Only a handful of high school athletes receive a scholarship offer. Even fewer have the opportunity to sign with an NCAA Division I school on the national signing day for their sport.
Waverly senior baseball player Derek Eblin joined some elite company on Nov. 11, signing a National Letter of Intent with the Morehead State University Eagles.
“Derek is one of a handful of guys in Waverly baseball history that have been offered scholarships at the Division I level for baseball. To get to sign early like this, especially during these COVID times, is a relief,” said Waverly Head Baseball Coach Jeff Noble.
“We are very proud of Derek’s accomplishments and progression over the years and the work he has put into it. Many people have contributed to his success from Little League coaches on up, his parents, and his teammates. It is very rewarding to see him earn what he really deserves with this Division I offer.”
For the Waverly Tigers, Eblin has been a starting pitcher from the beginning. When he isn’t pitching, he often plays third base for the Tigers. Sometimes if there is a game the day after he has pitched, Eblin will also play first base to protect his throwing arm by minimizing the amount of throws he needs to make. Noble also noted Eblin’s hitting abilities as a solid batter who hits in the middle of the lineup.
“Derek had a good summer playing Legion ball. He has really excelled at some of the showcases he attended. It makes it extra special that he is such a great teammate. Everybody is rooting for him because of the way he carries himself on and off the field,” said Noble.
“Morehead just seemed to be a great fit for Derek. He loved the campus and the country setting. It is a very good baseball school. Their new baseball coach (Mik Aoki) came from Notre Dame and is very knowledgeable. Many of his ex-players have gotten drafted. Every baseball player has the aspirations of getting drafted. Derek will set the tone for us around here. We are very pleased with his choice.”
Even though it was a special day, it was one without much fanfare. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Eblin signed the contract, took a picture and then sent it back.
“Last year we lost the (baseball) season,” said Eblin. “Missing my high school season last year and having to take time off because of COVID was tough. It messed up the groove that our team was starting to have.”
Fortunately, an opportunity that he had before the shutdown occurred led to the Division I baseball scholarship.
“I went to a Tim Martin Showcase to pitch. They (Morehead coaches) saw me there and really liked what they saw. They asked me to come and take a visit of their campus and asked me to go to a camp/showcase down there. Then their head coach brought me in to his office, talked to us a little bit, and offered me a scholarship then,” said Eblin.
“With everything going on, I’m extremely thankful that I had the chance to pitch in front of them before all of this (coronavirus) stuff happened. Who knows if they didn’t see me before then? I might not have been noticed by anybody. It is an honor to have the opportunity to go play college baseball. Being able to play Division I baseball in college is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m 100 percent certain I will be a pitcher.”
Throughout high school, Eblin has been focused on baseball, even in the offseason. He been working with Coach Noble, getting out on the field, and hitting the weight room. Eblin is thankful for all of the help he has received along the way.
“I want to thank Coach Nob, who has been a big part of helping me to get where I am now. My dad has been my coach for a long time. My dad and Joey Tackett were my coaches in junior high,” said Eblin. “Then Nob took over from there. He has taught me a lot — how to become a better player, better pitcher and a better person off the file. Coach (Jonathan) Teeters was a big part of Legion ball. He coached here at Waverly when I was a freshman. Having Legion ball helped (this past summer).”
Eblin is still looking toward one final season as a Waverly Tiger before he begins his next journey on the diamond at Morehead State. The college is located in Morehead, Kentucky, and the Eagles play in the Ohio Valley Conference. Elbin is currently undecided on a college major.