Byler commits to play baseball at Delaware

By on August 16, 2017

 

Warwick senior-to-be Justin Byler, who hit .348 with a team-best 17 RBI this past spring, has given a verbal commitment to continue his baseball career at the University of Delaware. (Lititz Record file photo)

The ceiling is high for Justin Byler in his blossoming baseball career.

The University of Delaware coaches expressed that belief recently with the Warwick senior-to-be.

And it’s no doubt a big reason that the Blue Hens called to offer Byler a spot on the team just three days after he competed in a UD clinic.

At that point, it was an easy decision for the hard-hitting first baseman/outfielder to give Delaware a verbal commitment last Wednesday, Aug. 9.

“I was pretty excited about it,” Byler said. “From the beginning of the entire recruiting process, Delaware was one of my top schools.”

Shippensburg and Millersville weren’t far behind. Byler also got offers from those two PSAC Division-Two powers and they were in a dead heat with one another prior to Delaware entering the mix. Justin’s parents, John and Kathy, played baseball and softball, respectively, during their college years at Shippensburg University.

“I was pretty torn between Shippensburg and Millersville,” said Byler, who also had interest from Division-One Michigan State, in addition to talking briefly with the likes of West Chester and East Stroudsburg of the PSAC. “It was going to be a tough decision.”

There was no true leader in the race to land the slugger when he headed to Newark, Del. on Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 1-2 for a clinic.

Byler already had a favorable impression of the campus from visiting his cousin, Charlie Kitchen, who plays for the Blue Hens’ lacrosse team.

This time, it was UD skipper Jim Sherman and his coaches who took away a positive reaction after watching Byler mash the ball during a pro style workout and nine-inning scrimmage.

“I put up good numbers,” he recalled.

Knowing that Division One programs like Delaware had all but wrapped up their recruiting for the 2018 class, Byler was hopeful to hear from the Blue Hens coaches within a week or two.

Sure enough, he got his wish.

And the opportunity to join a Delaware squad that earned its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament this past spring was too good to pass up.

“It’s a really good school with a good program and good coaches,” said Byler, who plans to study business. “The facilities are phenomenal. They have a giant football dome for practice in the winters. It has a drop-down cage and they set up a full diamond in there. And then outdoor, they have an all-turf field with a big grandstand and a bunch of batting cages.”

In 17 seasons as UD’s head coach, Sherman has led the Blue Hens to the conference tournament 11 times, compiling an overall record of 519-407.

“The coaches are really great guys,” Byler said. “They’re a really big offensive-oriented team and offense is definitely my strong suit, so I thought it would be a pretty good fit. They’re all really personable guys and they seem like guys you’d really want to play for.”

Offense is also a strong suit of Nick Patten, the current Blue Hens’ first baseman who slugged 12 home runs and drove in 46 in 2016. Patten, who will be a senior in 2017-18, played in the Cape Cod League this summer and could find himself being taken in the MLB Draft next June.

“They’re really developing guys well there,” Byler remarked. “They’ve had a really good team for a couple years in a row.”

The timetable for Byler to see action in the UD lineup will depend on his production.

“They said it’s possible I could step in as a freshman,” he commented. “Their coach’s mentality is pretty much, if you hit, you play. So if I’m one of the best nine hitters there as a freshman, they said I’ll play, but I could also not be one of the best nine as a junior and still be sitting on the bench.”

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound left-handed hitter delivered at the plate for Warwick this spring, batting .348 with a team-best two home runs, six doubles and 17 RBIs.

He produced even more while playing for the Keystone State Bombers this summer, batting .398 with two triples and eight doubles, while striking out just one time, in addition to playing in a few tournaments with the Lancaster Blackhawks.

Asked to describe himself as a hitter, Byler said, “I would say I’m getting to the point where I’m a true power hitter. I’ve gotten a lot stronger over the summer. The coaches at Delaware talked about how I have a really high ceiling because I’m putting up the numbers I am and I’m nowhere close to fully developed.”

Warrior coach Bob Locker said that one of Byler’s strengths is his quick hands.

“When he’s at his best, he’s got excellent opposite field power,” Locker said. “He doesn’t try to do too much with pitches, he takes them where they are, hits to all fields, and as he’s getting older and a little bit bigger, he’s developing some pop.”

That pop could be a key asset in the Delaware batting order in the near future. Byler said that he and the UD coaches have talked about where he might fit in with the Blue Hens.

“They expect me to be a middle of the order guy as my career develops,” he said. “… I definitely have to improve defensively, along with just improving on hitting for power and average.”

If he does so, that will also be good news for a Warwick squad which has reached the District Three semi-finals in two of the past three years.

“Senior year, the biggest goal is to win a District title and advance to the State playoffs,” Byler said. “Warwick’s gotten really close the past couple of years and hasn’t been able to get over those close games essentially.”

Having his college selection behind him should only pay dividends for Byler and the Warriors as they attempt to reach their goals.

“It’s a huge relief,” Byler said. “I can go back to just having fun with baseball. I only have to apply to one school and I already know I’m going to get in, so it’s a huge relief.”

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One Comment

  1. Tyler Hess

    August 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    What a great kid

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