STEWARDSON — Isaac Kramer and Taylor Rentfro don't have to go far to continue their athletic career. For one of them, that was a major selling point. For the other, the strength of the program was a key selling point. On Friday, both WSS athletes signed to play at the same college as Kramer chose to play baseball for Lake Land College and Rentfro decided to play for the Lake Land softball team.
Rentfro was part of a strong WSS program last season that went 27-5 and made it to the Class 1A super sectional. Now she will join a Lake Land program that finished fourth at the NJCAA Division I tournament, which she is very excited to do.
"I am really happy. It's really nerve-wracking," Rentfro said. "It's another chapter in my life that I am not quite ready to begin."
Rentfro considered a number of different junior college programs, all of them top-level programs. Rentfro drew interest from Rend Lake (which was 37-21 overall and 21-12 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference), Lincoln Trail, Parkland (which won 37 games last season), Olney Central and Lake Land.
Lake Land made the choice easy on Rentfro, though, when the Lady Lakers finished in fourth place at the national tournament last season.
"It was close to home and they were ranked fourth in the nation," Rentfro said. "They play a lot of (NCAA Division I) schools in the fall."
Rentfro plays third, shortstop and outfield for WSS. Lake Land softball coach Nic Nelson hasn't told Rentfro what position she will play yet, but she has some options.
Nelson said he is excited to have a quality, local player on the team next season.
"She can play third and can hit. A local kid that we think can add a lot with her bat," Nelson said. "She's a third baseman. I tell every kid, you might have played a position in high school, but we could switch it up. You might be a third baseman in high school, an outfielder here. Third is where she plays, once she gets here, we will determine where we go. Excited to have here and looking forward to next spring."
Kramer knows what spot he will play at Lake Land. Even though he plays a variety of positions at WSS, Lake Land coach Bill Jackson is putting Kramer at first base, which is one of the positions Kramer plays currently, along with the outfield and pitching.
"I am eager to see what he has in store for me," Kramer said.
Jackson said Kramer is a big, strong kid, which showed with his seven home runs and 35 doubles as a junior. He's also looking forward to seeing Kramer as a full-time first baseman.
"From an offensive standpoint, there's some things he needs to be more consistent at, but the ball really jumps off his bat," Jackson said. "He will get some innings on the mound to see if that might be a possibility. Offensively, he's got a shot and as long as we can get him a little more consistent (at first base), his bat will find its way into the lineup."
WSS coach Silas Pogue said Kramer has put in the work to get this opportunity.
"It's nice to see him stay local and nice to see him carry on his athletic and academic career. I think Lake Land got a quality young man today," Pogue said. "The sky is the limit for him (at first). If they are going to put him at first, I think that will be fantastic for him and the team. He never complains where ever we put him. There's some games where he has to play the outfield, has to catch, he has to pitch, has to play third and he never complains about it."
Kramer drew interest from Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, but the chance to stay close to home and play at the same school his mother works at was too easy to pass up. Kramer's mother, Chris, works at Lake Land as the Director of Auxiliary Services.
Lake Land also had Kramer's preferred major, construction management.
"Lake Land has always felt like home to me and they have a good major that I want to go into," Kramer said. "During my sophomore year, I found out I like working with my hands and I like being outside, and Lake Land offers both opportunities to me. It's a home-like feel and keeps me around and I am able to do things with friends and family."
Pogue said the best thing about Kramer is his mature state of mind.
"When he is pitching, defensively we've needed to work on that area and have made mistakes behind our pitchers, but he never gets upset and never bashes his teammates and he's been a very good leader in that regard," Pogue said. "Our younger kids kind of follow that, to pick each other up when things go bad. He's very mentally mature and that's good to see."