Greenville senior signs with LU-B

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Jake Dorris wanted to stay close to home to keep playing baseball, but not too close.

Lindenwood University-Belleville made his decision even easier.

The Greenville senior signed his National Letter of Intent on Monday, choosing the Lynx over the likes of Three Rivers College and Mineral Area College.

"It's far enough away where I don't have to travel back and forth but it's not too far away to where I can't get home when I need to," Dorris said. "I wanted to get away for college, learn some life lessons, meet some new people."

The NAIA program located 16 miles east of St. Louis went 26-27 and finished sixth in the American Midwest Conference regular-season standings last year in its fourth year of existence.

Since beginning the baseball program in 2012, the Lynx are 119-114, including this year's 10-26 mark. Under fifth-year coach Logan Johnson, the Lynx shocked the college baseball world, winning the USCAA National Tournament in their second year as a program in 2014.

"I didn't really know too much about them, I just knew that here a couple years ago they started a baseball program and they won the NAIA World Series soon after that," Dorris said. "I just knew they had a pretty successful program and I wanted to be a part of it."

Dorris, who has played in the outfield for most of his life, said the Lynx haven't given him an idea of how they're going to use him just yet, but he's open to playing wherever they need him.

"I just gotta go in and work as hard as I can and prove that I'm there to play and be a true contender," Dorris said. "Ultimately it just comes down to where he needs me at and I'll work my butt off to get better at that position."

Dorris has come a long way since his freshman year, when he hit well under .300, saw limited playing time and admitted he wasn't all that enthusiastic about playing for a team that won just seven games.

But that all changed when Greenville coach Jeff Null took over during his sophomore season.

"We got coach Null and he took it from the bottom up to the top and we've stayed there my sophomore, junior and senior year," Dorris said. "I owe a lot to him, we all do."

He also owes a lot to Strike Zone of Poplar Bluff, where he's trained the last several years. Dorris said coaches at Strike Zone reached out to Lindenwood and coach Johnson before he made a visit to Belleville shortly after.

"It's a great place to train, they've helped me a lot," Dorris said.

Since his freshman year, Dorris' batting average has climbed significantly each season.

As a sophomore, Dorris hit .313 and had six stolen bases.

His average jumped to .344 when he hit two home runs in spring 2015, and again to .386 last fall when the Bears went 22-0 and won the Ozark Foothills Conference Tournament. He added 16 RBIs and six stolen bases in the fall.

This season, Dorris is hitting .571 with one stolen base.

"Coming from my freshman year, I didn't hardly know anything about baseball and I was just a little freshman that didn't play much and wasn't very serious about baseball," Dorris said. "It was an adjustment but I've made it."

Null has seen the adjustments in every aspect of his game first-hand, and not just at the plate.

"Jake really developed last summer playing for the (Wayne County) Lumberjacks. He had a good spring leading into summer ball and his confidence just took off while playing against great competition," Null said. "He has really worked hard since the fall in the weight room and really improved in his nutrition. He has gotten stronger and slimmed down. He is a different looking kid than he was a year ago and his hard work has paid off."

Dorris said it's a relief to have made an early college decision, allowing him to focus solely on his final high school season.

"It's going to be tough leaving everybody, we've all pretty much just become one big family, but I think all of us that are going to college know that we need to expand our game," Dorris said. "We'll all remember how great our time with Greenville baseball has been though, too, but we're not done yet."

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