02/24/2016 1:38 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – February 24, 2016 – Highland High School’s baseball program enjoyed a season of dual aces in 2015.
With then-senior right-hander Clay Keltner already slotted into the top spot, coach John Bogner received the added bonus of junior left-hander Jordan Petty (pictured) moving in from Colorado.
“When I first heard he was going to come from Colorado, I was excited,” Bogner said. “Everybody in the Region wants a tall lefty. Anytime you can get a lefty who throws hard, everybody has their eyebrows raise.”
After one season of guiding the Trojans’ pitching staff together, Keltner has graduated and moved on to Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., while Petty – a Purdue Calumet commit – has taken the reins as the Trojans’ sole ace.
The pair of Highland hurlers will be reunited for the 2016 summer, when both take the Oil City Stadium diamond as members of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
Another reunion of sorts will take place between Keltner and Oilmen manager Adam Enright. Enright coached Keltner in 14U summer ball.
“I gave him a call and asked if there were any openings,” Keltner said. “He told me to get my numbers up, but then he decided to give me a chance. It’ll be fun; we had some good experiences. I know a lot of guys on the team.”
Keltner is longtime friends with Griffith graduate Josh Terzarial, another member of the 2016 Oilmen.
Keltner, who also plays third base, earned all-Northwest Crossroads Conference recognition and was named his team’s most outstanding pitcher a year ago.
“The best thing about Clay Keltner was his work ethic and leadership,” Bogner said. “He was one of the hardest working kids we’ve had go through since I’ve been here. He’s a baseball gym rat. Every time we were there, he was there. You never had to worry about him not working.”
Keltner initially went to Cornerstone as a junior varsity player, but he’s already worked his way onto the varsity roster and has logged eight early-season innings. He “worked his butt off” last summer, and plans to do the same this season with the Oilmen.
“Facing some D-I guys in the summer, my location and spotting up is going to be important rather than trying to blow it by guys,” Keltner said. “Making the ball move is a strength I have. I have really good command on the mound. My changeup is my out pitch; I learned that when I was 13 and just now perfected it.”
Keltner came in as exclusively a pitcher, but Cornerstone’s starting shortstop transferred out and the third baseman is getting reps at short. That opens the door for Keltner to continue as a two-way player with time at third.
Once his college years are said and done, Keltner wants to become a physical education teacher and coach high school baseball. For now, he’s glad to have the next four years of his future cemented after completing the recruiting process.
“It was pretty stressful,” he said. “It was self-generated; I had to do a lot on my own. I wanted to go to a place where I would be able to play for four years rather than sit until I’m a junior. We get a lot of praise for our facilities at Cornerstone, so that’s why I decided to come here.”
When Petty made the move from Colorado to Northwest Indiana, he experienced a step up in baseball competition. He said the level of baseball is much better in the Hoosier State than in the Centennial State.
Petty is striving to increase his velocity, make good friends and adjust to the collegiate level during his summer with the Oilmen.
Although he knows finding success in the Midwest Collegiate League will be no easy task, Petty is ready to embrace the challenge.
“When I was younger, I broke my elbow and had some surgery done on it,” he said. “After that, I felt I could push through obstacles that anyone sets forward for me. I can face anybody.”
Bogner believes Keltner and Petty complemented each other well during their year together at Highland.
“They’d watch each other’s bullpen sessions and video tape and critique,” Bogner said. “They always picked each other up if things didn’t go well. When things didn’t go well, it was never a ‘me, me,’ situation; that was never an issue. They were both behind each other 100 percent. It was nice to have them as a 1-2 punch.”