By STEVE KRAH
Riley Bertram is spending the last summer before his final college baseball season in the same town where he began playing the game as a boy.
The 21-year-old switch-hitter has been leading off and playing shortstop for the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators at new Loeb Stadium.
Through 17 games for head coach/manager Michael Keeran’s Aviators, Bertram was hitting .273 (15-of-55) with two doubles, eight runs batted in, 12 runs and four stolen bases.
Bertram, a 2018 Zionsville (Ind.) Community High School graduate who has played three seasons (2019-21) at the University of Michigan (he started 31 of the 37 games in which he played in 2021 at second base), was born in Noblesville, Ind., and introduced to the game while father Vince Bertram was the principal at Lafayette Jefferson High School.
“I’m a middle infielder,” says Riley. “I play both second base and shortstop — whatever position the team I’m on needs.”
A year ago, Bertram was with the Josh Galvan-coached Tropics in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
Riley is the youngest of Project Lead The Way president and CEO Vince and Western Governors University advisor Jill Bertram’s four boys, behind Josh, Ryan and Drew.
Josh Betram played basketball and baseball at Lafayette Jeff.
Ryan Bertram played three baseball seasons at Evansville (Ind.) Harrison High School and one at Zionsville Community. He was part of the University of Southern Indiana’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 2014 and later an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University and director of operations at Campbell University in Buis Creek, N.C.
Drew Bertram played at Purdue and was a manager for the Boilermakers when Mark Wasikowski was head coach. Drew is a Purdue graduate and is going to graduate school at the West Lafayette school.
It was in the back yard with his brothers that Riley first experimented with switch-hitting. He has been doing it in games since about 13.
At Michigan, Bertram has played in 70 games (49 as a starter) and is hitting .236 (43-of-182) with 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. On defense, he has 95 putouts, 136 assists, five errors and a .979 fielding percentage. He led the team in stolen bases in 2021, swiping eight in nine attempts.
Bertram has played three seasons for Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich and assistant Nick Schnabel. Pitching coach Steve Merriman and volunteer coach Brandon Inge joined the staff for the 2021 slate.
“I’m very fortunate to have this coaching staff,” says Bertram. “They know what they’re talking about.
“Coach Bakich is awesome to play for. He is trying to find the best for you. He knows everything about your family. He has your back. He’s someone you could reach out if you need to get something off your chest. He does a good job of building a culture.”
Schnabel works with Michigan infielders, including Bertram.
“He knows the game at a higher level than a lot of people,” says Bertram of Schnabel.
Merriman has made a point of bonding with all UM players and not just pitchers.
“At the college level you need to have at least a baseline relationship with all players if you want to have a culture,” says Bertram. “Everytime Coach Inge talks you have to listen because whatever he’s going to say is going to beneficial to your performance.
“He keeps things loose. He’s bought into the culture Coach Bakich and Coach Schnabel have built.”
Bertram is on pace toward a Communication and Media degree from Michigan in the spring of 2022. He was named Academic All-Big Ten in 2021.
Riley played Little League baseball in Evansville, Ind., when his father served as superintendent of schools. After the family moved to Zionsville, he played for Zionsville Baseball Club and was with the Indiana Bulls travel organization from 15U to 18U, playing for teams with Dan Held, Sean Laird, Jered Moore and Jeremy Honaker as coaches.
Bertram played four seasons for Moore at Zionsville Community and was part of IHSAA Class 4A sectional champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, regional winners in 2016 and 2017, a semistte title-taker in 2016 and state runner-up in 2016.
In 2018, Bertram was an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-State selection and IHSBCA North-South All-Star as a third baseman as well as a Rawlings-Perfect Game Honorable Mention All-American.
“I’ve always been close with Coach Moore and his family,” says Bertram. “Jered was not only was my coach, but I’ve reached out to him for many things.
Last week I texted him about hitting facilities in (the Lafayette) area and he hooked me up.
“It’s a really strong relationship.”