Missouri’s baseball coaching staff cast its eyes on Prairie Ridge senior Holden Phelps early in the summer and tracked the Wolves’ right-hander over the past few months.
The Tigers’ coaches did not contact Phelps until three weeks ago, but the courtship was quick.
Phelps, a 6-foot-5, 205-pounder who consistently hits 90 to 92 mph on speed guns, visited the Columbia, Missouri, school Thursday and committed to coach Steve Bieser and his staff before leaving town.
“It was amazing,” said Phelps, who has been clocked as high as 94. “I met all the guys, I got to see all the facilities. I didn’t miss a single thing. I fell in love with the school and decided that’s where I wanted to be.”
Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro recently spoke to Missouri pitching coach Fred Corral and knew the Tigers’ interest in Phelps was keen.
“I knew they were very interested,” Pecoraro said. “They really wanted him. He must have really liked his visit. I woke up Friday [at 5 a.m.] and saw he put [his commitment] on Twitter. He got some real good offers from other schools, but he really wanted to pitch down south and pitch in the [Southeastern Conference].
“I admire him for having the courage to pass up some of the other offers and really be patient on what he really wanted. He pitched well in moments when they came to see him, and it paid off.”
That first moment was at a Perfect Game National showcase in Arizona early in the summer. Phelps said it was attended by many professional and college scouts.
“I had one of the best innings I’ve thrown this year,” Phelps said. “[The Missouri coach there] said he really liked what he saw. Earlier in my recruiting process, I had a lot of Illinois schools, I had offers from Eastern Illinois and Bradley University. Recently [Illinois-Chicago] was in.
“My main goal was to go down south and play SEC baseball, so I sadly had to tell them no in order to visit Mizzou. It all worked out.”
Pecoraro used Phelps as his closer most of last season. Phelps was 2-0, with three saves, struck out 35 and walked 14 over 231/3 innings. He had an ERA of 0.60, and the Wolves tied Huntley for the Fox Valley Conference championship.
“There were moments when Holden was really special,” Pecoraro said. “There were moments when he struggled and got into some jams. He’s built like a major league player. He has a high ceiling.”