By: Meaghan McNichol – Staff Writer
Connor Echols has been a huge asset to the Dayton Flyers baseball team this season, both on and off the field. Despite being an underclassman, Echols is looked to as a leader.
The sophomore infielder grew up just down the road in Sidney, Ohio and has been playing baseball from the time he was 5 years old.
He graduated from Sidney High School as a four-year varsity letterwinner with a .418 career batting average. During high school he also played for the Cincinnati Flames during the summer, where the University of Dayton discovered him.
“Dayton was a school that I grew up a big fan of with it being close to home, so I was ecstatic to receive an offer from them,” Echols said, “Basically once I received an offer I was almost for sure I was going to come here.”
Echols received an official offer from UD his junior year and has never looked back. From the time he started his career at Dayton, his parents have made an effort to attend almost every home game.
“Playing so close to home means the world to me. Any athlete will tell you it’s an honor to have people you are close to there to support you and who are proud of what you’ve done,” Echols said.
Although he was switched from an infielder to an outfielder, Echols has embraced every second of being on the team from the beginning.
“You’re always looking for kids that work hard and are loyal and play with a lot of passion and energy,” head coach Tony Vittorio said. “And Connor has done that since day one he stepped in our ballpark.”
As a result, Echols was incredibly successful in his first season at UD, making 32 appearances for the Flyers including 31 starts as a freshman.
Overall, Echols finished the season second on the team with 20 walks and 28 hits including six doubles and 16 RBI. He scored 13 runs and totaled 34 bases and recorded 44 putouts defensively.
“As a freshman it’s kind of just time to prove yourself, find your role, play, try to get in the line-up, and try to show everyone why you’re there how you got there and how you play,” Echols said.
Although he has been successful from the start, Echols has continued to grow as a player during his time at UD.
“I feel that Connor has grown tremendously as a player,” junior Pete Rozman said. “He has become one of our go to guys in key situations to get the big hit or make the big play. He always seems to overcome pressure and play with confidence.”
Vittorio agrees that Echols’ game has improved over the last year and is optimistic about how his growth will impact the team.
“As a freshman he received a lot of playing time, and now he would be considered an experienced player. And when that happens with the other traits that he has, his work ethic and loyalty, good things are going to happen,” Vittorio said.
This season Echols is leading the team with 41 hits and a .273 batting average.
This growth has put Echols in a position to tackle a leadership position head on as a sophomore.
“Connor is a guy that is a player that when I walk out of the locker room I know exactly what I’m going to get out of him. He is very consistent with his approach. And he is one of those guys that you know you can count on,” Vittorio said.
His consistency and loyalty has made him a respectable leader in the eyes on his teammates.
“Connor is a true leader in my eyes because he leads by example and he is able to motivate his teammates,” Rozman said.
Echols hopes to use his leadership to turn the program around. He hopes he can work with the staff and players to turn the team into a championship contender year in and year out.
As for the rest of this season, Echols’ focus is on the graduating seniors.
“I want to help turn things around for the end of the season, help make it enjoyable for our seniors who worked their butts off for their entire career,” Echols said. “I want to help get us back on track toward the end of the season, help them have a memorable experience for their last so many games.”
Photo courtesy of Kyler Ludlow/Dayton Athletics Communications