LOVES PARK, Ill. – Three players from Ohio State University will join the Rockford Rivets on the mound and in the outfield this summer.
The Stateline’s new Northwoods League team announced Friday that they have added pitchers Seth Kinker and Yianni Pavlopoulos and outfielder Jacob Vander Wal to the roster.
“Becoming a reliever is never an easy transition,” said Rivets manager Brian Smith. “Having two guys, who have performed at the highest level as relievers, is always comforting to a coaching staff.”
Pavlopoulos, OSU’s closer, hasn’t given up a run in nine appearances this season. The redshirt sophomore from Providence Catholic High School in Illinois is continuing his career as a righthanded pitcher after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s 1-0 with five saves, second-most in the Big Ten.
“When healthy, Yianni competes with the best of them,” said Smith. “Hopefully after a full season under his belt, he will come in ready to perform beyond expectations. I was impressed with this kid in high school and am excited to hand him the ball in big time situations.”
Kinker, a sophomore from Cabell-Midland High School in West Virginia, is a righthanded pitcher that earned varsity status as a freshman. After nine appearances and 11 1/3 innings in relief this season, he is 2-1 with a 2.38 earned-run average.
“Seth is a very polished college reliever,” said Smith. “His heavy fastball will produce plenty of ground balls and broken bats. I love relievers who come into a game and challenge hitters with their best stuff.”
Vander Wal, a freshman from Forest Hills Central High School in Michigan, is an outfielder and son of 14-year Major League veteran John Vander Wal.
"Jacob is coming to the Rivets with high recommendation from the Prairie Gravel Baseball group,” Smith said. “I grew up playing for Prairie Gravel and have the utmost respect for the guys who run it. They have influenced my baseball career greatly so when they have suggestions, I'm going to listen.”
In Vander Wal’s senior season of high school, he earned many accolades such as All-Conference, All-Area, Perfect Game 18U World Series All-Tournament Team and Connie Mack World Series All-Tournament Team. According to Smith, he has yet to see any playing time at Ohio State, but that will have him ready for day one in the summer.
“His athleticism will help him get back into game mode quickly,” Smith said. “He will have plenty of opportunities to get back into playing shape and develop himself into a future mainstay in the Ohio State outfield."
Rockford is a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League, which will play its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2016. The Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 140 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Jordan Zimmermann (Detroit Tigers), Curtis Granderson (New York Mets), Lucas Duda (Mets) and Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website, NorthwoodsLeague.com.