Bailey signs to play baseball at LHU
Huskies’ 1st baseman to play for Eagles
LEWISTOWN — Without a 2020 high school baseball season, recruiting efforts became much different for college hopefuls looking for an opportunity.
Mifflin County’s Rylan Bailey made the most of his opportunities to play throughout the summer and turned into a star in the middle of Mifflin County’s Independent League lineup as a power-hitting first baseman who possesses all of the tools to become a special player in the future.
Bailey was an RBI machine, with a .328 batting average, two home runs and 27 RBIs in 23 games for Mifflin County this summer. He is a patient hitter and rarely made an out last summer, as he posted an impressive .471 on-base percentage and .522 slugging percentage.
He isn’t just a great hitter either, as Bailey was a defensive anchor at first base and even shined on the mound in limited work, throwing 12.2 innings with 11 strikeouts and a 2.21 ERA that included a dominant complete-game victory over Hollidaysburg in the Independent League Regional Tournament.
The senior was rewarded for his efforts over the summer as he drew the attention of multiple schools before signing his national letter of intent to play college baseball at Division II Lock Haven University. Bailey signed during the fall signing period. Bailey was offered a roster spot on his visit and will play first and could see some time on the mound.
“Recruiting was definitely hard with COVID going on, but I did manage to have some schools reach out to me,” Bailey said. “I chose between Lock Haven, Penn State-Altoona and the University of Pitt-Johnstown.”
Mifflin County coach John McGonigle was pleased with how Bailey handled the process and evaluated his options, especially when finding an opportunity to be scouted was difficult given the circumstances.
“I know it has been a process that has taken several months,” McGonigle said. “He took his time and when he got the opportunity to go to Lock Haven, he knew it was right. I give him a ton of credit for not rushing into the decision. Not getting the chance to showcase his skills last spring on the field due to the virus, he took advantage of the opportunities he got in the summer and the fall.”
Bailey said he chose Lock Haven from being on campus, how it’s surrounded by mountains and the overall feel of the campus as well.
It probably doesn’t hurt that he will be reunited with former teammates Tristin Lockett, Ethan Eichhorn and Mount Union’s Dylan Gearhart –who is transferring in from Binghamton and competed against Bailey in the Independent League — when he gets to Lock Haven.
“To play in college is a dream come true,” Bailey said. “I’ve always wanted to play at the next level and more or less just play four more years of baseball.”
Despite not having a junior season of high school baseball, Bailey found solace in the Independent League and developed into one of the school’s best players, who is poised for a strong senior season in the spring.
“It definitely sucks that I didn’t get to have my junior year, we had a really good team with a lot of talent and I felt like we could have made a run for a district title,” Bailey said. “After the season was canceled I had a lot of fun playing (in the Independent League) with my friends.”
McGonigle was pleased with how Bailey developed on the field over the summer.
“This is a great opportunity for Rylan at Lock Haven,” McGonigle said. “Getting an opportunity to play at the next level has been a goal of his for a long time and now he gets to do that. They are getting a guy that has put in a ton of work into all facets of his game to continue to grow and get better every day.
“He has become an all-around hitter with power to all fields and a fundamentally sound first baseman,” McGonigle continued. “They are getting a guy that is not afraid of extra work. He wants to be the best possible player he can be as well as a great teammate.”
Bailey’s impact goes well beyond his play on the field. The tall, lanky first baseman with flowing locks and an easy swing is well respected by his peers and leads by example.
“He is a leader. Rylan has taken responsibility for the preparation of his game, whether it is in the classroom, weight room, or on the field,” McGonigle said. “You now each time he steps on the field you are going to get his best. He is someone that has the ability to change the game with one swing. He has a great opportunity this spring during his senior year and when he furthers his career at Lock Haven.”
Bailey’s favorite baseball memories thus far include winning a batting title and MVP award in the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League MVP in 2019 with a .547 batting average with four home runs and 34 RBIs. The Mifflin County 15-year-old All-Star team advanced to the state final under coach Rod Henry.
Bailey thanked his mom and teammates for pushing him and supporting him in his career.
“I would like to thank my mom the most and my boys, Tristin Lockett, Bryce Dobson and Ethan Eichhorn for always pushing me to get better everyday,” Bailey said.
His goal for his senior year? Beat State College and win a District 6 title.
McGonigle is just ready to see Bailey and the rest of his team back in action this spring.
“Us coaches can’t wait to see him on the field and we wish him the best at Lock Haven,” McGonigle said.