BY STEVE KRAH
Brock Boynton came from a very successful prep baseball program and he’s experienced more of the same in college.
The 2019 graduate of Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., where the Kingsmen have won five state titles and numerous conference, sectional, regional and semistate crowns, landed at NCAA Division II dynamo Quincy (Ill.) University.
The Hawks (44-9 overall, 27-5 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2023) are on a 14-game win streak after winning the GLVC tournament and host a D-II Midwest Region tournament Thursday to Saturday, May 18-20. The winner of the event that also includes Wayne State and Northwood moves on to a best-of-three super regional for a chance to compete in the D-II World Series June 3-10 in Cary, N.C.
Quincy, which calls QU Stadium (built in 1938 under the Works Project Administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt), is No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball D-II poll and No. 1 in the NCAA Midwest D-II rankings.
A lefty batting and throwing senior center fielder, Boyton has played in 51 games (50 starts) and is hitting .294 (52-of-177) with eight home runs, eight doubles, 41 runs batted in, 42 runs scored and an .849 OPS (.374 on-base percentage plus .475 slugging average).
Quincy opened the 2023 season in Florida and went 4-3 against traditional D-II powers Tampa, Saint Leo and Rollins. Boynton hit .387 (12-of-31) on the trip.
“I felt pretty good,” says Boynton of that start. “I came back up (north) and struggled a little bit.
“I’m just trying to ride the wave — not get too high or get too low — and just take one pitch at a time. It know there are times coming up where the team is going to need you. This is playoff baseball. Every pitch counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting or on defense, you’ve got to put everything aside. It’s a new season. I’m going up the plate every single time to do a job for my team.
“Our inside joke for our hitters is “The Union: We do jobs.”
During his four-year QU career, Boynton has been in 161 games (157 starts) and is hitting .304 (164-of-539) with 16 homers, 22 doubles, 104 RBIs, 122 runs and an .847 OPS (.398/.449).
With Boynton on the team, Quincy is 120-55.
Boynton really takes satisfaction from his impact on defense.
“It’s everything,” says Boynton. “Because baseball is a very hard sport and you’ve got guys being paid millions of dollars to fail 7 out of 10 times. A buddy always told me, ‘Your offense will always come and go, but your defense can always stay.’ That has always sat with me.
“I take so much pride in the outfield and being that leader in center field. To take runs away (from the other team) and be there for your pitcher. My nickname on the team is ‘Golden Retriever.’ I’m going to chase down that ball for you.”
Among his favorite MLB players are Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
“You look at photos of me back in rec ball and I had the eye black nearly down to my chin,” says Boynton. “Those are two guys I model my game on.”
Quincy’s head coach for Boynton’s first two seasons was Josh Rabe (who played 38 games in the majors with the Minnesota Twins in 2006 and 2007). Matt Schissel has guided the program the past two.
“The knowledge that (Rabe) has is unbelievable,” says Boynton of the man who is now Quincy’s athletic director. “That dude has seen a lot of baseball. I tried to be a sponge around him.
“(Hitting coach/recruiting coordinator) Chandler Purcell played for Josh. He has done an excellent job.”
The 2023 Hawks are led by junior catcher and GLVC Player of the Year Luke Napleton (.359, 27 homers, 83 RBIs).
“Our lineup is very scary because 1 through 9 can change the game in one swing,” says Boynton. “That’s what sets us apart from any other team we play.”
Boynton, who turns 23 in July, received his diploma Monday, May 15 and graduated with a Sport Management degree. Though he is entitled to a fifth season, his plan is to play this summer for the Northwoods League’s Kokomo (Ind.) Jackrabbits and try to make his way into independent pro baseball.
“I’m putting all my chips out on the table and betting on myself this season and this summer,” says Hobbs. “I know I have the tools to play at the next level.”
Johnston Hobbs, who earned a Master of Kinesiology degree from Indiana University, has been named as Kokomo head coach/manager for 2023.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder spent the summer of 2022 honing his game at PRP Baseball in Noblesville, Ind. He was briefly with the 2021 Quincy Gems of the Prospect League and spent 2020 with the Northwoods League’s Kalamazoo (Mich.) Mac Daddies.
Boynton was born in South Bend, Ind., and grew up on the south side of Osceola, Ind.
He started organized baseball at what is now Penn Park in Osceola through 12U and moved on to Harris Township Black, the Granger Irish (coached by father Brad Boynton and Rick Berg) and then in high school the South Bend Cubs Elite.
“There were all the same faces in high school and travel ball which is awesome,” says Boynton.
A stint with the Illinois-based 29ers (now Midwest Hitmen) for a tournament in Georgia is how he got connected to Quincy.
At Penn, Boynton played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Greg Dikos.
“Coach Dikos will go down as one of the best baseball coaches I’ve ever had in my life,” says Boynton. “That man means the world to me.
“He’s a Founding Father of 574 Baseball in my opinion. There’s no other coach in (north central) Indiana that has the accolades that man has.”
Besides all the rings, Dikos has amassed more than 800 career victories.
A memory for Boynton is Dikos bringing out a training device when he wanted the Kingsmen — on the way to a school record number of home runs — to level out their upper-cut swings.
“We were hitting too many pop flies,” says Boynton. “With this flat red tee if you didn’t have a flat swing you were busting your bat or you were busting this tee. You either hit the ball on the ground or it became a line drive.”
Guess what Quincy, a team that has D-II-leading 118 home runs, uses?
“Every single day here we use that flat red tee,” says Boynton. “I thought I’d never see it again since leaving high school.”
Boynton also shined for Penn on the gridiron. He caught a game-winning touchdown at Elkhart Central and was featured on ESPN and saluted by Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss during his “You Got Mossed!” segment in October 2018. The same fall, Boynton committed to Quincy for baseball.
He was invited to play football at QU as a receiver/kick returner but decided to focus on the diamond.
“I love football,” says Boynton. “That is a different side of me. I had a lot more offers for baseball. The fact that my parents don’t have to pay a single cent for me to go to school here is the cherry on top.”
Even though it’s a 770-mile roundtrip from Osceola to Quincy and back and closest GLVC school (Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill.) is 117 miles one-way, Brad and Stephanie Boynton are able to get to all of Brock’s games.
Brad Boynton was a sophomore starting center fielder on the Kingsmen’s first state championship team in 1994. He now works at Hoosier Spring Company in South Bend. Stephanie Boynton owns Artistic Hair in South Bend.
Younger brother Hunter Boynton (Penn Class of 2021) was a high school wrestler and is now an electrician for Weaver Electric & Heating Corp., in Mishawaka.