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College Baseball: Former Indian, current Redhawk Landon Hahn named Freshman All-American

One year removed from Jackson’s baseball program and Landon Hahn has already started to make some noise at the college level. Last week, the Southeast Missouri State second baseman was named to the 2020 Collegiate Baseball NCAA Division-I Freshman All-American Team, powered by Diamond Sports.

Hahn earned the honor following a shortened campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic as he played in a total of 12 contests and started in nine during the Redhawks 17-game season. SEMO finished with an overall record of 9-8 and 2-1 in Ohio Valley Conference play.

Hahn finished with a batting average of .361 and had 13 hits, nine runs scored, eight runs batted in and hit two doubles while batting seventh in the Redhawks lineup. Defensively, Hahn recorded a fielding percentage of .976 with only one error.

“It’s a pretty cool experience [to be named a Freshman All-American],” Hahn said. “You always read about those guys on Twitter — we had [senior Justin Dirden] named as an All-American. Around a baseball setting, you just kind of look at them like they’re different human beings because they’re the best in the country. To be a part of that is pretty cool.”

Dirden, who was SEMO’s three-hole hitter this spring, became the first Redhawk to be named an All-American since the team’s former pitcher and current San Diego Padre Joey Lucchesi earned the honor in 2016. Dirden finished second in the nation in home runs with nine while hitting .414 and came up with 29 hits, 26 RBIs and 20 runs.

Other notable players for the Redhawks this season included junior Tyler Wilber and senior Danny Wright, who combined for 56 hits (28; 28 respectively), 38 runs (26; 12), 13 doubles (9; 4), five home runs (3; 2) and 28 RBIs (12; 16). Wilber finished second in BA behind Dirden at .406 as Wright was fourth with a .359.

“A lot of times you think [players like that] are going to be distant because they think they’re better than everybody, but I can’t tell you how many times Danny Wright came up, talked to me and told me to relax and said, ‘It’s just baseball,’” Hahn recalled. “And Tyler Wilber would help me with ground ball stuff, so knowing they’re at that level and wanting to talk to you and share with  you is pretty cool.”

Upon his commitment to SEMO, the coaching staff told Hahn they had plans to redshirt him his freshman season, so the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder had the mindset of sitting out his first year through the fall. However, SEMO’s staff realized they could not redshirt Hahn because of the performances he had in spring scrimmages.

“Then it was a discussion like, ‘We’re not going to redshirt you, but you’re not going to start.’” Hahn said. “Some things had to happen, but the next thing I know I’m getting thrown into games in late innings, and then I’m thrown into the starting lineup. I was very thankful to do that because I didn’t expect it at all.”

The first-ever college baseball game Hahn played in was in a 9-4 loss to Kentucky Feb. 18 on the road. Late in the game, SEMO’s hitting coach Craig Ringe looked at Hahn, pointed at him and said, “Hey, go get loose. You’re going in to play defense this inning.”

It was a surprising moment for Hahn considering he had been on the bench the entire game and did not expect to play. Hahn has played in hundreds of games before, but he said he felt like he was in a different world during that inning against Kentucky.

Hahn’s first at bat came in the Redhawks next series against Northern Illinois on Feb. 22. The freshman helped lead SEMO to a 16-15 comeback win by recording two hits, two RBIs and two runs, the final being the walk-off, game-winning run, in his three plate appearances.

“I just imagined it was a scrimmage like I had done against our pitchers,” Hahn said. “We were losing big, and we ended up coming back and walking that game off — it was one of the best games I got to play in.”

Including the game against Southern Illinois, Hahn recorded multiple hits in five games and multiple runs and RBIs in three contests.

Arguably Hahn’s best performance of the year was against OVC foe UT Martin in a 22-4 win on March 7 as he went 4-for-5 with a season-high three RBIs and also scored two runs of his own. The day before to open the series against UT Martin, Hahn recorded two hits, two runs and two RBIs in a 16-6 win.

“Our lineup was very good, and I was just fortunate enough to be in it,” Hahn said. “We had guys who could just flat out swing it, and we had some other freshman who could really swing it, too, that didn’t quite play to what we expected. I know they’re going to be very good in the future, so I’m excited to see how the lineup will look.”

Hahn played two positions at Jackson by starting in the outfield as a sophomore and then moved to the infield at shortstop as a junior, where he started the final two seasons of his high school career.  The Redhawks have Hahn listed as a utility on the roster since they were planning on having him return to the outfield, but his skillset kept him in the infield and moved from shortstop to second.

“That transition was probably mostly because I didn’t have quite the strongest arm to play on the left side of the infield, but I still had the footwork and ability to play the middle infield,” Hahn said. “They’ve been telling me I was going to practice in the outfield some. It never really happened, so I’d rather play in the infield anyway.”

Hahn’s former high school head coach Bryan Austin described Landon’s work ethic as the best out of any player he has ever coached.

Because of his work ethic, Hahn said the amount of time he spends in SEMO’s training regimen has not been a difficult transition. Hahn credits his mentality to having a chip on his shoulder because of the doubters who said he couldn’t play at the Division-I level.

“Whether it was because I was too small or because I was good locally, [people] didn’t think I could be good at that level,” Hahn said. “In high school, I just wanted to prove I was able to. I always put that work in on my own anyway, so the difference was how it changed from being a hobby to more of a job.”

Hahn said Coach Ringe, the same person who put Hahn in his first college game, is one of the main reasons why he was named an All-American. When Hahn was struggling with batting, Ringe sat him down and said, “I’m hard on you because I know there’s potential there,” and the rest is history.

Hahn signed with SEMO prior to his senior season with Jackson, and after that he recorded a batting average of .432 (fifth all-time in program history), 44 runs (first), 41 hits (second) and 34 stolen bases (second). Hahn garnered Class 5 All-State, Class 5 District 1 All-District and SEMO All-Conference honors while also being named the SEMO’s Co-Player of the Year in 2019.

During his junior campaign, Hahn helped Jackson win a district championship, but the Indians season came to an end in the quarterfinals with a 9-2 loss to eventual state champions Vianney.

Besides wanting to play for one of the top programs in the OVC, another key factor for Hahn choosing to play baseball at SEMO was to stay in his hometown. There were a total of 13 out-of-state players on the Redhawks roster this season, and Hahn said he noticed how difficult things were for them sometimes.

“It’s nice to be able to have your family come and watch you,” Hahn said. “I’m friends with a lot of the kids now that are from out of state, and they don’t have anyone there. For me to be able to have that home life plus I can still be with my friends — it was good.”

With no baseball right now, Hahn spends most of his time working on the family farm. His younger brother, Layton, is a senior at Jackson and had his final season taken away.

“I feel really bad for Layton and all the other seniors who didn’t get to play their senior year,” Hahn said. “I can just imagine how hard it would’ve been for myself to go through that. It’s not as hard for me because I got to play my senior year and there’s still baseball opportunities for me. For him, there’s not much so that’s kind of tough to watch.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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