WEST PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — The parade for Senators from West High School to Rio Grande University continued on Monday, as Brady Knittel officially committed to play for the RedStorm beginning in the 2015 season. He joins his older brother, Anthony, teammate Austin Howard and a number of other former Senators.
“Most of it was that I could play one year with my brother,” said Knittel of his decision. “That wasn’t all of it, but that was a big factor.”
In addition to the prospect of playing with his friends and high school teammates, Knittel was also impressed with Rio’s southern Ohio campus and it’s coaching staff.
“When I went up there, everything just felt like home. It felt nice, and I just like the campus around it,” Knittel said. “It’s a good program they’ve got going up there. I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Rio head coach Brad Warnimont has hit the Portsmouth area hard this season on the recruiting trail, making it a top priority as he builds his ball club for the future.
“We want to recruit from successful programs, and West has had a great tradition in the area,” Warnimont said. “(West head coach Chris) Rapp has done a great job in his feeder system up through the program, and we want to continue to keep that pipeline going.”
Knittel split time at shortstop and pitching this season for West, hitting .367 with two home runs and only two strikeouts this for the Senators. He also went 4-2 with 49 strikeouts and a 1.63 ERA on the mound this season. His versatility was vital this season as he helped lead the Senators to the second overall seed in the region in the baseball state tournament.
“Rio is getting a ballplayer that can play any position in the infield. He’s that talented,” said Rapp. “He’s caught for us, and we know he can pitch, too.”
As of right now, Warnimont plans on using Knittel on the mound after three RedStorm pitchers graduated after the 2014 season. But with his versatility, Warnimont won’t count him out as a position player in his freshman season.
“Brady’s going to push someone in the infield,” he said. “The talent pool and Brady’s competitiveness…those are things you can’t teach. That’s outstanding.”
Knittel hopes he and his West teammates can avenge the Senators’ heartbreaking loss in last season’s district finals, a 5-4 loss to tenth-seeded Chillicothe Huntington. But while his high school career ended in disappointment, he hopes he’s left a lasting legacy on generations of Senators to come.
“Hopefully they remember me as a leader who pushed guys to help make them better for the team,” he said.
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter