Pontchartrain Christian Homeschool senior Ike Stampley may be a young man of few words, but his bat is anything but quiet. The first baseman from New Hope is enjoying a record-setting season as he currently leads the entire country with a .800 average and .839 on-base percentage, is third with 50 RBI and has yet to strike out in 62 plate appearances this year.
Ike’s mom, Misti, is a teacher and felt led to enroll Ike in homeschool. Rich Stampley, who won a state championship at Columbia Academy in 1996 and played baseball at Pearl River Community College, was initially against the idea, partially because of the perceived lack of athletics. But Rich reached out to a scout he knows who told him that if Ike could hit, there would be places for him to play. He remained against it, but after praying on it, he woke up one morning and knew it was the right path for Ike.
Misti found out about Pontchartrain Christian online, so they reached out to John Schroder, who was the head coach at Pontchartrain Christian for five years and remains on the board of directors, and started Ike’s journey with the Paladins.
When the Paladins started initially, they were based on the Northshore in Covington, La., but now they call Picayune and Friendship Park home. While most of the teams they play are other homeschool programs, the Paladins (16-2) have also played against several MAIS schools this season, including Amite School Center, Ben’s Ford Christian and even Columbia Academy. They had other MAIS teams on the schedule, such as Oak Forest Academy and Prentiss Christian, but because of rainouts and schedule conflicts, they didn’t get to play them.
Prior to taking on CA, Rich, who took over as the PCA head coach this season, said on paper he felt really good going into the matchup, and that includes him having extensive knowledge of CA’s roster because he had coached 13 of them. However, the Paladins lost 17-0.
“Player for player, we matched up well. But we went out there and the wheels came off. Logan (Buckley) pitched a great game, and we didn’t do anything. We didn’t play defense, we didn’t hit — it was the one game where the wheels fell off completely.”
With context, that game could be viewed truthfully as an aberration for the Paladins because they beat Amite School Center 14-8 and Ben’s Ford 7-0, proving they have the talent to compete at the MAIS level. Ike and Rich agreed that the competition they face varies a lot sometimes, but it’s not much different than any other high school team. There’s games when Ike and the Paladins face college-level arms, and there are some when they face weaker arms. They have played several homeschool teams from Louisiana that have longstanding programs that are littered with talent.
“Those teams are always really solid and will have a handful of kids that have signed or are going to sign. Playing them is like playing another school,” Rich said.
Ike’s days are not unlike any other high school student. He does school work during the day, goes to practice or games and works both at New Hope Baptist Church and doing field prep at Dean Griner. During the summer, Ike plays for the Mississippi Makos, which Rich coaches and features several other Marion County stars, including Jayden Duncan, Josh Boone, Clay Mikell, Hayden Adkins and Keion Jackson.
Ike has the natural ability to be an over-the-fence power hitter — he’s hit two home runs this year and three as a sophomore — but his approach leads him to being more of a gap-to-gap and opposite-field hitter. He hunts fastballs in the bottom of the zone and is looking to drive the ball to right-center or dead-center, which Rich believes is a big reason why Ike has yet to strike out this season. Most pitchers, when they get a batter in a two-strike count, opt to throw low-and-away to get the batter to chase, but that’s right in Ike’s sweet spot.
“Ike stays through the ball well, goes the other way and doesn’t try to do too much,” Rich said. “As a dad, you’re always happy to see your kid get a hit. As a coach, I’d like to see him sometimes sitting there with two balls, no strikes and try to get a ball he can hit over the left-center-field fence. But then again, he lines a ball into the right-center-field gap, and you can never be unhappy about that.”
Schroder said it’s ridiculous that Ike has gone this long in a season without striking out, but it’s not a mystery as to how he’s done it. He said Ike has a lot of God-given talent, but there’s a lot of hard work involved, too.
“He has the ability to treat every game, every at-bat as just no big deal,” he said. “He really works in practice, and what happens in games is a direct result of that work.”
The results has been Ike being at the very top of the national leaderboard in batting average for five straight weeks.
“It was unexpected, and I like it,” Ike said. “When I was 7 or 8, I wasn’t really good at all. But a lot of hard work got me there.”
For Ike, there’s no better feeling in the world than making loud contact at the plate, and he loves everything about it.
Schroder said what’s phenomenal about Ike is that he’s been able to remain the best hitter when everyone is expecting just that of him. He added there’s a lot of pressure on him at times because if he can’t hit a pitcher, then it’s unlikely anyone else on the team could, but that has yet to happen.
Although Ike is soft-spoken, Schroder said he is a tremendous leader. When it’s needed, Ike will speak up, but the work he puts in gets other players to follow his example.
“You would think he’s a nine-hole hitter just trying to get in the lineup the way that he interacts with other people on the team,” he said. “I think that’s probably helped us out in terms of people wanting to be in our program because our best player is just so doggone down to earth and just so humble.”
Ike’s favorite game came March 16, 2018, against Ben’s Ford when the Paladins won a 12-inning thriller in walk-off fashion. While Ike didn’t have the winning hit — he was on deck when they won it — that game started his hit streak as he went 3-for-5 with a homer and 3 RBI.
Rich chalks it up to hard work, but the hitting gene may run in the family. Ike’s first cousin, Kacey Stampley, is one of the best hitters in the state in softball and currently sports a .638 average with six home runs, nine doubles, four triples and 42 RBI as a senior for the Columbia Lady Wildcats. Ike actually has a chance to best Kacey’s recent 27-game hit streak, which ended Monday against Magee, as he’s hit safely in 26 straight games dating back to his sophomore year.
The Paladins will be playing in their version of the postseason May 6-8 in a regional tournament that will feature six teams, and Rich said he believes they have a good shot at winning it.
“It would definitely mean a lot to win it,” Ike said. “I think we’ve got a chance at it.”
While there a few colleges interested in Ike playing at the next level, he remains undecided on his future. Currently he is leaning towards enrolling at PRCC to get a degree to work heavy equipment, but he said that could change. But if he does go down that path, Ike said he would have to take up playing softball on the weekends to scratch that itch of wanting to square up a ball because hitting is just what he does.