Outfielder breaks Eastern career hits record



Mackenzie Freund

Caleb Howell, a senior outfielder, setp up to the plate for hit turn at bat before he broke the all-time career hist record Wednesday at Coaches Stadium.

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Eastern baseball senior outfielder Caleb Howell was tied with Ryan Campbell heading into Wednesday’s game for most hits in a career at Eastern with 260.

Howell singled to right field in the second inning against Illinois College Wednesday, which gave him his 261st career hit, breaking Campbell’s record.

Campbell held the record since the 2007 season, playing baseball at Eastern from 2004 to 2007.

Howell said breaking the record at home makes it even more special, especially against the team from his hometown of Jacksonville

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I was trying not to think about it over the past week or so, but everyone kept telling me your three hits or two hits away. It’s a great honor. I am just happy about it.”

Howell’s Grandpa was there at Coaches Stadium to see him break the record.

Howell came into the season with 223 hits and a career average of .367 in his first three years at Eastern, but coming into this season, he said it wasn’t really a goal of his to break the record.

He went hitless in his first 17 at-bats this season and has since turned things around.

Howell said he was able to turn things around by staying more focused.

“I was trying to press too much,” he said. “I was thinking ‘I am 0-for-10, 0-for-11. I got to get a hit.’ I was trying to swing at everything. It was just trying to stay focused and not do too much.”

His average is now .355 on the season and is showing no signs of slowing down. He ranks 14th in the Ohio Valley Conference in batting average.

Eastern coach Jimmy Schmitz said Howell is such a humble person, which is a big reason why his emotions don’t get so high or don’t get so low.

“There have been some really good hitters that have played here,” Schmitz said. “There have been a lot of guys that have played here and to be the career hits leader is pretty amazing.”

Fellow senior Dane Sauer said Howell is everything you want as a teammate.

“Nicest kid around,” he said. “He is so humble, just amazing. It’s unreal He’s the best hitter I’ve ever played with. The kid just always gets it done.”

Senior Brant Valach said Howell means everything to their team.

“He basically is our team,” he said. “He’s so incredibly humble and leads by example. He always does everything right.”

Last season, Howell was one of the top hitters in the nation. At the end of the season, Howell finished with a .420 batting average, which was third best in all of the NCAA

Howell had 94 hits in 224 at-bats last season in 55 games played. He had 11 doubles, 32 runs batted in and no home runs.

He had a .469 slugging percentage, a .492 on-base percentage and struck out only 15 times in 55 games played last season.

Heading into the season, Howell was tops among all NCAA hitters with the highest returning batting average from the previous season.

He set the Eastern single-season record for hits last season with 94, which also ranked seventh in the country. He was the first player to hit over .400 in a season since Brett Nommensen in 2009.

Howell also had eight multi-RBI games last season through 30 multi-hit games and was named to the All-Mideast Regional ABCA/Rawlings First Team.

Howell had to have knee surgery in the summer of his freshman season, which was his first surgery since he had foot surgery.

He said having to go through that knee surgery was one of his biggest challenges he has had to overcome.

Howell picked “Gods Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash for his walk-up song every time he comes up to the plate at Coaches Stadium, and he said picking that was not an accident.

“I heard it at a (St. Louis) Cardinals game,” he said. “Lance Berkman had it. I thought it was pretty cool, so sophomore year I picked it, and I kind of stuck with it.”

Eastern senior pitcher Jake Johansmeier said no matter what you throw to Howell, he is going to hit it.

“You can hit your spot and somehow he’ll find somewhere to put it,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s a freak.”

Howell and the Panthers will get a three-game series underway Friday at Belmont.


Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]