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Your Prep Sports
SOLON – As a rare five-year varsity starter Luke Ira hasn’t spent much time on the bench during his prep baseball career.
When it came time to settle on a college it seemed only natural that Ira was looking for a program where he could play immediately.
The Solon senior shortstop believes he has found that place in South Dakota State.
“I am going to have a really good opportunity to play my first year and that was a really big part of my decision,” Ira said on Wednesday at a national signing day ceremony at Solon. “If I were going to go anywhere else I would probably sit a few years but they kind of set it up to where they aren’t recruiting any infielders in the class above me and all their infielders are graduating this year so the opportunity will be there for me to have a chance to play right away.”
Ira has been a mainstay in the Solon lineup since the first game of his eighth-grade year.
A career .347 hitter, Ira is coming off the best season of his career last summer when he led Solon to 27 wins while earning first-team Class 3A all-state honors.
Ira hit .511 last season posting career-highs in runs (54), doubles (14), home runs (6), RBI (39), slugging percentage (.770) and stolen bases (17).
“That’s rare when you have a five-year starter and not only that but produces from his first at bat his eighth-grade year,” Solon coach Keith McSweeney said. “He had a prolific year last year and set some program records but he’s done it since he started playing for us.”
Recruiting began to pick up steam for Ira after he hit .336 with 15 doubles and helped Solon to the Class 3A state semifinals as a sophomore in 2016.
Ira visited South Dakota State last spring and gave a verbal commitment in July picking the Jackrabbits over interest from Western Illinois and Iowa.
Ultimately the opportunity to get on the field quickly along with a strong relationship with the coaching staff sold Ira on South Dakota State.
“I liked everything about it up there,” Ira said. “I am going to have a really good opportunity to play my first year and it’s a family environment.”
In addition to his infield duties Ira holds a 19-12 career record on the mound with a 2.58 career ERA in 179.3 innings but his future is on the infield.
South Dakota State likes Ira at shortstop where McSweeney said he is a natural but the long-time Solon coach says Ira is versatile enough to play second base and third base at the next level.
“I wasn’t sure if he would be a middle infielder at the college level before last year,” McSweeney said. “Last season the things he did with the glove and in the hole making plays if he’s not playing shortstop up there they must have somebody pretty special.”
A member of the Summit League, South Dakota State was 26-24 last season and 18-12 in conference play.
“I’m excited,” Ira said. “It feels great just knowing that a program wants to invest in you, that is an amazing feeling.”