Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bayless to play soccer at Missouri Southern

April 20, 2006

It would be understandable if Mike Bayless was reconsidering his choice to play soccer in college instead of baseball.

After all, just two hours after signing his letter-of-intent with Missouri Southern State University, Bayless joined his Lansing High baseball teammates in a doubleheader against Bonner Springs. The senior center fielder battered the Braves for seven hits and scored six runs in the two-game sweep.

Still, Bayless said he had no second thoughts about his decision. He did, however, attribute his college signing with enhancing his performance at the plate against Bonner.

"I can relax now," he said. "There was a lot of pressure looking for schools. Now it's easy."

Bayless said he ultimately chose to play soccer instead of baseball because soccer was his first love. He grew up watching his older brother and sister play, so it was only natural that he'd take up the sport. At Lansing, he was a mainstay in the varsity midfield for three years.

Bayless was Lansing's No. 3 scorer this season with 14 goals and 15 assists. His all-around skills made him a hot commodity on the small school circuit, but Bayless had his sights set on a bigger school. That's why he chose NCAA Division II Missouri Southern.

"I felt like I got a lot better this year," he said. "Passing, moving, I learned new tricks and scored a lot more goals. I got better, and it made me feel confident enough to look at bigger schools."

Bayless and his parents made two trips to Joplin, Mo., to visit the school, and he said it was a good fit.

"We went down there and really liked the team," he said. "I worked out with them once, and I went down there one more time to make sure that was the right place. It felt good."

Bayless said he is considering studying communications or sports management, but it was the coaching staff that sold him on Missouri Southern.

"The coach was a great guy," Bayless said. "He told me he could work with me and help me get a lot better and push me to the next level."

Bayless said he also liked knowing that he could go in and have a chance to make an early impact. Southern posted a 5-14 record this season, but the squad had just three seniors.

"They're bringing back a lot of the same guys, a lot of juniors and a lot of sophomores," he said. "They seemed like a close-knit bunch of guys."

Although Bayless is just 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds - considered somewhat small for a college midfielder - LHS coach Randy Brown said Bayless's all-around skills would compensate for any lack of size.

"You talk about size, and yes, that's always an attribute, but you want people who are going to control the ball, maintain the ball and score," Brown said. "He was such a great field commander for us, being able to look around, pass the ball and take charge of the field. He does that well, and he'll do it in college, too."

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