CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Ben Bleyle faced three batters during his tryout at Bethel University two months ago and reminded himself to treat each one like they were a No. 3, 4 or 5 hitter in the batting order. Bleyle was auditioning for a baseball scholarship, and Bethel was the perfect place for a Clarksville High pitcher who knew he didn’t want to take the junior college route.
Three groundouts later, Bleyle proved himself worthy of a scholarship, and a few weeks after that, he received an offer. The former Wildcats hurler signed to play college baseball at Bethel Friday afternoon at the Wildcats’ baseball facility.
“They called me a week or so after the tryout with a scholarship offer and I accepted,” Bleyle said. “During the tryout, each pitcher got a chance to throw to three batters. I’m not someone who is going to light up the radar gun, but I do try to throw strikes and work on placement of pitches. I’m a ground ball pitcher, and that’s what I was able to do. I got three straight groundouts and that was about it.”
Bleyle said he wasn’t sure if college baseball would be in his future just before his senior season ended a few months ago. But a conversation with Clarksville Academy baseball star – and Bethel signee – Travis Swails convinced Bleyle that he should at least attempt to see if there was a college baseball option.
“We play on the same summer league team,” Bleyle said of Swails. “He said that he was offered a scholarship after they called him. After my tryout I was just waiting for that phone call. They said they would call either way, to tell me if I didn’t make the team or if they were going to offer me a scholarship.”
Bleyle said he had received some interest from Bluefield State College in West Virginia, where three West Creek baseball players signed last month. He also had interest in Jacksonville State Community College, and he was told through a text from Clarksville Orioles coach Jared Hill that Roane State also inquired about the right-hander. But Bleyle received that phone call minutes after Hill’s text and accepted Bethel’s offer.
“I originally had no idea where I was going to go to college,” Bleyle said. “I was just going to go to Middle Tennesse (State) to just go to college and maybe play intramural baseball, because I really had no idea. I hadn’t really thought about it. But I was told about this thing at Bethel and I figured I’d pursue it, give it a shot.”
Bleyle said he wasn’t interested in a two-year junior college or community college. He felt more secure playing four years at a small school while getting his education.
“Sometimes it’s about the best fit for the player,” Clarksville coach Brian Hetland said. “Ben isn’t a guy that was going to be recruited by a major Division I school. Most kids aren’t those types of players. But Ben has the talent to play somewhere, and that’s something that our coaching staff stresses to all of our players. There is a place for you in college baseball if you’re willing to seek it out.”
Bleyle will join a Bethel team in McKenzie where he’ll be in the pitching rotation for the program’s JV team with the chance to move up to the varsity level. That varsity team was 24-19 this spring. Bleyle said he will get to work immediately with an eye on eventually earning that varsity roster spot.
“He’s going to have a chance to grow,” Hetland said. “which I think is going to be great for him. Ben is a solid pitcher and has been for us, at Clarksville, for a long time. He wins games and he’s a smart pitcher. At Bethel, he’ll get a chance to showcase his skills, develop them, and I have no doubt he’ll make that varsity team.”
Bleyle helped Clarksville recapture the District 10 regular season and tournament titles this past spring as well as advancing to the Region 5 tournament championship game and Class AAA sectional appearance. He won 17 starts during his career at CHS and was a huge part of Hetland’s rotation for four years.
“I had a ton of fun playing with all my teammates and for the coaches,” Bleyle said. “Clarksville has so much tradition in baseball and I’m glad I was a part of it. Now I’ll get a chance to continue my career at the next level and I’m blessed to have that chance.”
George Robinson. Prep writer. 245-0747. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook and Twitter: @Cville_Sports.