When Clarksville Academy’s Nolan O’Shoney committed to Austin Peay baseball in November of 2019, he extended a trend from the program that has turned Clarksville’s baseball scene into a recruiting hot spot for the Bat Govs.
O’Shoney continues the movement of locally grown talent committing to Clarksville, serving as the fifth player on Travis Janssen’s staff from The Queen City. The freshman was ranked as the 16th best right-handed pitcher in Tennessee by Perfect Game after a four-year career with the Cougars.
The prospective talent that reigns from Clarksville to Austin Peay is both of high quantity and quality. Rossview’s Gino Avros, alongside former Clarksville Wildcats Skyler Luna and Garrett Spain, saw action in all 17 of the Governors spring games last year. Collin Loose, an eventual transfer from Northeast High School, logged eight innings of work through four appearances in 2020. Also included within the program are the team’s three managers – Nick Wheeler, K’Dandre Crawford and Jalen Collins – all of which played baseball in Montgomery County as well. Spain may be the most notable of the bunch, however, earning the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year award back in 2019.
Janssen has made acquiring local talent a priority since his arrival, touting 11 players from Montgomery County schools in his six years as head coach. Former players under Janssen from Clarksville include: Josh Rye, Cody Spurgeon, Truman Brown, Levi Primasing, Cayce Bredlau and Josh Wilson.
“Toward the top of our recruiting philosophy is to make sure that we’re recruiting inside of an hour,” the coach said. “Inside of an hour and recruiting kids who know who Austin Peay is. It makes a lot of sense if you have somebody in your backyard, that you want to take care of business, build relationships and try to keep those guys at home. Clarksville is a good baseball city and there’s some really, really good high school coaches and good programs. We’re glad that we’ve had a handful of them.”
The Governors’ skipper doesn’t see a vast difference in the current crop of Clarksville players as opposed to years past, but knows the impact that the athletes possess within the program.
“I’m not sure I could really say maybe a ‘difference’ in these kids, but it’s pretty neat when a guy like Gino Avros and [Garrett] Spain are able to make a big impact early in their careers,” he said. “That’s been really fun to see, and it’s pretty neat that Collin Loose has come back and made himself a serviceable part of the pitching staff. Nolan O’Shoney is brand new but he’s fitting in great and is doing a great job…Skyler Luna, he’s one of the most athletic guys that we have. He can play in the infield and the outfield. We’re just really happy to have all of them in the program.”
Loose and O’Shoney, despite reigning from different schools, share a similarity in their previous coach: Clarksville Academy’s Dustin Smith was previously at the helm for Northeast’s baseball program and was a pitcher for Governors’ baseball from 2000-03.
“Collin and Nolan were both outstanding high school pitchers,” Smith said. “Collin was the number one starter on a Northeast team that was region 5AAA champions, and decided to go the junior college route. He then decided to continue to work on his strength and return to his hometown to walk on at APSU. He is an outstanding young man, and will be an asset to the Governors program. Nolan was a member of the Clarksville Academy team that made it to the state final four his junior year, and was primed to make it back to the state tournament before the COVID pandemic ended his senior year. Coach Janssen and Weber were recruiting Nolan early on, and for a great reason. He is a big kid with an easy delivery.
“Both of the young men are from great families, and I am sure wanted to play Division 1 baseball, and also allow their families to be able to attend games. With a baseball program like APSU’s right in their backyard, they were able to do both.”
Janssen spoke to the advantage of having former members of the program, such as Smith and Clarksville High coach Brian Hetland, in Montgomery County’s competitive coaching ranks.
“Both of those guys are very important for Austin Peay baseball,” he said. “The other high school coaches as well, we enjoy getting to meet all of the high school coaches and we appreciate what they do and how hard they work. There’s been a lot of division one players that have come out of Clarksville and we feel like we’ve gotten a lot of the best ones.
“I think it’s a representation of the high school programs and the job that they do. Rossview won a state championship a couple of years ago, so that says something about them. Clarksville High just has a very strong tradition and the other schools are very competitive also. I think it just shows what kind of job the high school coaches have done for preparing them.”
As the Govs vie for a conference championship in the spring, the aforementioned Avros spoke to the friendship that the five players share and how that relationship has changed between their high school and collegiate careers.
“In high school, you guys are all rivals and playing against each other,” the third baseman said. “I didn’t really talk too much, with any of them really. We come out here and now we’re all kind of best friends, going into this thing. We’re all competing for one goal: that’s to win an OVC championship. Happy to welcome them, happy to be here with them and I love them like brothers.”