Clay’s Collins to play NCAA D-I, Bolander going D-II

J. Patrick Eaken

Clay senior Andrew Collins is a 6-foot-1, 165-pound outfielder who helped lead last year’s team to a 17-8 record and a district championship. 

After missing his senior year because the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins will now play NCAA Division I baseball at the University of Akron.

A three-year letter winner, he was a first team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference selection as a junior. He also lettered in football, earning second team All-TRAC. The son of Ron and Christina Collins, he expects to study business at Akron.

“Drew is a guy we’ve known and followed for a long time,” said Akron associate head coach Jordan Banfield. “He’s always had a high-waisted, projectable body and very natural left-handed swing with an ability to find the barrel. (Last) summer he really made a jump in the athleticism department, turning in consistent 4.2 times down the line, which made it obvious he was a guy we had to have in the class.”

As a junior at Clay, Collins batted .392 (31 for 79) with 24 runs, one home run, 12 RBIs and six stolen bases, earning him first team Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press honors in voting by 10 area coaches and 10 media members. It wasn’t just his offense that catches people’s attention, but his defense, too.

“Drew was going to be a top of the order guy for us, for sure, and be that spark for our offense and hold down center field for us. Like I’ve said before, he is one of the best defending center fielders in this area, and he’s definitely the best one that I’ve coached since I’ve been at Clay,” Clay coach Jim Phillips said.

Collins’ teammates got a lot from playing alongside him, also.

“I’ve been playing with Drew since I was 12. If I had one guy that I wanted with the bases loaded with two outs and going up to hit, it would be Drew. I’m just so confident in his ability to get base hits and extra base hits,” classmate Brendan Cannon, who will play college baseball at Owens Community College, said.

Collins is not the only one headed to an NCAA school that is allowed to offer baseball scholarships. His classmate, Derek Bolander, will play at NCAA D-II Ohio Dominican University in suburban Columbus.

On the mound his junior year, Bolander was 3-5 with 53 strikeouts, 24 walks, and 3.29 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched, earning second team All-Press.

“Derek would have been our ace. He was a three-year guy in the rotation for us, so this was going to be his year to anchor the staff,” Phillips said. “He had really made strides over the previous two years and I think he was ready to embrace that role as the ace of the staff. He’s pitched in big games for us previously. We felt really great and really confident for him to be that guy this year.”

Bolander said his first trip to Ohio Dominican’s campus in Westerville did the trick. He has been signed since July 2019 — almost a year already.

“When I first got down there, I think it was early June I made a visit, the place kind of felt like home. It was a lot like Clay High School — the coaches were wonderful, and it seemed like a good program that I would fit into.”

He said the Ohio Dominican coaching staff was already communicating with the team and summer workouts are scheduled to begin. He credits Phillips for help getting him signed.

“Coach Phillips is great. I couldn’t thank him enough for what he has done for me and my family,” Bolander said. “I know the other four seniors would say the same thing. He’s just a great guy, great coach, and he’s a lot of fun to be around. He likes to joke around with us at practice, but he has expectations. When we don’t uphold those expectations, he lets us know and all the joking stops. As soon as we get back on track, it’s back to normal.”







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