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Norwalk's Clay Duncan makes mark on defense at BGSU

Mark Hazelwood • Apr 29, 2011 at 12:49 AM

In the fall of 2007, Bob Duncan dropped off his son, Clay, at Bowling Green State University for the start of his career as a Division I baseball player.

"He said to work harder than anyone else," Clay recalled of the day he left home for college. "I have tried that approach every day since I got here, and I feel like the hard work paid off.

"I told our coach, (Danny) Schmitz, that I'd play anywhere, just keep me out there in the lineup every day. It's been great. I've really enjoyed every moment here."

As his fourth and final year as a Falcon winds down, the 2007 Norwalk graduate is batting .293 in 35 starts at first base. He has six doubles, two home runs and a team-high 23 RBIs and has not committed an error in the field. He has only four errors in his college career.

The four-year letterwinner is also the team captain this season.

"Being a captain is a great opportunity, but my approach is the same," Duncan said. "I try to be more vocal and be a leader to the guys, and show them the correct way to do things. When I'm gone, maybe I helped lead them in the right direction."

As for the defense, Duncan came into the program as a third baseman but early last season, was switched to first base where he is yet to make an error. He was 178 of 179 (.994 fielding percentage) in the field in 2010 and is 335 of 335 (1.000 percentage) so far this season.

"I just feel really comfortable there," Duncan said. "It's a position where you are involved pretty much every play. I enjoy it."

Under the lights of Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus on April 20, Duncan smacked a leadoff double in the fourth inning and scored moments later. It proved to be a key run in a marquee victory for the Falcons, a 5-4 win over the host Ohio State Buckeyes.

Coming from a small community where Duncan starred for four years, the moment of getting a big hit to help beat an elite team would be a moment to treasure for some.

"When we play teams like Ohio State and Michigan, they put on the jersey the same way you do," Duncan said. "They just have a bigger school. The name Ohio State can get people's attention, but we don't take that approach. We attack those kids like we do anyone else."

But it has been a trying season for Duncan and the Falcons after being hit hard by graduation and the MLB Draft. BG is 15-22 overall and 8-7 in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference.

Last season the Falcons were 31-23 and 18-9 in the MAC, but lost key area talent in T.J. Blanton (St. Mary Central Catholic), Logan Meisler (Port Clinton) and Brennan Smith (Perkins).

That left Duncan and just four other seniors returning in 2011 after helping the Falcons to a 91-65 record the past three seasons, all of which concluded with MAC East regular season championships.

"It's been an adjustment, we had 14 freshmen come into the program this year," Duncan said. "We're trying to build team chemistry with them and getting to know all of our strengths and weaknesses.

"We are a team that is up and down right now, but I feel that as we continue to keep playing and improving, good things will happen for us eventually."

While at Norwalk, Duncan was a part of a Northern Ohio League championship in 2006 as a junior, four sectional titles and two district runner-ups.

Bob Duncan, who at the time was the principal at NHS, would drop off Clay at the high school practices as a kid to let him see a taste of what it was going to be like. Also a Norwalk graduate, Duncan's father was a member of the 1981 Trucker team that won an NOL title and lost to Reading in a Class AA state semifinal, 1-0.

"He would take me up to those practices, and even back then, the idea was to try to compete," Duncan said. "It was to put in my head that I could compete with anybody.

"Winning that NOL title as a junior, that was pretty cool because it meant we both did it. And of course getting a scholarship here was a huge achievement."

As for the future, Duncan will finish his final classes next week as a criminal justice major before graduation. From there, he will do an internship over the summer in his field in Detroit.

"It's a lot of time. You wake up, go to class, play baseball and do homework for four years," Duncan said. "You pretty much have to live and breathe baseball 24 hours a day.

"I would suggest to young kids to enjoy every minute of it and continue to play the best competition as possible. That's what really helped me through the years."

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