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Rossville trio celebrate baseball bond

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Payton Dennison, Kelton Saylor and Mark Soiseth grew up playing baseball together. On Friday, they took the opportunity to share that childhood bond once more by signing letters of intent to play collegiately even though they will take separate paths after high school.

“We've been together as long as we can remember,” Saylor said. “We've been together since T-ball really. It's a special bond. We grew up playing T-ball, we were playing pitching machine and as soon as we were playing travel (ball) we were playing that together.”

During Friday's signing, a slideshow of photos showed that progression from successful youth baseball seasons to successful high school seasons, including the 2017 season when the trio played on Rossville's Class 1A state runner-up team as sophomores. There were also championship pictures from Town and Country baseball in 2010 and 2013.

“With us three, we got fifth in state (2013) and I decided to play lower (age group) one year and that year we got second in state (2010),” Saylor said. "I'm a bit younger than them so I'd always choose to play either with my grade or my age, so a couple years I chose to play with my age. All through pitching machine, we all did all-stars and would go to district, semi-state and state together.

“Those pictures are just great memories and they've seemed to transform into what we've done in high school. Hopefully, we can keep that ball rolling this season.”

That childhood bond made signing together to play college ball an extension of their stories on the diamond together.

“It's just been a lot of hard work, working with each other and getting so close and it's just something we've all dreamed about since we were little,” Soiseth said. “It doesn't seem real doing it now.”

“We've always been pretty close,” Dennison added. “We started playing together when we started playing baseball in 7U (7 and under) and we've just been lifelong friends and we thought it would be really neat if we all signed together.”

“Once we got to high school and began to mature, the bond just keeps getting stronger and stronger,” Saylor noted. “(The group signing's) just something we felt we really needed to do because it's really like our last ride together. It just shows how strong our friendship is.”

Several of the photos going back to their youth shown during the signing also include fellow senior Corbin Beard, who signed earlier this spring to play at Franklin College.

“We would have liked to have him sign with us, but he just wanted to sign earlier,” Dennison said.

The three will play at different schools next year as Dennison signed with Quincy University, a private Franciscan liberal arts university in Quincy, Illinois with an enrollment of 1,100 that plays baseball as an NCAA Division II school; Saylor with Kentucky State University, a public university in Kentucky's state capital of Frankfort with an enrollment of just over 1,500 also competing in Division II; and Soiseth with Ancilla College, a two-year private liberal arts college near Plymouth with an enrollment of just over 500.

Soiseth will join another Rossville senior in first basemen Adam Terrell at Ancilla.

“Adam's the one that got me to look at it and I did and I liked it and we're going together now,” he said. “I made my decision three weeks ago. I went on a couple visits there and I really like it. It's nice and small and it's just the place I want to be.”

Saylor considered Quincy but participation in a baseball camp and visits to Kentucky State swayed his decision.

“I had no idea where I was going when (Dennison) decided and so I looked a little bit at Quincy, but I went on a visit and went to a camp at Kentucky State,” he said. “Just the atmosphere and the coach's playing style seemed like it was calling my name. It's a beautiful place down there and I'm just excited to get started.”

Dennison committed to Quincy back in February but waited to sign with his teammates. He didn't want to speak for Quincy's coaches, but felt he could make an immediate impact on the field.

“I see myself getting some playing time my freshman year,” he said. “They haven't told me any specifics yet, but I think I've got a really good shot at it.”

“I'm not sure what my role will be but I go into it with an open mind and I'm willing to play wherever,” Saylor said of Kentucky State. “(The head coach) hasn't seen a lot of me. When I went to the camp, it was two days after I threw 115 pitches in a travel game, so I didn't show off my pitching stuff there. I was able to show off my outfield arm and my ability to hit from both sides, my speed. He saw me do that and he told me that he really wanted to see me there.”

Soiseth similarly goes to Ancilla with an open mind.

“I haven't talked to (the coach) much about it yet, but I probably will here soon,” he said.

Rossville head coach Brad Scott believes each school will get a strong leader who played a major role in lifting Hornets baseball to its recent heights, which has included a No. 1 state ranking in Class 1A for the last several weeks.

“We're talking about three leaders sitting up here today,” Scott said during the signing. “These three along with a couple of the other seniors are why we are where we are as a program. They've been here since they were freshmen. Two of them started since they were freshmen.

“(Soiseth) unfortunately got a little sick as a freshman and missed a couple weeks. Otherwise he would have probably been right there with them.

“I speak for the whole coaching staff when I say they have meant a ton to this program, not only on the field but off the field,” he noted. “They're great examples to all of our younger student athletes, both in the classroom and on the field.”

He praised each individually as well, noting “Kelt since his freshman year has done things in center field that are up there with any other center fielder in the state with the way he reads the ball and tracks the ball down.

“Payton offensively, his bat is good enough to put him in any lineup in the state, 1A through 4A, and Mark the growth of him defensively and offensively (has been impressive). He's been one of those kids that never really caught a break, freshman, sophomore, junior year just line out, line out, line out, and now he's one of our top hitters.

“All three of them are great examples and what we strive for in our players,” Scott said. “I can't say enough about them. They represent this community and this school so well and I'm just super proud of every thing they've done in their four years at Rossville.”

Although Saylor hopes the three's time together extends for a long state tournament run, he appreciated looking back with his longtime friends with Friday's signing.

“It's been a special ride and I wish them the best,” he said.