By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TIPP CITY — Ian Yunker thought everything was lined up for college in the fall.
A sudden coaching change, though, meant a change of plans.
“Coach (Mike) McGuire had been at Morehead State for seven years. I had no idea something like this would happen,” he said.
When McGuire left Morehead State University — where Yunker had originally signed to play baseball — in late June to take the head coaching job at University of South Carolina Upstate, the recent Tippecanoe High School graduate wasn’t sure what that meant for him. In the end, though, McGuire and his coaching staff still wanted Yunker pitching for them, so Yunker decided he would become a Spartan himself.
Yunker was one of two Red Devil pitchers to sign NCAA Division I letters of intent during this baseball season, signing on with the Eagles of Morehead State. He will still be pitching in D-I at USC Upstate — the Spartans compete in the Big South Conference.
“I had no idea this would happen,” Yunker said. “Coach McGuire had been at Morehead for seven years now, so I was sure he was going to stay. He wanted to go back to South Carolina, which was where he was from. When he talked to me and my parents, though, he explained more about why he left.”
“I’m excited about the commitment (USC Upstate) is making to the baseball program,” McGuire said in his announcement as head coach on the school’s website. “I met my wife in South Carolina, and my two oldest kids were born in South Carolina. This is home for us.”
McGuire had built the Eagles to prominence during his time there, going 228-187 and making two regional appearances. But at the end of June, McGuire announced that he was taking the job with the Spartans — and Yunker found out just as his summer team, the Troy Post 43 Legends, was traveling to compete in a major tournament.
“We were on our way out to Omaha (for the Locker Room College World Series Tournament), and coach McGuire texted everyone one night and said he wanted to have a conference call the next morning,” Yunker said. “Me and all the other freshmen just assumed it was about housing or something like that. And then we got the call, and he said he took a job somewhere else and he and the entire coaching staff were moving.
“I was kind of freaking out a little, because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But I waited a couple hours, and coach (Adam) Brown — the assistant coach and pitching coach — called me and asked me about thinking about possibly coming down for a visit if I wanted to. So I talked to my parents about it, and we thought it would be a good idea. After the visit, I was pretty sold on it.”
Yunker finished his senior season at Tippecanoe second in the overall Greater Western Ohio Conference in strikeouts only to teammate Kenten Egbert. Yunker was 5-5 in 13 appearances with a 1.53 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched. His junior season, he led the team in strikeouts with 57 and was 6-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 40 1-3 innings pitched in 12 appearances. And as a sophomore, he struck out 36 and had a 0.24 ERA in 29.2 innings.
Yunker hasn’t settled on a major yet, saying he’d originally planned to study political science but may now look into history or social studies.
The sudden changes haven’t done anything to dull Yunker’s excitement to head off to college, either.
“I’m just as excited. In fact, I might be a little more excited,” he said. “They have a nicer field, and it’s a little bigger. Morehead’s field was the one downside there — their right field fence was really short, and it’s really not a pitcher’s park. The field at Upstate is a lot bigger, and they have nicer facilities and such.
“Sure, it’s a little farther (from home), but I’m not one that cares about how far away it is. And it’ll be a little warmer.”
And while the scenery may be changing, the real reason Yunker had committed before — the coaches — are staying the same.
“The real reason I was going to Morehead was the coaches,” Yunker said. “They seemed like a bunch of great guys, and they seemed to be really into me as a pitcher. I’m just excited to get ready to go down to South Carolina now.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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