OCEAN — Croatan senior Ryan Messer is headed outside state lines to play baseball next year at Lindenwood University.
The two-year varsity catcher will attend the Division II school in Saint Charles, Mo., just outside of St. Louis, after he wraps up his current senior season with the Cougars. Messer chose his new collegiate home, just shy of 1,000 miles west of Croatan, after a fortuitous meeting with a Lindenwood coach at a Vanderbilt University camp last year.
“He liked how I was playing and gave me his info, but I kinda shelved it away for a while until I started seriously looking at colleges,” Messer said. “I was at another baseball camp in Tennessee – I have family there – when I decided to go for a visit. I instantly fell in love with it. I’ve played at different colleges (in camps) before, and this one was tops.”
Messer is still in the thick of his final season at Croatan. The Cougars are 7-12 overall and 5-6 in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference. As a senior, he has logged 11 hits, including three doubles, 11 RBI and five runs. He has an on-base percentage of .386 and a contact percentage of .759.
Behind the plate, he has recorded 150 putouts for a .934 fielding percentage. He has made 19 assists and contributed to two doubles plays. He has also pitched six innings this season, logging six strikeouts with just one earned run allowed.
“He has totally earned it,” Croatan coach Josh Shaffer said. “He’s done a lot of things to make himself better. He doesn’t go home and sit on the couch all day. He finds ways to get better. He’s also our vocal leader. He’s the guy who controls the game behind home plate. We have trust in him to call the game, and that says a lot about him.”
Messer got the starting job behind the dish as a junior after waiting behind Bailey Van Nosdall as a freshman and Trey Guggino as a sophomore. He didn’t waste his opportunity in 2018, recording 145 putouts and 20 assists for a .948 fielding percentage. He also logged 10 hits, 11 RBI and four runs to help the Cougars finish 14-9 overall and 12-2 in the inaugural Coastal 8.
“I have loved my time at Croatan,” Messer said. “I came into high school excited about baseball, and it only got better. I am really appreciative of coach (Shaffer). I wouldn’t have this opportunity to play if it wasn’t for him.”
Now Messer is helping prepare another young catcher in sophomore Connor McLeod who looks poised to take over the dish next season.
“Messer does a great job of working with the younger guys,” Shaffer said. “That attitude helps us continue to produce great catchers. Connor McLeod is coming up, and he’ll have a chance to step into that starting role next year. I think Ryan is going to be great at the next level. He’s only going to get better.”
Messer will be joining a Lindenwood program that is 23-20 overall and 15-12 in the Mountain West Conference. The Lions will become the 16th member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference next season under head coach Doug Bletcher.