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Barber signs to play college baseball for IU-Kokomo

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Last Friday evening in the NCHS cafeteria, New Castle High School senior Drew Barber inked a letter of intent to play college baseball for IU-Kokomo starting in the 2019-20 academic year. In the front row, left to right, are brother Jake Barber, father Josh Barber, Drew Barber, and mother Missi Barber. In the back row, left to right, are New Castle High School Baseball Head Coach Brad King and IU-Kokomo Pitching Coach Ryan Cheek.
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New Castle’s Drew Barber has a big smile on his face as he nears home plate and the mob scene from his teammates after he belted a two-out, walk-off solo home in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat Pendleton Heights at Sunnyside Field last season. Barber has signed a letter of intent to play college baseball for IU-Kokomo starting in the 2019-20 academic year.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

New Castle High School senior Drew Barber will join two old friends on the diamond after he graduates this coming spring.

Early last Friday evening in the NCHS cafeteria, Barber inked a letter of intent to play college baseball for IU-Kokomo starting in the 2019-20 academic year.

Barber will join two former Trojan teammates, Caleb Matthews and Jared Heard, to play for the Cougars. Matthews and Heard are 2017 graduates of NCHS and played for IU-K last spring. Matthews won a Golden Glove at his infield position and Heard played the outfield.

“It’ll be great going up there and playing with those guys again,” Barber said. “It’s a great school and the baseball program has done really well in the short time it’s been in existence. I really like the campus and the baseball facility, and it’s close enough that my parents, family, and friends can come up and see me play.”

Barber, who played quarterback for the Trojans on the football team this past fall and did well, throwing for 1,719 yards and 21 touchdowns, might have had an opportunity to play on the gridiron in college, but baseball is his primary sport and he is happy with his decision.

“I never really looked at going anywhere else but IU-Kokomo,” Barber explained. “I really like the coaches and the guys on the team, and feel it is the best fit for me.”

New Castle High School Baseball Coach Brad King feels Barber has made a wise decision in choosing IU-Kokomo.

“I feel it’s a really good fit for Drew,” King said. “He’s going to a place where we’ve already sent two players to, and those two have done well up there. I was told Drew was the only catcher that they were going to sign in this year’s recruiting class. If he works hard and keeps his grades up, he should get some playing time as a freshman.”

King talked about the value of Barber to his Trojan team.

“Drew does a very good job of handling our pitching staff,” King noted. “He’s got a great arm and is able to throw runners out or hold them on base. He increased his offensive production a lot from his sophomore to junior seasons, and we hope that continues his senior year. As a senior, we’ll be counting upon him for leadership this upcoming .”

IU-Kokomo Pitching Coach Ryan Cheek was at last Friday’s signing, and is happy Barber chose to play for the Cougars.

“Drew attended all of our camps and expressed interest in playing for us while we developed a lot of interest in him,” Cheek said. “The thing about Drew is he has a lot of grit and determination and takes pride in his performance at the plate and behind the dish. He also played quarterback which is a leadership position on the football team as is catching on a baseball team. We are definitely happy to have him sign with us.”

Barber knows he’s not going to IU-K just to play baseball and has decided on a major.

“I plan to study business management,” Barber stated. “I really haven’t given much thought to the type of job I want when I graduate up there, but I still have some time to do that.”

Barber didn’t play for the New Castle varsity baseball team as a freshman, but burst upon the scene in the 2017 campaign and had a solid season as the Trojans’ primary catcher.

That sophomore season, Barber appeared in 19 of the team’s 30 games, was 16-of-47 at the plate for a battling average of .340, scored 10 runs and drove in nine, and belted two doubles. He walked seven times, was hit by pitches twice, struck out six times, and had an on-base percentage of .439. He stole one base.

Defensively from behind the plate, Barber had a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with 66 put-outs and 10 assists in 76 total chances. The Trojans were 21-9 that season and were runner-up in Class 4A Sectional 9 to Greenfield-Central and ace pitcher Drew Jamison, who now pitches for Ball State.

As a junior in the 2018 season, Barber’s offensive numbers increased significantly. He appeared in 22 of New Castle’s 28 games, had 32 hits in 71 at-bats for a BA of .451 (the highest on the team for regular players), scored 10 runs and drove in 19 (second on the team), and hit four doubles and three home runs (tops on the squad). One of those round-trippers defeated Pendleton Heights in a 2-1, 10-inning affair. He also stole a base.

Behind the plate, Barber had a .987 fielding percentage with 132 put-outs and 18 assists in 152 total chances, made just two errors all season, and was involved in one double play. He threw out three opposing runners trying to steal bases.

Barber made the All-Hoosier Heritage Conference team as a junior on that 2018 team which finished 21-7 but had a disappointing loss to Guerin Catholic in the opening round of the sectional. He also was named to the C-T All-Area Baseball Team.

Barber knows that catching at the college level is a step up from doing so in high school.

“I know they already have some catchers on the team, so I’ll have to compete with them to get some playing time,” Barber remarked. “ I know I’ll have to get stronger and a little quicker, but I plan to work really hard and do what the coaches ask of me so I can get some playing time as a freshman.”

King added a few comments about that.

“Drew will have to get stronger and a bit quicker at the plate to face college pitching, which is a lot better than what you see at the high school level,” King stated. “I know Drew will work hard on that aspect of his game. Defensively, he has all the tools necessary to succeed in college baseball. He’ll just have to get better acquainted with their pitchers and what they do best.”

Barber is the 35th Trojan baseball player to sign to play for a college in King’s 16 seasons as head baseball coach.

“I think that’s a testament to Coach King, the rest of the coaching staff, and the players they have groomed at New Castle,” Cheek added. “We hope to have more players from New Castle sign with us as the years go by.”