High School Sports

Black Hills baseball standout has all of the intangibles a college player needs

Black Hills High School baseball coach Todd Venable has fielded calls from Pac-12 programs, seeking prospects.

Usually, those calls involve the name Ethan Loveless.

Loveless, a standout outfielder for the Wolves, is only a sophomore, but has been on the radar of Division I schools since his freshman season.

Venable’s spoken to Oregon State — the top-ranked Division I team in the country — Stanford, both Washington schools and others about the talented prospect that skillfully patrols his outfield.

“He looks like a ballplayer, he acts like a ballplayer,” Venable said.

Loveless, who is 6-foot, 170 pounds, already has the characteristics of a college athlete — speed, strength and power behind his swing. But Venable says his intangibles are just as marketable.

“The fact that he’s such a good student academically and such a good citizen in our community here makes it really easy,” Venable said.

Loveless said school is just as important as anything else. He’s a 3.9 GPA student and takes advanced placement classes.

He’s a well-rounded athlete, and plays for Black Hills’ football and basketball teams. He’s projected to be the Wolves’ quarterback next year.

He said he couldn’t imagine playing just one sport in high school.

“It develops the competitive vibe,” Loveless said.

But, sitting on the bleachers at Black Hills on a sunny afternoon, Loveless said he’s always seen baseball as his path.

“When I’m not here, I think about being here,” he said.

His younger brother, freshman Zach Loveless, said Ethan is always suggesting the two go out and swing.

“He’s always been about baseball, and he’s always been really good at baseball,” Zach Loveless said.

Ethan Loveless said having his younger brother join the high school team this year has helped his own career.

“Off the field, when we work out together, he really pushes me,” Ethan Loveless said. “He’s made me a lot better.”

The younger Loveless has been the Wolves’ catcher in all but one game this season, which is uncommon for a freshman.

Ethan Loveless, in turn, has powered Black Hills to a Class 2A Southwest District tournament berth.

“They have the coolest relationship for brothers that I’ve ever been around,” Venable said. “These guys are such best friends that root and pull for each other.”

He’s batting .352 through 18 games — he finished .395 in 2A Evergreen Conference play as a freshman — and has knocked in a team-high 16 RBIs.

Loveless primarily plays left field for the Wolves, but also has experience in center, and at shortstop and pitcher.

Really, he could play anywhere, Venable said.

Loveless has attended prospect camps at Oregon State and UW. Last summer in Corvallis, he was among the youngest athletes in attendance.

He was clocked at 6.62 seconds in the 60-yard dash, which is considered above average.

“His speed is good enough that he would be considered fast at the college level now,” Venable said. “I think that’s one of the things that jumps off the charts.”

Loveless also has the power to hit crank balls over the fence, has two triples and three doubles this season, and is a skilled outfielder.

“In baseball, things like arm strength, speed and ability to hit for power are these rare commodities,” Venable said.

“If you’ve got one, you’re labeled as a kid who’s already got one too. With something like speed, especially, as long as the kid can play, he’s always going to have that.”

Loveless appears to have more than one commodity. Which is why, to Venable, the MLB draft could one day be a possibility.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Venable said.

Loveless said he plans to play college ball and focus on academics, but that’s still two years off.

“I try my best to be like Ethan,” Zach Loveless said. “He’s a good role model.”

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12