BELOIT - Long before Corbin Ovist was thinking about where he was going to play college baseball, he had a rather familial relationship with Rock Valley College.
That's because his uncle, D.J. Johnson, was an assistant softball coach for the powerhouse program. Ovist, a Beloit Memorial senior, began hanging around the school, and soon after baseball coach Chris Herren was hired, the two struck up a relationship.
"I would have considered him a friend way before he asked me to come and play baseball there," Ovist said. "Right after he was hired, when I was a sophomore, he came up to watch us play at state. I've known him for a while now and I can see he's trying to build a great team like the other teams at Rock Valley."
Herren took a traditionally losing program and turned it around in a hurry. Last year, they won 35 games. With plenty of talent returning from last year's squad, plus the addition of sophomore Miguel Betancourt, himself a former Purple Knight who spent his first season at Ellsworth Community College, the team should be ready to compete at a national level by the time Ovist shows up to campus.
He was among a number of local and national athletes to sign with Rock Valley at a ceremony held at the school on Saturday.
"I feel really comfortable there," Ovist said. "It's like a home environment for me. I'm excited to playing with a new team and getting used to playing with different guys. To get the opportunity to play at a college level is great. To go there and play against teams from all around the nation and being able to show my skillset, that's what I'm looking forward to."
Before Ovist is a Golden Eagle, he's got one more chance to don th purple and white.
"I think we'll be pretty good this year," Ovist said. "We have a lot of potential this year because last year we were so young. I think we only had three or four seniors, and we had a really good sophomore class. So those guys will be back and I think we start with the goal of being .500 and we'll just take it day by day and keep trying to get better."
• LITTLEFIELD SIGNS: Ovist wasn't the only local product to sign with the Golden Eagles.
Hononegah senior Lilly Littlefield will be playing volleyball for a program that will play the first round of the NJCAA Division 3 Nationals Thursday.
Littlefield said she's looking forward to the challenge of playing at the collegiate level, and that first-year coach Kristy Pierce made a lasting impression on her.
"She was just very welcoming and did a great job showcasing the school to me," Littlefield said. "We went on a tour of the campus and she had a packet printed out for me that showed all of the classes I could take with what I was interested in studying, and all the things that Rock Valley could do for me. The program has really turned around, and it's a giant family. I love that aspect of it."
Littlefield said that she's familiar with the current roster, which includes Beloit Turner graduate Camila Hallmann.
"The fact that they are winning is a huge factor in my decision," Littlefield said. "I know a lot of the girls who are freshmen right now because I've played with them in the past and they were fun to play with. I want to continue to grow with my volleyball career and Rock Valley is a great place to do that,"