Blue Springs High School graduate and pitcher Trey Ziegenbein had a tumultuous final two years with the Wildcats.
He had not one, but two Tommy John surgeries after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. He got it repaired the first time it tore, taking a graft from his wrist and putting it into his elbow. However, that didn’t work and it tore again during his senior season.
“Physically, there are things you need to do and it’s not easy,” Ziegenbein said. “But it was hard to let go of baseball. It was three years of recovery time for me.”
That resulted in the University of Arkansas pulling his scholarship offer following his senior year, which left him scrambling for a college to play for.
“Halfway through the summer before I got into college, Arkansas told me they couldn’t take a risk on someone who had so many arm injuries,” he said. “So I was kind of scrambling around trying to find a place.”
Luckily for the lanky right-hander, Johnson County Community College picked him up, and he ended up having a stellar year for the Cavaliers. He went 10-3 with a 2.64 ERA, held opponents to a .228 batting average and averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His 109 strikeouts broke a school record for most in a season. His performance earned him a scholarship after he was a walk-on as a freshman. Ziegenbein was named to the All-Kansas Jayhawk Conference East first team and the NJCAA All-Region VI second team.
Because of his efforts, he received interest from a handful of NCAA Division I schools to transfer. He actually originally committed to transferring to Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, before deciding to come back to Johnson County for one more season.
His coach convinced him to return for another season as he told Ziegenbein it would give him a better chance to land with a Power 5 school or get drafted by a Major League Baseball team. Ziegenbein said he had places like Kansas State, Wichita State, Missouri State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State interested in having him transfer to their respective programs.
“When we were in the region tournament, my coach talked to me about how I already committed to Lipscomb in the fall and how they are a smaller Division I program and not a well-known place,” Ziegenbein said. “He discussed with me the numbers I had this year and if I returned for my sophomore year I could have a more proper recruiting process.
“They think my opportunities will be better with bigger programs after my sophomore year like Big 12 programs and SEC schools. That was our thought process and why I decided to return to Johnson County.”
Even with the opportunity to get on with well-known college program, there is a chance that Ziegenbein could be selected in the 2020 Major League Amateur Draft. He said he’s had some MLB scouts approach him. They gave him questionnaires to fill out for the 2019 draft.
However, Ziegenbein said he’s still leaning more toward wanting to play for a bigger college before going to a major league team – although, he’s not ruling the latter out.
“I do believe education is important and that’s what I am leaning towards to finish my degree, then explore those other avenues later,” he said. “But if something comes along and the financial situation is right and I am comfortable with it, I am not putting (going to minor leagues) out of the question.
“I think college baseball is a great thing, though. You build camaraderie with your teammates, and that’s something minor league baseball doesn’t offer. You just kind of play to get to the next level of the minors. It’s kind of just about me instead of the team.”
But he still has his sophomore season at Johnson County ahead of him and he’s aiming to make a big impact once again.
“I want to surpass what I did last year,” he said. “I set the single season strikeout record, but I can beat my own record there. My two outings that inflated my ERA were against Fort Scott. I gave up 14 earned runs against them. I want to go back and get my revenge on them. I also want to be a junior college All-American.”