By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
WEBB CITY, Mo. —
Webb City senior Austin White said he was tense in the hour leading up to his official signing with Missouri Southern baseball on Friday.
“Signing your name on the next four years of your life, that’s pretty nerve-wracking,” White said.
But how did he feel once the paper was signed and he was officially a member of the Lions baseball program?
“It feels awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to have the chance to play at Missouri Southern. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.”
White said he decided on MSSU more than a month ago and that Drury University in Springfield, Mo., was the final school he crossed off his list of potential programs.
He said a big selling point was, naturally, the head coach.
Bryce Darnell, in his sixth season as the Lions’ coach, was previously the head coach at Webb City.
“I felt like Southern was my best option,” he said. “I’ve had a great relationship with Coach Nell (Darnell) from back when he was here at Webb. That whole coaching staff made me feel like it was a place I really wanted to be.”
As for Darnell, he said he expects White to be on the right side of the infield initially before eventually competing for the shortstop job for MSSU.
“We think as he grows in college and gets experience and gets stronger, he’ll be able to play on the left side of the infield,” Darnell said. “It’s hard to find guys to play shortstop in college because of arm strength, but we think he has the strength to eventually do that.”
White, an infielder for the Webb City baseball team, played in the defensive secondary during the Cardinals’ run to a third consecutive state football title.
Darnell said White’s athleticism and attitude fit the mold for his program.
“We like his athleticism,” Darnell said. “He has some intangibles in terms of God-given athleticism and demeanor. He’s a mature kid in terms of approach. Those are the factors you look for. And we think he’ll continue to improve on those as well.”
White — who is undecided on a potential major but is interested in architecture and business — unknowingly mirrored Darnell’s assessment when asked what he thought he could bring to MSSU.
“I think I can bring an attitude, not in a bad way, but in a competitive way,” he said. “I think I have the ability to be a great teammate and listen to criticism and adapt and improve.”
And the fact that the Lions reeled off 13 consecutive wins shortly after he decided to sign with Southern wasn’t lost on White.
“That was a great feeling,” he said. “I think they have something really good going and knowing that I’ll be a part of that is amazing.”