Knust signs to play baseball at IU SoutheastJune 23, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
FERDINAND — Indiana University Southeast has boasted a winning record on the baseball field year in and year out, and is counting on Gavin Knust from Forest Park to help continue that tradition.
Different collegiate programs were supposed to watch him suit up for his senior season with the Rangers in 2020, but that never came to fruition due to the COVID-19 outbreak shutting down sports.
The Grenadiers still knew about Knust, though, and decided to take a flyer on him. The left-handed pitcher inked his letter of intent to continue his baseball career with the NAIA program Monday afternoon at the Ferdinand Community Center.
“I absolutely love it,” Knust said. “It helps that I’m going to one of the best NAIA schools in America.”
Knust comes from a baseball family. His father, Steve, coached Gavin from the time he was 5 years old until he was in junior high. Gavin recalled that his father pushed him hard, but made him the player he is. Steve, in turn, hailed his son as a kid who always played hard, tried and never gave up.
Gavin’s older brother, Eli, has also gone on to play college baseball, doing so at Vincennes University and Huntington University.
“He said, ‘Always give it everything you got, never hold anything back,’” Eli told Gavin, according to the latter.
Gavin can throw a curveball, changeup, slider, four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball. His velocity clocked in at 86 to 87 mph this winter.
Longtime Rangers coach Jarred Howard touted Gavin being a high school lefty who had some velocity and secondary pitches. It was never a question to Howard if Gavin would get the opportunity to play in college, but at what level.
“He was a great baseball player for us, but what he did in the offseason with our young guys in the weight room with leadership — what he did with holding guys accountable in our indoor hitting facility in the offseason workouts,” Howard said. “That’s what I’m going to miss the most, because he was a guy that was really good about picking guys up, but also holding them accountable and making sure they were doing what they needed to do.”
Grenadiers assistant coach Joe Nattermann was on hand for Monday’s signing. Nattermann knew of Gavin and saw a video of him one time. Both he and head coach Ben Reel talked to him to help sway the southpaw to New Albany.
IU Southeast went 18-1 in 2020 before the virus halted the season. The last time the Grenadiers finished at .500 was in 2007, and have had a winning record every year from 2008 through 2020. Nattermann said it’s a product of having good people on the team, and he was impressed with Gavin’s attitude — the way he talks and carries himself.
“He’s a guy that’s going to fit in on the field pretty much right away,” Nattermann said.
The plan is to have Gavin pitch for the Grenadiers right away, though it is yet to be determined if he’ll have a spot in the rotation or if he’ll come out of the bullpen. Nattermann noted the team’s fall portion with scrimmages will likely give the team a better idea of where he fits best.
“Every kid we’ve gotten from this area, we’ve absolutely loved them, and can’t wait to have Gavin be a part of it,” he said.
Gavin intends to major in business at IU Southeast. He’s hoping to gain some velocity and throw harder before he joins the team. Gavin could also be a two-way player for the Grenadiers, and wants to take the ball the opposite way at the plate as more of a pull batter.
He touted the coaching staff as “amazing” and hopes the coaches will improve his game as he seeks to continue the winning tradition. Gavin is motivated by all the winning the Grenadiers have enjoyed.
“It just pushes me to want to be a better player and makes me want to succeed; and make the IU Southeast baseball team even better than what they are now,” Gavin said.
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