Springdale grad Killian shines on diamond for Allegheny
For many high school baseball players, the adjustment to the college game can be a trying process. It can take months, even years, to adapt and find a consistent spot in the lineup.
But for Joe Killian, the transition was swift.
And the Springdale graduate has the hardware to prove it.
A freshman third baseman at Allegheny College, Killian was named North Coast Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year, just the third player in school history to earn that distinction.
He went from trying to earn playing time to being one of the Gators' top offensive weapons in the 10-team conference.
Killian led the Gators in several categories, including batting average (.374), slugging percentage (.489), on-base percentage (.485), total bases (64), doubles (11) and runs scored (31).
The Gators finished 26-16 and reached the NCAC championship game.
“I didn't come in with predetermined expectations,” said Killian, who also was a standout quarterback at Springdale. “I just wanted to play my game. I knew that if I played like I can, I could make it onto the field.”
Killian ranked in the top 10 in hitting in the conference for much of the season, but perhaps the most telling stat that shows his readiness for Division III baseball: he also led the team in walks with 28.
The next closest player had 17.
The clean-up hitter, he was pitched around numerous times and also walked intentionally on several occasions.
Killian, who also received All-NCAC honorable mention honors, drove in 31 runs, the second-highest total on the team.
He started the second game of the season, then 39 more after that. He had the game-winning RBI against Hamilton College in a game played in Auburndale, Fla.
Later in the season, he drove in seven runs against Pitt-Bradford.
“They told me when I was coming out of high school that if I worked hard, I had a chance to see the field,” Killian said. “I put in a lot of hard work. I had a good perspective as a freshman. Guys are older than you, and they're bigger and stronger. You have to work hard and be perfect.
“Our whole team worked hard.”
Killian (6-foot, 185 pounds) said he's most impressed with his on-base percentage.
“That's one of the things that stood out to me,” he said.
Killian seems to be paying more attention to detail at the college level, something he believes will make him an even better player in the future.
“The biggest difference (from high school baseball) is all of the little things,” he said. “Mental mistakes add up, and they come back to hurt you. There are a lot of close games. You have more evenly matched teams. One mental error can cost you a game.”
Division II schools courted Killian, who was one of the WPIAL's top hitters as a senior. He led the league with 40 RBI.
Killian, though, has no regrets about choosing Allegheny.
“The main difference you see with Division II is the pitchers and catchers are so much better,” he said. “I feel like I had a good season, but now I want to set a higher goal. It gives me the motivation to eclipse what I did before.”
A former American Legion standout, Killian will keep busy this summer playing for Wexford in the Butler Eagle County League.