Maple Leafs' Rice earns All-State honors on the diamond

Chris Steele
Keaton Rice fist bumps first base coach Jayme Farrell after drawing a walk in the Class 3A Regional Semifinal game. Rice was selected the IHSBCA 3A All-State Team.

Geneseo’s Keaton Rice is well above average.

Rice became the first player from Geneseo to make the IHSBCA Class 3A All-State Team since Rayce Singbush earned All-State honors in 2014.

“It’s an honor to have my name on a list of athletes who are going to do great things,” Rice said.

Rice believes his success at the plate allowed him to make a big breakthrough in his batting average during his senior season.

After being named the Northern Illinois Big 12 player of the year in 2016, Rice raised his batting average nearly 200 points in his final season with the Maple Leafs.

Rice improved his average from a solid .368 during his junior season to a .531 average with a .614 on-base percentage in his senior year.

This season, Rice hit 17 doubles, four triples, six home runs and 43 RBIs.

Following Rice’s 0-2 performance against United Township this season, Geneseo Coach Scott Christensen let Rice know he had strung together a 39-game hitting streak spanning two seasons, and Rice had a 28-game hitting streak in 2017.

“I think just getting on base gets the team going,” Rice said. “I wouldn’t try to hit the ball over the fence or into a gap. I would just try to find the outfield grass and get on base.”

After the Maple Leafs struggled at the plate to start the season in 2017, Rice said the whole team benefited from a more relaxed philosophy at the plate.

By the end of the season, Geneseo had scored 29 runs in its first three postseason games.

With Rice behind the plate, the Maple Leafs have won three regional championships and finished in the Sweet 16 twice.

Rice’s play was noticed at the highest levels, MLB scouts from the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics organization traveled to Geneseo to watch him play this season.

“It was a lot of pressure,” Rice said. “I wanted to do well, but I didn’t want to hit a home run for them. I just wanted to play my game and hope everything worked out.”

Rice committed to play at Bradley University in the spring of 2018, and he remains focused on preparing for his collegiate career.

He’s spending time this summer in Paducah, Ky., playing on a collegiate level team to prepare for his freshman season.

With Rice expecting to have a chance for some playing time behind the plate in the near future, he wants to stay focused on making strides on the Bradley Braves before he turns his attention to the MLB draft.

“It’s definitely a goal,” said Rice of being drafted, “But I have to perform well at the college level first.”