Scott Collins still gives Scott Ingram a hard time about a speeding ticket Ingram incurred some 25 years ago.

Ingram hasn’t forgotten Collins and a fellow Pikeville College baseball player, who was a resident adviser, conspiring to repeatedly put shaving cream on the handset of the telephone in the locked dorm room Ingram and Dwight Walter shared.

And those are just the stories that Ingram and Collins can tell on the record without fear of reprisal, both joked.

But hijinks are how college-aged males bond, and the two Bears baseball players from the 16th Region, one from Ashland and one from Rowan County, formed a bond in the early 1990s that lasts to this day. Their latest shared experience: each will lead his alma mater in Lexington in the state tournament this week.

Collins coaches Rowan County’s baseball team, and Ingram is Ashland’s softball skipper.

Because of that, they don’t get to see each other coach often. But Ingram was on hand when the baseball Vikings met Ashland at Alumni Field on March 19, and Collins has had opportunities to see the Kittens play in Morehead, too.

“In some ways, I feel like it’s been about a year since we’ve played together, and to see it all here at this point, it’s kinda still just weird,” Ingram said. “I guess, a good weird. I’m very proud of him.”

Concurred Collins: “He’s gonna bleed Ashland colors and I’m gonna bleed Rowan County green, obviously, but we do root for one another. We were college teammates, and you develop a bond back in those days. Those things just stick with you through the rest of your life.”

Out of his shell

Though Ingram’s playing career for the Tomcats and Collins’ for the Vikings overlapped by a year, if they played against each other then, neither remembered it. Rowan County knocked off Ashland in the 1988 16th Region Tournament semifinal, 2-1. Collins, a junior, scored the first run of that game in the fifth inning. Ingram, a freshman, played only junior varsity that season, he said.

So Ingram and Collins hadn’t met yet when Ingram got to Pikeville as a freshman in the fall of 1991.

Ingram identifies as introverted, so it took him some time to get acclimated to college life. He said Collins was “kind of like my big brother up there” during that time.

“I don’t think I came out of my room for about three weeks,” Ingram said. “And I wasn’t necessarily homesick, but I’m not that guy, I’m not extroverted, and he helped pull me out of that shell a little bit, and he just kinda took it upon himself to do it.”

For Collins, who was a junior when Ingram arrived on campus, it was about being a good teammate and leader.

“We took it as, us older guys, any time you had a freshman class come in, maybe their first time away from home, you just tried to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” Collins said. “He was a little shy, but once he put a couple weeks in, maybe a month there, he felt right at home.”

Both Collins and Ingram manned second base by trade, although Ingram spent some time at shortstop. What could have been an awkward situation wasn’t, because Collins effectively walked the line of trying to keep his position secure and helping out a player who would have loved to take it.

“He was pushing me, and I didn’t want a younger kid coming in and taking any time, obviously,” Collins said of Ingram, “but we had a really good relationship. Neither one of us set the world on fire with our bats, but we both could glove it pretty good.”

Ingram learned by watching Collins’ infield work.

“I thought I was a pretty good infielder, and he was really good,” Ingram said of Collins. “It made me want to be better because I was filling those shoes, and he taught me a lot, he really did, and was willing to. He took me under his wing.”

Ingram and Collins suited up together in 1992 and ’93. That completed Collins’ eligibility, but he stayed around to serve the next season as a graduate assistant.

“I think (Ingram) listened to me, even though we were similar in age,” Collins said of that year. “He was a heady baseball player, even back then.”

So it was no surprise both became coaches. Ingram and Collins were both tasked with building upon region titles, but the mood around their programs was night-and-day different when they got their respective calls.

Taking the top spot

Ingram was promoted from assistant coach to lead the Kittens for the 2015 season. Ashland had just won its sixth straight 16th Region title and claimed another one in Ingram’s first year as the bench boss.

Collins also inherited a region champion, but under radically different circumstances. Vikings coach Keith Prater was diagnosed with leukemia six days after Rowan County won its first region title since 1983. He died six weeks later, on July 19, 2017.

Collins, a six-year Vikings assistant coach, put his name in the hat to replace Prater with both hope and a heavy heart. He got the job, and then set out to get the measure of the task ahead of him.

It was time for Collins to lean on Ingram — a reversal of the situation from nearly 25 years earlier.

“He had been doing it for quite some time at that time,” Collins said. “He knew the situation we had down here. ... You kinda reach out to your friends, especially that have been coaching for a while, and get their thoughts and opinions and so forth. That really helps you to try to make a decision.”

Pike County Central baseball coach Chris Lawson is also among that group. Lawson played at Pikeville with Collins and Ingram. The three took to each other then, processing the cerebral side of baseball.

“We just loved the game and loved not just playing it, but we would talk a lot about just trying to be coaches then,” Ingram said. “Just liked the game and breaking it down and seeing different things. It was good for me to be around guys like that.”

Building on a foundation

Rowan County’s baseball program and Ashland’s softball team have continued to thrive under their current leadership. 

The Vikings carry 39 wins into their state quarterfinal bout with McCracken County on Thursday, which is tied for the most victories in a single season by a 16th Region team. They were region runner-up last season.

The Kittens are returning to the state tournament for the first time since Ingram’s first season in charge. They’ll meet Warren East in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Whatever happens this week, Ingram and Collins know they have the contact number in their phone of someone else who will understand.

“Once you go to college, you develop a different relationship with some of the guys you battled with, sweated with and bled with,” Collins said. “It’s just a brotherhood.”

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zklemme@dailyindependent.com