Hampton’s Ryan Apaliski commits to James Madison after strong audition at summer camp

Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 8:38 PM

Hampton senior left-hander Ryan Apaliski needed only two innings to help secure a home for the next four years.

Apaliski caught the eye of the James Madison coaching staff at a baseball camp in late June at the Harrisonburg, Va., school and showed enough during a brief two-inning audition in a simulated game that the Dukes eventually offered him a deal.

“I kind of knew those two innings when I threw, I had to make it worth it,” Apaliski said. “They said that I did really well, and they were interested. I think it was the next day I got their phone number, and that was that.”

Apaliski, a first-team all-Section 2-5A pick last spring, committed to the Division I school Aug. 9 and plans to sign a national letter of intent in November. Prior to the June camp, Apaliski had received no contact from the JMU coaches.

“I had not had any conversation, no dialogue with them up until then,” said Apaliski, who picked JMU over Ohio University. “As soon as the camp happened, from there on out, I had each of their numbers and for the following month or two it was just constant communication between me and their coaches.”

When the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Apaliski signs, he will have achieved a goal of playing baseball at a Division I program in the South that he made while in middle school.

“In sixth grade, I started to have thoughts and aspirations of playing in college and I knew I wanted to be Division I,” he said. “Seventh or eighth grade is when I really started getting serious with just focusing on pitching. I knew I wanted to make it happen. From there on out, it was just doing what I can to make it achievable.”

Apaliski, a lightly-used reliever as a Hampton sophomore in 2021, entered the radar of multiple D-I schools thanks to a strong showing last summer on the Pittsburgh Spikes travel team followed by a breakthrough junior season with the Talbots in which he went 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 45 innings.

He buttressed that improvement this past summer with another solid effort with the 17U Spikes, competing at the Big Elite Exposure Showcase in Reading and Tournament of Champions in Cincinnati.

Spikes coach Austin Hoffman believes Apaliski will be able to handle the transition to high-level collegiate baseball.

“I can definitely see him competing at that level,” Hoffman said. “He always shows the will to win. He’s a huge competitor on and off the field and an amazing teammate. He will do everything possible to win.”

Apaliski possesses a fastball that consistently reaches the mid-to-high 80s, along with an improving slider that he worked on this summer.

Apaliski said he is shutting down his arm for about a month — “I’ve been throwing since high school season, and I really haven’t had a break” — and will lift weights and condition in the fall and winter to prepare for his upcoming senior season.

The Talbots, who are dropping down to Class 4A this spring, are seeking to reach the WPIAL playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.

Apaliski is the second Hampton spring athlete in as many years to commit to James Madison, joining former Talbots softball catcher Bella Henzler, who is beginning her freshman year at the school.

James Madison, under coach Marlin Ikenberry, went 27-26 last season, its third winning season in the past four years. The Dukes will be facing much tougher competition in the coming years. The school’s athletic programs have joined the Sun Belt Conference after competing in the Colonial Athletic Association since the league formed in 1979.

The Sun Belt finished sixth in the 2022 NCAA Division I Baseball Conference RPI rankings, trailing only the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA. The Sun Belt ranked ahead of the Big Ten and the American Athletic, among others.

“They just joined the Sun Belt and that’s a competitive conference that I wanted to be a part of,” Apaliski said. “When I get there a year from now, I want to play the best of the best guys in the South.”

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