Ace Akers is having the summer of his life and college coaches are taking notice.
During a brief stay home on his whirlwind tour of the country, Akers received a scholarship offer from Missouri State this past week. Drury already made an offer to the Nixa senior southpaw pitcher earlier this year. Other college coaches are beginning correspondence with him.
The reigning COC Pitcher Of The Year said the offer from the Bears is fulfilling.
“It means a lot,” Akers said. “I know they’ve had a lot of success in the past with their team and, of course, their pitchers. For them to want me is a big accomplishment. I consider them a great program and they are definitely at the top of my list.”
MSU alumni who have made it to MLB since 2000 includes pitchers Brad Ziegler, Shawn Marcum, Buddy Baumann, Ross Detwhiler, Brett Sinkbeil, Matt Hall, Pierce Johnson, Scott Carroll, Mike Kickham, Jeff Gray, Matt Palmer and John Rheinecker.
The Bears' offer comes on the heels of Akers’ fast ball being clocked at a personal best 87 mph.
“After I hit 87, I got a few looks and some people were talking to me,” he said. “UAB (Alabama Birmingham) is talking to me and Memphis also has been watching me. I guess (MSU pitching coach Paul Evans) heard the word and gave me a call. He said he wanted to sit down and talk to me and have me do a bullpen (session). I threw a bullpen last Sunday, threw pretty decent and he made an offer.”
Akers’ stock had already risen dramatically after he put together an 8-0 W-L record with a 1.45 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 48.1 innings while helping Nixa win the COC championship this year. He’s attracted even more attention while pitching for Rawlings Arkansas Prospects-Menard this summer.
Akers responded brilliantly to the spotlight at the inaugural Perfect Game WWBA 17U Elite Championship in Hoover, Alabama, on Saturday. He shut out the Louisiana Knights for six innings while holding onto a 1-0 lead. The Knights scored twice in the top of the seventh, but another Nixa senior, catcher Joe Reid, delivered a game-winning, two-run single in the bottom of the inning for the Prospects.
Akers gained an invite to the Prospects when a spot opened up due to Nixa junior pitcher Isaac Mitchell being hindered by an arm injury.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to be on a team like this,” Akers said. “But Isaac is sitting out this summer and it was a tough setback for him. He’s back to being on a throwing program. With Isaac bring out, Joe called the coach and we sent a video to him. The coach said he liked what he saw and since I’ve come here, I’ve been throwing good so far.”
The Prospects are loaded with NCAA D-I commits, giving Akers exposure in front of college coaches.
“Talking to college coaches has been something new,” he said. “This is my first summer I’ve gotten exposure to colleges. In the past, I played locally and we didn’t get a whole lot of looks. Now, everybody is at our games. Some of the top SEC schools like Alabama and Arkansas are at our games.”
Akers is enjoying the recruiting process enough that he plans to extend it to at least the start of his senior season next spring.
“I want to keep my options open,” he said. ‘I’m not committing any time soon. I want to wait and see what might happen.”
Akers and Reid will jet from Alabama to Arizona on Monday to play in the Perfect Game 17U World Series in Scottsdale, Arizona, this week. Akers, who has also pitched at tourneys in Oklahoma and Georgia during the summer, plans to journey to the Texas Baseball Ranch in Montgomery, Texas, before school starts next month.
He credits his stint at the Ranch last year for his breakout junior season.
“When I went there last year, I was topping out at 81-82 mph and sitting around 79-80,” Akers said. “I had heard a lot of good things about the camp. They worked with me on my mechanics and make a workout for you made up of a lot of drills. I took those home and worked out every day, even after basketball practices trying to do all I could. It helped tremendously, getting me to where I am now. My ‘velo’ hit 87 a few weekends ago in Atlanta. Hopefully, I can go back to the camp and and hit 90.
“Since my mechanics changed, that’s helped me with my command and throwing my breaking pitch better,” he added. “I’ll need to feel more comfortable with my changeup going on to the college level. I’m also spotting pitches better.”
With Akers now a full-fledged D-I prospect, he’s given increased thought to making the most of his talents and devoting all of his time to baseball 12 months a year.
“I don’t know if I’m going to play basketball this year,” said Akers, who averaged 10.8 points a game and shot 34 percent from 3-point land as a shooting guard last winter. “I definitely love basketball. But when you’re running every day, you lose so much weight and you have to commit a lot of time to basketball. On game days, you can’t lift. It’s tough to lift even on days in which you practice because you don’t want to be sore.
“If I take off basketball season, I can put more time in toward getting stronger,” he added. “(Baseball) is what I want to pursue after high school. Having that big growth spurt gave me a lot of confidence. I’m getting close to 90 and I think I have room to grow. I want to take all the off-season to work out with Joe and Isaac and hit it hard.”