Diamond 9: Branson, C of O’s Kyle Rapinchuk

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If you were an opposing pitcher, it wasn’t exactly a welcome sight whenever Kyle Rapinchuk stepped in the batter’s box. He was a pure hitter at Branson High School and later carried on his talents to the College of the Ozarks.

Now the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will soon recognize Rapinchuk with a Diamond 9 award during the annual Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company. It’s set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 25 at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield. Sponsorship tables of eight ($400), head table tickets ($100), and individual tickets ($40) are available – along with congratulatory ads – by calling 417-889-3100.

In fact, Rapinchuk’s award is part of the Hall of Fame’s biggest celebration in years: A 9 a.m. unveiling of a larger-than-life bronze statue of West Plains native and former Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon is set at the Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive. Afterward, five individuals will be inducted at the baseball luncheon: Mark Bailey (Glendale High School/Missouri State/Houston Astros), the late John Donaldson (Glasgow HS, Negro Leagues), former Westran, Sturgeon and Jamestown high school baseball/softball coach Kelly Odneal, sports writer Rob Rains (Kickapoo/St. Louis media), and Mark Stratton, the former coach at Glendale High School and Drury University.

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The Diamond 9 awards presented by B.J.’s Trophy Shop consist of former high school, college and pro standouts who made a positive impact in the sport.

A 2001 Branson High School graduate, Rapinchuk earned All-State as a catcher in 2001 as well as All-Central Ozark Conference and All-District. He went on to play at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout from 2002 to 2005, earning All-American honorable mention honors his freshman and senior seasons.

Rapinchuk also was All-Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference all four years. At C of O, he set the single-season record for hits (79) and finished with the second- and fourth-best single-season batting averages (.443, .422). Additionally, he tied for second-most RBI in a season (62) and second-most doubles (17) in a season.

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Rapinchuk also was a three-year MCAC Scholar Athlete, including the 2004 MCAC Scholar Athlete of the Year and a two-time NAIA Academic All-American. He also won the A.O. Duer Scholarship Award, an NAIA national award which recognizes scholarship, character and citizenship by junior student-athletes. C of O has since retired his No. 19 jersey and, in 2011, inducted Rapinchuk into the College of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame.

Overall, the Diamond 9 features: Doug Bennett (Hillcrest High School/University of Arkansas), Dan Bishop (Springfield Central High School/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees), Jack Funderburk (Southwest Baptist University), Chelsea King Goodin (Strafford High School/Drury University), Kellie Becher Kessler (Missouri State University), , Danny Powers (Carl Junction High School/University of Central Missouri/Minnesota Twins), Kyle Rapinchuk (Branson High School/College of the Ozarks), Stefanie Standley (Lamar High School/University of Missouri) and Michael Vincent (Hollister High School/John Brown University/Phillips University/Cincinnati Reds).