The way Ryan Ignoffo swung the bat this summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League earned plenty of attention.
The Cary-Grove graduate’s offensive prowess also has earned him an extended stay in the region this month.
After his season with the Vermont-based Upper Valley Nighthawks ended July 29, he joined the Cotuit Kettleers of the prestigious Cape Cod League this week for their postseason.
“We weren’t going to make the (NECBL) playoffs, so some teams reached out to me,” Ignoffo said. “Trying to see where I stack up with the guys here has been fun.”
On Thursday, he hit his first home run with Massachusetts-based Cotuit in the playoffs. Ignoffo, a senior infielder at Eastern Illinois, hit 11 home runs for the Nighthawks while flirting with the NECBL’s Triple Crown. He led the league in home runs and finished second in batting average (.377) and RBI (45).
At EIU, knee and shoulder injuries – along with a shortened COVID season – limited his time on the field early in his career. He made up for lost time this summer and in the spring, when he led the Panthers in seven offensive categories.
“This is the baseball I know I’m capable of playing,” Ignoffo said. “In my honest opinion, I believe I can play with the best of them. Now I get to showcase that.”
After punishing NECBL pitchers, Ignoffo was an all-star and won the league’s Home Run Derby.
His 44 games with Eastern during the spring and 37 in Vermont have equated to a lot of innings over the past five months.
“It’s a lot more games than I’ve ever played,” he said. “It’s definitely taxing on your body. But coming out to the Cape means so much.”
His Cotuit coach is former University of North Carolina head coach Mike Roberts, whose son Brian was an all-star with the Baltimore Orioles. And then, there are the MLB scouts, who show up for batting practice at noon before games that start at 4:30 p.m.
“Scouts will be out there watching,” he said. “It’s crazy to see that. I get to learn from a bunch of guys who have coached in pro ball and talk to scouts.”
The impressive offensive numbers since March began out of disappointment after fall ball at EIU.
“I was missing a lot of pitches,” said Ignoffo, who credited the work of Eastern assistant coaches Derek Francis and Mike Pugliese. “I was messing around with hand placement and timing mechanisms. I found one that worked for me, and I’ve been able to hit every type of pitch hard.”
Benedetto to coordinate NIU defense: After joining the Northern Illinois football staff in March as a defensive assistant, Nick Benedetto recently added the title of co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach.
NIU’s season opens Sept. 1 at home against Eastern Illinois.
Benedetto, a Crystal Lake South grad, spent the previous two seasons as defensive coordinator at Samford University of the Football Championship Subdivision. He also served three years as defensive coordinator at his alma mater, Division II University of Sioux Falls.
His Samford defenses improved in nine of 12 statistical categories during his tenure. With Benedetto leading the Sioux Falls defense, the team made the playoffs twice and ranked in the top 15 nationally in eight categories.
Last season, the Huskies finished 9-5, won the Mid-American Conference championship and played in the Cure Bowl.
New role for Warner: The Bowling Green football team begins its 2022 season Sept. 3 at UCLA.
When the Falcons head west, Crystal Lake South grad Max Warner – who spent last season as the team’s quarterbacks coach – will have a new role. Warner was elevated during the offseason to co-offensive coordinator/QBs coach.
In his first season with the Falcons last fall, Warner guided starting quarterback Matt McDonald to 12 touchdown passes and a 60.1% completion percentage. He also ran for four touchdowns. The Falcons finished 4-8, including an upset victory against Minnesota.
Barry Bottino writes about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.