NITRO, W.Va. — Nitro freshman pitcher/outfielder Levi Kelly made a national splash on the recruiting radar, being rated the No. 1 right-handed pitcher in the country for the Class of 2018 by PerfectGame.org. He is the No. 3 overall prospect in the class.
“It’s been really fun and enjoyable,” the 15-year-old Kelly said. “We’ve taken a lot of trips and I have been talking to some of the best coaches in the country.”
Kelly, who had 12 strikeouts and surrendered just three hits in Nitro’s 7-3 win on Monday over East Clarendon (S.C.), began picking up national attention through travel baseball, which he started playing when he was just 10.
After playing for two years with the West Virginia Red Raiders, Kelly moved on to the UBC Venom travel team in Spartanburg, S.C., in 2011. Most of the national attention picked up while playing for the South Carolina Crush travel team.
Kelly already had offers from both WVU and Marshall entering the week, but added an offer from South Carolina after Monday’s win in Myrtle Beach. Other schools that have been actively recruiting him include Penn State, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, LSU, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Central Florida, Florida and Florida State.
“He actually does a better job with the attention than I do,” said Levi’s father, Roger Kelly. “He’s been around some good people and exposed to some players who have had success. He does a really good job of (keeping his emotions level).”
Kelly stands in at 6-foot-3, 191 pounds and hit 91 mph on the radar gun Monday.
While garnering national attention “has been huge,” Kelly said he has been preparing for it.
“A lot of young guys see the radar gun and try to light it up and get a little bit out of control. I’ve had the radar gun on me since I was 9 years old, so it’s huge being able to experience that all the way up. Now it’s just another day throwing.”
The freshman throws a two-seam and four-seam fastball, along with a curveball and change-up.
“My four-seam runs just as much as my two-seam,” Kelly said. “I kind of stick with the four-seam because the velocity is around the same. I’ve always thrown hard, but in seventh grade I realized that I had something special and needed to pursue it. I hit the weights hard and got with some trainers and coaches who have pushed towards my goal. It has worked out.”
As the recruiting process heats up for Kelly, his role on Nitro’s team continues to take shape.
“Every pitch, I know I have guys behind my back ready to make a play for me,” he said. “Even when I’m down and walk a couple of guys, they still have my back and are ready to turn a double-play or whatever they have to do to pick me up.”
Kelly will have plenty of options for where he eventually wants to play baseball down the road – whether that’s at the college level or if the MLB draft comes calling.
“It’s non-stop just trying to progress so that I can be the best that I can be,” Kelly said. “I’ve been to some schools where I really can see myself, and others that I’m not so sure about. Some of the big SEC schools or ACC schools, I feel like I would fit in really well.”
A certain Big 12 program is still in the mix also.
“It would be fun to play in-state,” Kelly said. “They are a building program and I’m looking to see what happens with their new stadium and the recruits they get in. Coach (Randy) Mazey is doing a great job with his program, going against some of the best competition. They’re definitely in the picture as well.”