Wright State baseball: Former pitcher Vore becomes slugging outfielder

FAIRBORN — Ben Vore was a highly touted pitcher in high school who could mow down batters with a blazing fastball.

College hitters, though, can handle one-pitch wonders and didn’t react the same way to that sizzle. Vore spent three years at Cincinnati and one at Wright State without success and thought his career might be over.

But while he may have been ready to give up baseball, Raider coaches weren’t ready to give up on him.

“Last May, we said, ‘Hey, you’re such a good athlete. Why don’t you try hitting?’” coach Alex Sogard said. “He started taking BP, and we said, ‘Why don’t you go play summer ball and get some at-bats?’”

Vore was skeptical at first since he hadn’t really hit since starring at Lexington (Ohio) High School, but he joined the Licking County Settlers of the Great Lakes Collegiate League and hit well enough to make the all-star team.

“I always knew I had the talent to do it, but I didn’t know if I could do it at the Division-I college level,” he said.

“Getting the opportunity here, I was expecting to be overwhelmed, but I was pretty comfortable. I got the rust off and got some understanding on how to be successful at this level: Let the athleticism take over and just go out there and hit.”

Vore has been smashing the ball all season as an outfielder for the Raiders.

He’s second in the Horizon League in home runs with 19 (one off the school record) and RBIs with 72 (two off the school record).

He got his chance because of early-season injuries and has been a fixture in the lineup, shifting from leadoff hitter to the cleanup spot.

He’s batting .325 and has gone 15 of 16 on steal attempts.

“I don’t know if he’d be an everyday guy, but he was forced to play every day. I think that allowed him to start to become comfortable and showcase his tools. And his tools are off the charts,” Sogard said.

“He’s the fastest guy on our team. He’s the strongest guy on our team. He’s got the most power on our team.”

The 6-foor-2, 220-pound Vore said he’s been inspired by boyhood friend Jay Luikart, who was primarily a pitcher but has turned into a power-hitting first-baseman.

Luikart is batting .333 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs. He’s still a part-time pitcher, having made 14 appearances last season and three this year, all but one in relief.

Luikart believed Vore could become a bona fide slugger from that start.

“He told me, ‘Hey, I came in as a pitcher. I knew I could swing a little bit. I was just hitting one day and it just naturally happened. That’s something you could do,’” Vore said.

“We know he’s had success all his years here. He’s someone who I’ve not only looked up to, but looked to for advice.”

Vore, who turns 24 in August, is in his last season of eligibility. He already has a finance degree, but Sogard believes his immediate future is in baseball.

“I don’t know if he’ll get a shot (at the pros) right away. But I think if he plays independent ball, he will,” said Sogard, who believes Vore is one of the top three players in the league.

“There’s just not a lot of guys around the country that have that power and speed combination. And he’s only been hitting for a year.

“He’s a great kid who works hard. Every time he gets a hit, it makes me smile. It’s such a cool story.”


At Nischwitz Stadium


Milwaukee (4th seed) vs Purdue Fort Wayne (5), 11 a.m.

Oakland (3) vs Youngstown State (6), 3 p.m.


Wright State (1) vs lowest remaining seed, 11 a.m.

Northern Kentucky (2) vs highest remaining seed, 3 p.m.

(Championship game is noon Saturday. If a second game is needed, it will be at 4 p.m.)

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