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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Loveless shines on diamond

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The state of Iowa doesn’t offer a high school baseball spring season, but that doesn’t keep Solon High School senior Derrick Loveless off the diamond.

Or the track. Or the soccer pitch.

Loveless, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound outfielder with sprinter’s speed and a keen batter’s eye, is playing in the Perfect Game Spring Wood Bat League and with an American Legion team, along with running track and playing soccer on his high school teams this spring season.

Time management is of the utmost importance.

“Sometimes I have to determine whether I want to go to a track meet or a soccer game, if it happens to be on the same day,” Loveless said on a chilly Sunday morning at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I have a planned-out schedule for what I’m going to do every week.”

Loveless was at Perfect Game Field this weekend for the PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase, the fifth PG showcase event he’s attended in three years. That includes an invitation to the prestigious PG National Showcase in 2010 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Loveless – PG’s top-ranked player in the state of Iowa and 381st nationally in the class of 2011 – has signed a national letter-of-intent to play baseball at the University of Iowa starting next season, but he keeps attending the PG showcases.

“I just like to play baseball, and also with the scouts here (it’s beneficial),” Loveless said. “It’s pretty fun to play with kids you don’t know and getting to meet new people, and actually staying in shape for baseball kind of keeps me coming out here.”

Loveless was fairly impressive in his two skills sessions Saturday, running the 60-yard dash in 6.77 seconds (he has run a 6.69) and recorded an arm velocity of 89 mph on a throw from center field to home, his best effort at a PG event to date.

If there is one thing that can be said with any certainty about Loveless it’s that he’s a proven winner.

He has been a valuable member of three straight Solon High School state championship football teams, and helped the Spartans baseball and track teams to state championships in 2010. He runs the 100- and 200-meter dashes and is a member of the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams in track, and is a goalkeeper in soccer.

Loveless broke a fibula early in the 2010 football season, but underwent extensive rehabilitation and was able to return for the playoffs when Solon won its fourth straight state championship. He continued to rehab throughout the winter.

“It’s finally healed up, so I’m just working on other sports now,” Loveless said, adding that he is now 100 percent healthy.

Despite playing in only 10 of the Spartans’ 14 football games, Loveless – whose father, Derrius, played football at Iowa – caught 19 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 34 times for another 150 yards and seven TDs.

Loveless had a football scholarship offer from the University of North Dakota, but he really wanted to attend Iowa – the campus in Iowa City is about 15 miles south of his home in Solon.

“I was going to go to Iowa anyway, and I was just waiting to see if they would offer (for football),” he said. “Since they didn’t, I just decided to play baseball.”

And it is on the baseball field where Loveless really shines.

In his junior season in 2010, he batted .528 (65 for 123) with three home runs, 18 doubles, 54 RBIs, 53 runs and 24 stolen bases while leading the Spartans to a 41-2 record and the Class 2A state championship.

He struck out only 10 times in 123 at-bats, and recorded an on-base percentage of .613 and slugging percentage of .846. He was named to every postseason elite all-state team that was published, and was also named to the Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason Central Region All-High School Senior First Team earlier this spring.

“We didn’t really expect to win (state championships in) baseball or track, so that was kind of a surprise for us,” Loveless said. “It’s always fun to win a championship with your friends and hopefully we can do it again.”

There were two of Loveless’s Solon teammates at the Spring Top this weekend – outfielder Nick Day and right-hander Brandon Shulista. Day, who has recorded a state-best high jump of 6-feet, 9-inches this spring, will join Loveless at Iowa and Shulista will play baseball at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

“I’ve played with a lot of kids I’ve really come to love, and they’re pretty good role models,” Loveless said. “When you see them and interact with them, you start to become closer each time, and even with a new sport you’ll still have that connection.”

Loveless is looking forward to continuing to play baseball with Day while keeping the Solon tradition of winning alive at the collegiate level.

“That’s definitely a positive,” Loveless said. “I thought it would be a lot better if I knew someone that I was going to actually play with. We’ve been pretty good friends throughout high school … and playing with Nick is pretty special.”


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