Over the past four years, many players have contributed to the performance of the IUP baseball program.
Third baseman Rick Jones (senior, criminology), a 2012 graduate of Laurel High School in New Castle, has been one of the team’s more consistent performers, starting in 139 of the Crimson Hawks’ 155 games.
The right-handed batter has a .310 batting average with 22 doubles, eight triples and six home runs. His 142 hits are tied for 13th in IUP history.
“I’m just trying to have good approaches at the plate,” Jones said. “I always want to try to get on base any way possible. I pride myself on trying to go the opposite way on the field, and I think that’s played a lot in getting some hits.”
Jones has 36 multiple-hit games during his time at IUP.
This season, he has been slotted fifth in the batting order in 34 games.
Jones played shortstop in high school before having to switch over to second base his freshman year.
He played third base in his sophomore year before having to switch back to shortstop and second base his junior year.
This year, Jones had to go back to playing third base.
“We lost a really good third baseman [Mike Lupia] last year, and we don’t really have anybody that can fit that role,” Jones said. “He asked me if I’d be open to try to go back to that position, and I was all for it. I knew it would make our team better.”
Jones said that third base is a very demanding position.
“It’s definitely different on that side of the infield,” Jones said. “You don’t see the entire plate approach by the hitter. It’s different, but I’ve enjoyed the challenges.”
Upon choosing a college, Jones had offers from other Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference schools, but he chose IUP because its atmosphere is different than New Castle’s.
“When I came and visited, Coach Ditch showed me around,” Jones said. “I went to a smaller high school, so I kind of wanted to get into a bigger college, and it just seemed like a perfect fit.”
With the Crimson Hawks’ playoff hopes dwindling, it’s likely that Jones’ last games as an IUP baseball player are at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday at Mercyhurst University.
He graduates May 7 and plans to start working at a job he has been offered in juvenile corrections. But Jones said he’s interested in possibly coaching at some point, too.
He is unsure if he will play the sport after this season.
“After I get settled back in with jobs and everything, I’ll maybe look into high school coaching,” Jones said. “I just want to help the kids develop.”
The same could be said for this year, as he has been trying to help his teammates improve.
“I’ve always tried to set a good example and be a role model towards the younger guys,” Jones said. “I tried to help them stay on the right path throughout their career here.”