MOUNT CARMEL -- Just three days prior to his Aces debuted in the football playoffs, Mount Carmel senior dual-sport athlete Cade Newkirk opted to get his college decision out of the way and announce his intentions for next fall.
Newkirk tweeted Wednesday afternoon that he had committed to his hometown Warriors of Wabash Valley College to further his baseball career, picking the Warriors despite a slew of interest accumulating for the southpaw pitcher.
Mount Carmel Head Baseball Coach Shea Smith said Newkirk had done a showcase for Wabash Valley College recently and struck out all three batters he faced. More impressive than anything, Newkirk told Smith he felt he wasn't as strong as he's capable of that day.
"With the showcase he did for Wabash, the one Fournier saw him at, he faced three batters, struck all three out and felt like he didn't have his stuff," Smith laughed. "I was like, well that's great."
Newkirk's worked extensively on his arsenal, working specifically on his mechanics to improve his velocity on his fastball and tweaking out a developing curveball and changeup. Smith spoke highly of Newkirk's growing off-speed arsenal, which has the Aces coach excited not only for Newkirk's future, but his senior season at Mount Carmel.
"His velocity keeps growing, he's gone from 73-75 as a freshman, he's sitting more 81-83 now with a ton of room to grow," Smith said. "He hits the weight room, he works harder than anyone that wanted to be good which is great. He's great to have for senior leadership this year. Him along with a couple other guys I'm really looking forward to them taking the rest of the team under their wings and keep growing. The biggest thing I love is he has tons of run on his fastball and doesn't know if it's going to go left or right and that's the beauty of it."
Last season Newkirk boasted a 1-4 record in seven starts, with a 5.36 ERA, but striking out 50 batters in 31 1-3 innings of work. Newkirk's primary struggles last season were with his control, walking batters in full count situations and getting himself into trouble.
If the senior southpaw can sort out those issues, he'll realize his dynamic potential on the mound and become the Aces ace, replacing the void left by Logan Durham.
"That's one of the biggest things, just keeping his counts lower," Smith said. "High pitch counts, we're in the fifth inning and he's up to 70 something pitches, that's something we've been really trying to work on. His stamina's really come a long way since he started as a freshman. It's a big thing we talked about a lot."
As for the fit at Wabash Valley, Newkirk joins a storied NJCAA Division I program who's enjoyed a tremendous amount of success as of late.
The Warriors most recently were ranked No. 1 in the country for over a two-month span last season and amassed a 49-game win streak. They're extremely talented and extremely well-coached, headed by long-tenured Head Baseball Coach Rob Fournier.
For Newkirk though, he's going there to play, he's not going to just go in and settle with being on the roster or a reserve. He's intent on working his way into the rotation and knows the college's track record of moving guys onto the next level, whether it be professionally or the Division I level.
"Fournier really likes him and I agree," Smith spoke of Newkirk. "It's a great fit for him honestly, they don't get a ton of lefties. It's a rarity, to get a good throwing lefty. When we've been talking he's really embraced that he's going to be playing with a lot of other good pitchers. He's really embracing the competition which says a lot of him. He could have maybe went somewhere else and been the top dog but he wants to work for it and show that he's better than them."
It's unclear as of right now whether Newkirk will sign in the early signing period or in the spring, but it's surely a relief to have the decision off his shoulders prior to baseball season. As for his next step, he'll just have to continue to work and let the results speak for itself.
"I love how much communication he has with me and keeping me involved. He's always communicated good over the years and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him succeed in his senior year on the mound, in the field, and at the plate he's grown so much just in his four years. As a person, as a player, as a pitcher and a hitter, everything's just come along so well. I'm looking forward to his next couple steps and what he can do from here."