will be doing in college," said Watters, who also played running back and linebacker for the Academy football team. "For me, this will be a good steppingstone to learn how to just play within myself, relax, have fun and not try to press too hard and impress everybody, but just play my own game."
Watters also is playing for the Columbus Cobras U18 team this summer.
He selected Northwestern over Bucknell, Furman, Wittenberg and Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.
Ratcliff, a first baseman and pitcher, was first-team all-district and second-team all-league this spring after hitting .425 with a team-high five home runs and 29 RBI.
He said Ohio State coaches have indicated they would like him to work out at first base and in the outfield.
His summer includes playing for the Ohio Elite U18 team.
Ratcliff, who also excelled in football and basketball at Academy, was recruited by nearly 40 schools for baseball and selected Ohio State over Kent State.
"Once I did the visits and sat down and looked at everything, I was always a Buckeye at heart and it just made more sense to stay in Columbus," he said. "I feel pretty blessed that coach (Greg) Beals and the staff are giving me an opportunity to be a Buckeye. Growing up 15, 20 minutes away, it's pretty cool to be able to put on the scarlet and gray."
Ratcliff and Watters credit their experience at Academy as a key in their preparation for collegiate baseball.
"Any time you can play you're going to get better," Ratcliff said. "The competition was good. I don't think Division I, Division II, Division III, Division IV really matters. As long as you have a bat in your hand and you're playing every day, you're going to get better."
"This is pretty exciting for me," Watters said. "Zach has always been a hard-working kid and from such a small school with 88 kids in our class, it's pretty cool that two of us have this opportunity to play in the Big Ten Conference. The past couple senior classes have been pretty solid."