After a standout fall baseball season, two of NCCC’s players have signed on to take their talents to the colleges of their dreams.
On Wednesday, freshman infielder Luke Burk signed with Auburn University while his teammate, freshman catcher Ivan Witt signed Creighton University. This is the first time an NCCC baseball player has signed with Auburn since at least 1987. Other former NCCC baseball players signed to Creighton include Garrett Schaede in 2012, Max Ising in 2012, Steve Winklemann in 2006, DJ Klusaw in 2001, Mike Perkins in 2001 and Stephen Neneman in 1999.
Burk, who signed his letter of intent around family in Galena, Mo., said he is ecstatic about the move.
“It’s some good excitement; finally seeing that work pay off is awesome,” he said. “And then you know, it’s also a little bit of a relief, just being able to relax and really enjoy this year. Take a little pressure off maybe, once I get that signed, and I kind of know what my future holds. I just gotta keep going.”
Burk turned down Eastern Kentucky and Radford University, but joined an historic baseball program in Auburn, as the Tigers have advanced to the NCAA Tournament five out of the last 10 years. Last year, Auburn was 38-26 and advanced to the College World Series.
Burk said it was the perfect fit.
“Their coaching staff when I spoke to them, it kind of felt like I already had known them. They were super welcoming to me and then playing in a conference like the SEC is an opportunity that not a whole lot of guys get,” he said. “That’s not something you can turn down, and I felt like they said they kind of needed a third baseman. And I felt like I have a pretty good opportunity to go and contribute to their program next year.”
Burk has been contributing to the NCCC program since he’s been here, too. In the 2020 truncated COVID-19 season, Burk mustered up a .460 average with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 17 games. In the fall 2020 season, Burk continued his onslaught at the plate, hitting over .500 in quality at-bats. This past fall season, Burk homered seven times.
“I had an outstanding fall season this year,” he said. “That kind of helped me be able to sign early, earlier than most guys. And it got me prepared for the spring.”
It is to Burk’s hope that the preparation will help him towards his future goals as a baseball player: keep improving for a tough SEC and eventually playing professional baseball.
One thing is for sure, the virtues that 35th-year head coach Steve Murry, the staff and the team taught Burk are invaluable for his baseball future and life.
“Coach Murry and the program at Neosho is well-known, and just becoming a better person as a whole, just responsible for things,” Burk said. “I’ve learned a lot on the mental side of baseball from Coach Murry.”
Before Murry and NCCC, Burk attended Galena High School, and was All-State for two years, first-team All-Conference, first-team All-District for three years, and Conference Player of the Year senior year, among other accolades as a shortstop and pitcher.
For this upcoming season, and Burk said he might bat fifth or sixth, but also could move up two or three spots.
Witt was able to sign in his home with family members in Fort Scott.
“It was great, it was a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve been committed to Creighton since my sophomore year, so it’s just been a long time coming. I know Creighton is home for me. And it was really just a dream come true for me and my whole family.”
Creighton, a school that has advanced to six NCAA Tournament appearances the last 10 years and won the Big East in 2019, was highly interested in Witt the summer of his sophomore season. Scouts noted his stellar sophomore season, a season in which the All-State catcher helped the Fort Scott Tigers go 22-2 in 2019 and place third in State.
Witt verbally committed two years ago, and his feelings towards the program never wavered.
“The coaches first off – I know that they are going to do everything in their power to make me the best player that I can be,” he said. “And I know their atmosphere and their values and what they have in their program really just stood out to me. I got to know them better. And then you know you get to play at TD Ameritrade Park, which is by far the best park in college baseball. And then their track record of putting guys in pro ball in the Major Leagues. Nicky Lopez for the Royals, he went to Creighton. And so all in all, I couldn’t be in a better situation for me and my family.”
Witt, who added four home runs this fall season, earned his way to Creighton. He attributes the path created to not only his own work ethic, but to NCCC’s coaching staff and the team.
“Well this fall at Neosho, we scrimmaged four times a week, and just listening to the wisdom from the coaching staff there that they’re always sharing. It was just a great environment to be at,” he said. “Offensively, (Murry) really helped me make the transition mentally and physically at the plate, turning me from a high school player to a college player and eventually a professional baseball player. He really helped me mature and develop in those ways.”
Just as important to Witt is education. Thanks to taking classes over the summer the last few years, Witt was able to graduate a year early from Fort Scott High with a 4.0, and he plans to have this same kind of workmanlike mentality in the classroom at Creighton.
Witt’s business isn’t done at NCCC, though, as he and the rest of the team, will return to campus Jan. 11, and will be ready to hit in any spot in the lineup for the upcoming season in February 2021.
“It’s awesome for both of them,” Murry said. “It is neat when guys get to realize dreams. We expect both to be ‘dudes’ for us this spring. Both will start and need to contribute a lot for us to be successful.”