By STEVE KRAH
Clay Woeste just played in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, where he made the all-tournament team as Indiana University Southeast’s starting second baseman and lead-off hitter.
The NAIA Ball Podcast selected righty swinger Woeste (.374, 8 home runs, 21 runs batted in, 89 runs scored, 38 stolen bases and a 1.053 OPS) as second-team All-America and Grenadiers head coach Ben Reel as National Coach of the Year.
While finishing fifth in its first World Series appearance, IUS went 50-16 overall and 26-1 in the River States Conference.
At 22, Woeste (pronounced Wee-Stee) can look back on many baseball memories.
“It was surreal,” says Woeste of playing in Lewiston. “That’s the best way to describe it.
“That’s all we ever talked about and we were finally there.”
But once the games began, it was all-business for the Grenadiers.
“We would do what you’ve been doing all year,” says Woeste. “Our guys were so special to be around.
“No matter what was thrown our way we found a way to get through it.”
During the season, shortstop Daunte DeCelllo went out with an injury and Woeste moved to that side of the infield. DeCello came back at the end of year then RSC Player of the Year Matt Monahan got hurt and missed the postseason.
Yet IUS just kept going.
“No matter what was thrown our way we found a way to get through it,” says Woeste.
Reel, who just completed his 13th campaign at the school in New Albany, has built a national power with limited resources.
“He has the ability to recruit amazing guys and he does with only one scholarship,” says Woeste. “It’s amazing.
“We work really hard in the fall and when we go out in the spring he just lets us play. We reap what we sow.”
Woeste considers his athletic quality to be the work ethic and durability that has helped him stay on the field day in and day out.
“I keep my body healthy,” says Woeste, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder.
That body has stolen 89 bases in 97 attempts from 2018-21.
“My sophomore year I came into my own stealing bases (swiping 34-of-34),” say Woeste. “Coach Reel saw that and started leading off all the time and I was pretty much given the green light.”
Woeste was supposed to play in the Coastal Plain League in the summer of 2020 but when the COVID-19 pandemic caused that loop to shutdown he took on with the Thoroughbreds in the Louisville Collegiate League, which played most its games at Trinity High School.
This summer, Woeste is with the CPL’s Holly Springs (N.C.) Salamanders, coached by Kevin Soine.
With a double major (Professional Selling and Marketing) and a minor (Communication) already completed, he plans to return to IU Southeast for his pandemic-related extra year of baseball eligibility.
The diamond has been a big part of his life all these years. But that was not his first sport.
Clay had his hand on the throttle before he really had his hand on a bat. At 5, he was racing 50 cc machines in motocross.
His parents — Matt and Karen Woeste — moved from northern Kentucky to Aurora, Ind., so fourth grader Clay could ride on a track owned by the family of Ezra Hastings (who is now a professional motocross racer).
Since there was no motocross in the winter, Clay played basketball in the winter. His hoops coach — Bill Rose — persuaded him to play in what is now called Aurora Youth Baseball.
“I never really turned back after that,” says Woeste, who raced until 11 and placed in the top three twice and won at the Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., then turned more and more attention to the diamond.
When he reached middle school, Woeste played for the Cincinnati Tribe travel organization.
During his high school years, he was with Reds RBI team coached by Roosevelt Barnes, father of Tribe teammate R.J. Barnes.
“We got close and I went with him,” says Clay of R.J. Roosevelt Barnes is now also the head baseball coach at LaSalle High School in Green Township, Ohio.
Woeste played briefly during his senior summer for the Midland RedHawks and then that fall with the Midland Redskins.
After attending South Dearborn schools for grades 4-8 and transferred to Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School as a freshman and played four baseball seasons for Tigers head coach Nick Tremain.
“He was a great coach with us,” says Woeste. “My freshmen year he was more hands-on and harder. He developed us so that by the time we were seniors we just went out and played
“That’s why we were so good our senior year.”
In 2017, Lawrenceburg (31-2) won the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference and IHSAA Class 3A South Dearborn Sectional then topped Boonville 7-5 in the semifinals of the North Harrison Regional before bowing 4-2 to eventual state champion Jasper in the final.