GUNTER — Two of the key pieces to the Tigers’ recent success on the diamond have made their decisions where to call home once their playing days end at Gunter this coming spring.
Bryson Rigsby and Kyle Ball announced their destinations to play baseball in college with Rigsby selecting Luna Community College over McMurry and Cisco while Ball picked McMurry University over East Texas Baptist, LeTourneau and Grayson.
The duo helped Gunter reached the region semifinals for the second time in three years and fifth in the last eight seasons to finish with a 26-10 record after a series loss against Big Sandy Harmony. Big things are expected again this season when the Tigers return seven members of the starting lineup.
“I have a great feeling about this year,” Ball said. “We really felt good about things last year and with so many guys back we should have a good season again.”
Added Rigsby: “State championship’s the goal of course.”
Rigsby, a shortstop, earned first-team all-district accolades as a junior when he hit .382 with a .526 on-base percentage, 32 runs, two doubles, three triples and 28 RBI.
But at Luna Community College, he will shift behind the plate to catcher.
“That’s where they see me fitting,” Rigsby said. “They said I’d have a place to play right away.”
Rigsby also had an option to play football in college and was looking at Hendrix for that sport.
“I thought about it,” he said. “I see baseball as the better route.”
Ball, a catcher and first baseman, was an honorable mention all-district selection this past spring when he batted .338 with a .479 on-base percentage, 15 runs scored, seven doubles, three home runs and 27 RBI.
For McMurry he fits in better at first base.
“Most places wanted me to play first because of my height,” Ball said. “I like playing first, so it doesn’t matter to me where they want me to go.”
The most important thing is being among the top 45 on the roster.
“If you’re on the 45-man roster, you get to travel,” Ball said. “So that’s the first goal.”
McMurry, a Division III program in Abilene, went 10-29 this past season and 3-21 in the American Southwest Conference. The program was Division II for 2013 and 2014 before returning to D-III for the past four seasons. When the WarHawks dropped back down, they went 31-13 and made the National Christian College Athletic Association Central Region semifinalist. McMurry has won four ASC titles, the last in 2008.
“It’s a small school and coming from a small school, it felt like home,” Ball said. “They have a really good program and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Luna Community College, which is located in Las Vegas, New Mexico, competes in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference in Region IV. The Rough Riders went 7-48 this past season. There are two area ties to the roster — Leonard’s Mason Rhone and Michael Schulze are on it.
“I went on a visit and liked what I saw. I loved the coaching staff and the campus,” Rigsby said. “They saw me at a summer ball tournament and it went from there.”