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East Ridge senior catcher Luke Ringhofer will help lead the Raptors baseball team this spring. Ringhofer hit .365 with 23 runs and 15 RBI for the Raptors last spring. (Bulletin photo by Patrick Johnson)

East Ridge baseball: Senior catcher Luke Ringhofer 'a great leader behind the dish'

sports Cottage Grove,Minnesota 55016
East Ridge baseball: Senior catcher Luke Ringhofer 'a great leader behind the dish'
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

It doesn’t happen frequently to watch an athlete whose talents appear so clearly even the mundane tasks look magnificent, but East Ridge has one in senior catcher Luke Ringhofer.

Ringhofer signed a letter of intent in February to play for Division-I South Dakota State University next season and he’s a big reason for whatever success the Raptors have had and will have this season.

Ringhofer bats second in the lineup for the Raptors by design.

“I like to put my best guy to handle the bat in the two spot because it gives you flexibility with your lineup,” East Ridge head coach Brian Sprout said.

Ringhofer led East Ridge with a .378 batting average in 33 games during the American Legion season last summer and hit .365 with 23 runs and 15 RBI for the Raptors last spring. If anything Ringhofer remains a model of consistency at the plate and behind the plate. Ringhofer also threw out 50 percent of base stealers and had just two errors on the season.

“All the younger kids watch his throwing ability and pause,” Sprout said. “He’s just a great leader behind the dish.”

Ringhofer exudes a smooth approach offensively and defensively. There’s not a lot of flair to him at the plate and routinely takes the pitch up the middle. Behind the plate, his throwing motion appears almost effortless and his handling of the pitching staff is rare for a high school athlete.

“Mechanically, he’s pretty good (at the plate), he’s got a plan,” Sprout said. “He knows what he’s looking for. He’s kid that’s not afraid to hit with two strikes.”

Ringhofer started garnering attention as a sophomore when he played in a junior showcase following the high school season. D-I coaches flocked to the event and Ringhofer even earned an alternate spot on the roster that went on to compete in Chicago for a regional showcase.

Ringhofer returned to the showcase the following year and raised his stock once again. He also competed in the Area Codes Games in Chicago with teammates Drew Molin and Carter Stoehr.

Ringhofer drew significant interest from SDSU and the University of Illinois-Chicago, the latter of which came via a tip from an opposing Suburban East Conference head coach. Woodbury head coach Kevin McDermott’s brother, Sean, serves as an associate head coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Kevin McDermott strongly urged that the UIC coaching staff take a long, hard look at Ringhofer.

Ultimately Ringhofer chose SDSU because of the atmosphere and the proximity to outdoor activities like hunting. An avid outdoorsman, Ringhofer felt SDSU fit best for his personality. Ringhofer will have a chance for a starting spot right away when he arrives on campus.

“It’s always been one of my big dreams to go on to play in college,” Ringhofer said. “It was exciting trying to decide where you’re going.”

Ringhofer has an understated demeanor and he has worked to become a more vocal leader. Sprout has seen more of a concerted effort by Ringhofer to act as more a leader on the team.

“He’s really gotten better at the vocal part,” Sprout said. “As a sophomore he was hesitant a bit.”

Ringhofer is just getting back into the swing of things with baseball. He suffered a Grade 2 shoulder separation during the hockey season and missed the final nine games of the season.

Ringhofer credited Sprout for his development and opportunity to play at the D-I level. Sprout recommended Ringhofer for the junior showcases and has worked diligently with Ringhofer on his hitting and defense.

“Sprout has been telling me some things, like don’t get so long, take a shorter step (at the plate),” Ringhofer said. “Sprout is the reason I’ve improved a lot.”

-Nick Gerhardt