Eli Kraus got a glimpse into his baseball future last week and the recent Buckeye graduate liked what he saw.
The Kent State recruit traveled to Oklahoma and played with Team Ohio in the Heartland Baseball Classic, helping the squad to a fifth-place finish.
Not only did Kraus get to compete alongside 19 of the state’s top seniors, he played with two of his future Golden Flash teammates as they took on talent from Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Colorado and Arkansas.
“It was one of coolest baseball experiences of my life to this point,” the 6-foot-1,
176-pounder said. “Down there, the talent level is completely different because you’re playing these big Southern boys that have been playing year-round.”
Kraus, a left-handed ace for the Bucks, had a pair of appearances on the hill as Team Ohio went 2-4 in pool play before beating Arkansas in the fifth-place game. Maryland won the championship with a 4-0 victory over Texas.
Ohio got a rude welcome to the event, however, as host Oklahoma crushed the Buckeye state 15-0 in a game Kraus said quickly changed the focus for him and his new teammates.
“Personally, it was an eye-opener,” he said. “The one thing we didn’t realize is that down there you play in 35-mph winds. Oklahoma went deep on us like four times. I wouldn’t say that their talent was better than we were, but it was a different atmosphere.”
The All-Gazette hurler started the club’s third game against eventual runner-up Texas, going five innings and striking out four while allowing just one earned run in a 4-3 loss. His other appearance came in relief, as he pitched two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit as Ohio blanked Arkansas 6-0 in the fifth-place tilt.
Making the final outing even sweeter was the fact Kraus teamed up with future Kent State teammates John Schrieber and Zach Willeman in the three-hit shutout.
“I felt like I was wearing a Kent State uniform there,” Kraus said. “It was cool seeing them both be successful and then having a couple of good innings myself. That’s just the first of many times that will happen.”
All in all, the experience of traveling to Norman and Moore, Oklahoma, is one he will never forget.
“Honestly, the bus ride down, everyone was quiet and just sat there and watched movies for the 17-hour trip,” Kraus said. “But by the end, you couldn’t get us to shut up. We went from guys that have never played together to rolling at the end. It was awesome. I was able to meet so many people.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.