By Mike Dunn
EVART – Two weeks ago, Evart senior Justin O’Dell received an offer of a baseball scholarship from Cornerstone University. On Thursday afternoon in the high school library, O’Dell signed his letter-of-intent to pitch and possibly play the outfield for Cornerstone.
“They made me feel wanted,‘ a smiling O’Dell explained to reporters after putting his signature on the dotted line with friends and teammates looking on along with Coach Josh Johnson, Athletic Director Jay Wallace, parents Jason and Amy O’Dell and sister Natalie.
O’Dell visited the Cornerstone campus and worked out for the coaches in December. The scholarship offer came about a month later.
“I really liked it down there (during my visit),‘ the 6-foot, 195-pound O’Dell said.
“The coaches were very open and welcoming to me. I felt very comfortable.‘
O’Dell has yet to play his senior season for the Wildcats but has already had a notable prep career on the diamonds. He was a key player last year as Evart posted a 30-7 record, won its first Highland Conference title since 1996 and its first district title since 2008. O’Dell usually played right field when he wasn’t pitching. He and then-sophomore Danny Witbeck gave the Wildcats a potent 1-2 punch on the mound. Both pitchers twirled no-hitters last season.
O’Dell also finished near the .400 mark in hitting, noted coach Johnson, and was among the team leaders in RBIs and extra-base hits.
“Justin brings the whole package,‘ Johnson said.
“He has a great work ethic. He hits for average and he hits for power. He’s a gap guy. He’s also a great defensive player in the outfield and a smart base-runner on top of being one of our aces on the mound.‘
O’Dell was recruited primarily as a pitcher for Cornerstone.
As a pitcher, O’Dell has nice velocity on his fastball but his effectiveness comes in mixing in his curve ball and change-up and hitting the corners.
“He’s not a one-trick pony,‘ Johnson said. “He can bring it with the fastball but you can’t sit on the fastball because he has the curve and he’s developing a nice change-up too. He makes it tough on the hitters.‘
O’Dell has worked in the off-season with Mount Pleasant pitching coach Ken Kreiner, who has helped O’Dell with his technique and velocity. O’Dell has played during the summer months for the Mount Pleasant American Legion Post team in recent years and that has helped him continue to develop his overall skills as well after the high school season has ended.
O’Dell expressed appreciation to coach Johnson and coach Kreiner and the other coaches who have worked with him through the years from Little League on.
“They’ve been such a huge help to me,‘ he said.
Before college calls, O’Dell is looking forward to completing his playing career for the Wildcats this spring. With O’Dell and Witbeck both returning on the hill and several other players from last year’s team coming back, there’s a lot of optimism about Evart’s chances to repeat the success of the 2019 campaign.