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Ryan rising: Senior closes a baseball chapter


It took the 2024 Solebury Spartans some time to resemble the 2023 version who played in the Penn-Jersey Athletic Association title game.

“We had some tough nonleague games against bigger schools where we struggled to compete but then we had some league games where we started piecing it together,” explained senior Ryan Eichem. “We started jelling as a team. The freshmen started picking it up. We started to have fun.

“In the middle of the season we had a meeting because of some tension with the guys. There were some things we needed to talk out,” Eichem continued. “But that brought us closer together than even I expected it to. We got into a flow.”

After an 0-4 start, Solebury (8-7) turned it on in mid-April, scoring 44 runs over two straight conference wins and earning the No. 4 seed in playoffs. Eichem shut down No. 5 Mercy 6-3 in the PJAA quarterfinals before the Spartans bowed out to No. 1 Mastery Camden in Thursday’s semifinals.

“Our goal was to obviously get back to the title game and after a slow start,” Eichem noted, “we took the mindset of ‘This is where we want to get to.’ We want to end up making a run.”

A left fielder, Eichem earned increased time on the mound. Pitching “is my favorite position. It’s what I grew up doing and it’s been a good way to go out senior year,” Eichem said.

At the plate, “I started the year towards the bottom of the order but I started stringing it together with the bat and I am super happy with that,” Eichem noted. “I’ve been hitting 4 and 5. That affirms the coaches are seeing that too.”

Eichem played a huge role in the Spartans’ season. He went 2-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 28.1 innings as a pitcher. He also batted .423 with eight steals.

“As a middle school kid, I took a break to focus on soccer and basketball,” Eichem admitted. “Once high school came back, I definitely wanted to play baseball. It was what my older brother did and my dad did.”

Even if his numbers resembled Charlie Brown on the mound, Eichem’s would be an incredible story. Dad Rob Eichem wore many hats in his 20 years at Solebury: English teacher, athletic director and assistant basketball coach. But the “head baseball coach” hat fit the best.

Rob Eichem tragically and suddenly passed in February 2021. He was only 45.

Non-Spartans may not fully understand the depth and strength of the Solebury community. Consider that Rob and Rachel Eichem’s wedding reception was on campus. The Eichems and their three boys lived on campus for Ryan’s first 16 years. This was not merely Ryan’s high school: this was home in every sense of the word.

Rob Eichem “obviously has a huge presence, even if it is not a physical one. And his presence wasn’t just limited to sports,” Ryan reflected. “My living here for 15-16 years and still having to come back every day: I’m so grateful to do it because I love it here. But it is also really tough to be in the place I did live with and interact with him for 14 years, where I got coached and where I dreamt of being here with him for my four years, and not having that happen. That has been a struggle.

“But it is getting better,” Ryan said optimistically. “You have to keep going and persevere. A lot of times I find myself thinking ‘What would he be thinking about right now?’ and a lot of times it is ‘You’ve got to keep going and keep pushing on.’”

Rachel Eichem tells two stories about her middle son, who will head to Marist next fall and is leaning toward a sports communications major. One is when Ryan was 3, and would throw up Wiffle balls in the air to hit them with a mini-bat. One day, Ryan broke his arm. That same day, despite wearing a shoulder to fingers cast, Ryan was tossing up Wiffle balls and batting them ... with the other hand.

That same determination feeds into story number two. “When Rob passed, we made a family agreement. Rob’s time was cut short so we are going to live extra for him and honor the way he would have wanted his boys to carry on,” she shared. “And that is: Do not focus on me or my loss. Know that I’m here, I’m over your shoulder. I’m with you. Now get out there and do your job.”

“I’ve chosen to try and grow, because I think that’s what my dad would want,” Ryan wrote in his college essay. “I’ve gotten closer to my family, because at the end of the day that’s all you have.”

A mature and upbeat Ryan Eichem closed the interview. “I’m going to do club sports in college. This is definitely not the end of baseball in any regard,” he smiled. “This is what I do.”

Touching others through sport, and getting the job done, is what his dad does too.

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