Stephan Hernon is not ready to let go of his first love just yet.

However, the 2013 Hilliard Darby High School graduate knows it's out of his hands and admits he'll move on, reluctantly, if he must.

Hernon, who graduated from Otterbein University last month, was not selected in the three-day MLB draft that concluded June 14.

"I thought I had a pretty good tryout with the (San Diego) Padres and I was hoping to sneak into the draft somewhere, but it just didn't happen," said Hernon, who this spring helped lead Otterbein to its first NCAA Division III tournament appearance since 2007. "I graduated with a degree in finance and will be looking to get into the banking industry sooner or later.

"I'll be doing some coaching with Ohio Dominican this summer, but I'm hoping something comes up in terms of playing baseball. That would trump anything right now. I'd be 100 percent behind giving the minor leagues a chance. So I'm going to stay ready and be prepared to go to more tryouts. I'm not going to put that behind me until I actually have to."

Hernon, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound catcher, led the Cardinals in most offensive categories this season when they finished 31-14.

"Stephan is an all-out great young man with a tremendous high motor," Darby coach Chris Fugitt said. "He put forth 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. He came to the park ready to get after it and was an outstanding weapon behind the plate."

As the Cardinals' cleanup hitter, Hernon batted .335 this spring with team highs in doubles (14), home runs (8), total bases (92), slugging percentage (.571) and on-base percentage (.427). He tied for first in RBI (43), was second in walks (24) and tied for second in hits (54).

"It was a really good year for us; we played very well with the exception of a few games here and there," Hernon said. "Our pitching staff was incredible and we were a pretty young squad overall. But we went out and took care of business, which is something we didn't do last year."

The Cardinals won the Ohio Athletic Conference regular-season title in 2016, but fell short of earning the league tournament title and thus did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.

"We kind of let one bad day ruin a great season last year, so it felt great to turn that around this year," Hernon said. "The top four (OAC) teams in the regular season play in the double-elimination (league) tournament and we were champions last year but let it get away in the tournament."

This year, the Cardinals beat regular-season champion Mount Union 14-8 to win their sixth OAC tournament championship and earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Hernon was one of five Cardinals to make the all-OAC tournament team. He also was named first-team all-league after earning second-team honors last season.

Competing in the South regional in Danville, Virginia, the Cardinals lost to top-ranked LaGrange 7-1 on May 18 and to ninth-ranked Salisbury 6-4 the following day.

"It was a great experience and I wouldn't change anything in my four years at Otterbein other than the OAC tournament last year," said Hernon, who had an uncle, Mark Senkowitz, play catcher in the minor leagues. "I had a great time, made a lot of friends and played some good baseball. I think Otterbein is a stronger program right now than it was when I arrived. They have a lot coming back next year, too."

The Cardinals finished 32-11 in 2016 after going 23-15 in both 2015 and 2014.

As a senior, Hernon led the OAC in home runs, was second in RBI and slugging percentage and was third in doubles. He was named league Player of the Week for April 2-8 when he went 6-for-10 with seven RBI, a home run and two runs scored in three games.

A four-year letterwinner, he set an OAC record with 10 RBI in a game as a junior when he went 6-for-6 against North Central. He finished the season with a .375 average and 42 RBI.

"My biggest improvement came between my freshman and sophomore seasons," Hernon said. "I think my mental awareness changed and I began to work harder and longer individually, which is something I wish I would have done in high school.

"I think Darby did a good job keeping me on top of my game defensively and teaching me to be a better catcher. I think I became much better offensively when I was at Otterbein."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek