It's not fair to say Windsor/Stew-Stras' Christian Vonderheide has been planning on attending College of the Ozarks since he was 13 years old.
But the seed was planted when the senior righty first attended the Sho-Me Baseball Camp as a 13-year-old, establishing a relationship with the college and the coaching staff over the years.
He made it official last month, inking his letter of commitment to play for the NAIA school in Point Lookout, Mo.
"It kind of was (out there)," Vonderheide said. "I met this coach (Jason Reinsch) there, he's taught me a lot. He confronted me, saying, 'I really like how you play, I want you to come check out our campus sometime,' and the rest is kind of history."
Vonderheide is expected to continue pitching and playing shortstop, as he does for the Blue Devils co-op, and could see time at third base early as the Bobcats are graduating their starter, he said.
He emerged as the ace of the staff of the new combined team last year, going 9-1 with a 0.93 ERA in 52.2 innings, striking out 69 batters and being named Class 1A IHSBCA All-State. The Blue Devils reached Super-Sectionals and Vonderheide was an EDN All-Area first team selection.
The fall season was tougher for him, as he suffered a back injury and had to miss a decent chunk of conference play, where the Blue Devils took third.
"I had a stress fracture in my L5 vertebrae, I felt like I had an ice pick was stabbed into (my) back the whole time I was pitching," he said. "I was in a back brace for six weeks."
But he's come back in a big way during the spring, as one could find out from the Central A&M Raiders.
Last Saturday, Vonderheide struck out 17 batters in just his second start of the season, walking one while tossing a no-hitter.
"That was my first no-hitter, just one of those days where you felt really good," Vonderheide said. "Once it's all over, you're like, I did something good."
Many local players cite the proximity to home as one of their main inspirations in a college choice, and Vonderheide doesn't have that luxury, with the College of the Ozarks being about five-and-a-half hours away.
But the coaching staff was already familiar along with the destination.
Lastly, the college ranks among the top 10 in the area for colleges of its size — 1,379 students — according to U.S. News and World Report, an important factor for Vonderheide.
"I'm not going there just for baseball, I'm going there for my education for physical therapy," he said.
As for the Blue Devils, they're off to a 7-2 start with Vonderheide and his teammates looking to repeat last year's postseason success.