October 1, 2014

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National signing day: Three Avon Lake athletes, one from Amherst, headed to Division I schools

Lauren Bakaitis, University of Toledo, volleyball; Katie Mihalik, Cleveland State University, volleyball; and Brad Hamilton, Kent State University, baseball; clap after signing letters of intent to play Division I athletics at their perspective universities after graduation. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Lauren Bakaitis, University of Toledo, volleyball; Katie Mihalik, Cleveland State University, volleyball; and Brad Hamilton, Kent State University, baseball; clap after signing letters of intent to play Division I athletics at their perspective universities after graduation. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

AVON LAKE — Brad Hamilton obviously has baseball in his blood.

Hamilton is not only the son of Tom Hamilton, the radio voice of the Cleveland Indians, he’s also the brother of Nick Hamilton, a farmhand with the Indians who also was a standout player at Avon Lake and Kent State.

Wednesday, Brad followed in Nick’s footsteps when he signed a Division I national letter of intent to play baseball at Kent State.

“Having my brother go there and also my sister helps because they just really enjoyed their experience at Kent,” he said. “It definitely plays a part in it when you have siblings that went to the school and really enjoyed the experience.

“I’m so excited to be a part of their baseball program because it’s such a great program that Kent has. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to be a part of it. It’s a phenomenal school and I really love the coaches there. Getting to know them has been awesome. It’s a great school with a great baseball program, and that stood out to me.”

Hamilton, a catcher, was one of three Avon Lake seniors to sign with Division I colleges on national signing day. Joining him were Katie Mihalik and Lauren Bakaitis, who will play volleyball at Cleveland State and Toledo, respectively.

Amherst senior Justin Mott will continue his battles with Hamilton, having signed to play Division I baseball at Mid-American Conference rival Bowling Green.

 

Other area singings Wednesday included two of Mott’s teammates. Kody Bledsoe, a shortstop, signed with Division II Lake Erie College, while Alex Walts, a third baseman/outfielder, signed with Division II Hillsdale College, which is located in Michigan. North Ridgeville’s Melissa Caraballo signed to play softball at Division II Ashland University.

 

Hamilton, a catcher, will continue his baseball career at Kent State, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Nick, who is now a farmhand with the Cleveland Indians after a successful baseball career at both Avon Lake and Kent State.

Mihalik, a middle and outside hitter for the Shoregals, said she’ll strictly be an outside hitter for the Vikings.

“I’m really excited to be going on to the next level,” said Milhalik, who was also named Lorain County’s Miss Volleyball on Wednesday night. “I was so happy all day just thinking about it. (Cleveland State) just felt like home. The coaches there are some of the best people I’ve ever met and the girls there are so nice to me. When I visited there, you could just tell that it felt right to go there.

“It’s always kind of been a dream to play at the Division I level, but it’s so hard to make it there. Just the fact that I did, I’m really happy about it.”

Bakaitis, an outside hitter with the Shoregals, will primarily be a defenseman with the Rockets.

“They have a really good engineering program, which is what I’m going to major it,” she said. “I felt really at home on my visit and at their camp. I love the coaches and love the girls, so it all just kind of fit into place.

“I still have a lot to learn defensively. Hopefully I can reach my full potential at Toledo. It should be fun.”

Mihalik and Bakaitis, longtime teammates and friends, were happy they shared their big days.

“It’s great to have someone next to you you’ve been playing with for four years,” Bakaitis said. “We’ve gone through so much together, and now we both get to move on to the next level, both at Division I, and we’re going to support each other for another four years.”

Added Mihalik: “She’s been varsity with me all four years now, and it’s fitting to have us both signing next to each other.”

Mott, who also plays catcher, made his commitment in late June, but he said putting the pen to paper made it real.

“It does feel a bit different,” said Mott, who will major in criminal justice. “It feels like I’m a real part of the team now. … It’s just a relief to know that I already know where I’m going to college. I can have fun this year and I know that I’m going to keep playing the sport that I love at the next level.”

Mott and Bledsoe are also close friends.

“I’ve played baseball with Kody since we were younger, and it was cool to sign with one of my best friends next to me,” Mott said.

Lake Erie College baseball coach Brian McGee is a 1996 Amherst graduate and Amherst coach Matt Rositano is a Bowling Green grauate and former baseball player for the Falcons.

Mott is already thinking about the upcoming high school season.

“I know teams are going to be coming after us because we have three seniors that will be playing in college,” he said. “But the goal is to win state and that’s what we’re going to go after. We have high hopes for this year, and I think it’s going to be a fun year.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.