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Lady Colts Make Regional With Win over Upper

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Jeff Gottfried

 

          Macy Wade and Emma Keene both had three hits and Darian Gottfried scattered nine hits in going the distance as Clear Fork downed Upper Sandusky (5-2) in a division two district final played at Edison High School on Saturday.

          Clear Fork scored three times in the top of the second and Gottfried held the Lady Rams scoreless for the first four innings and with a tally in the fifth the Lady Colts took a (4-0) lead.

          However, Upper Sandusky would score single runs in the fifth and sixth.  Clear Fork added one in the seventh to take a three run lead

          Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried says Upper brought the tying run to plate in the bottom of the seventh.  “We got a lead on them in the top of the second to give us a 3-0 lead.  Darian threw very, very well to keep them at bay for a while.  They are a very good hitting team in Upper Sandusky.  Our bats got us a lead and we were able to hang on for a while.  It got a little dicey toward the end, but nothing outrageous or anything.  We were up 4-0 at one time.  It was 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh and we had two outs.  They got a couple of hits in a row and brought the tying run to the plate,” he told Swankonsports.com on Saturday night, “The last batter actually got a base hit and we threw the runner out at home plate to win the ball game.  It was pretty well played on both sides.  Fortunately we were able to able to come up with enough runs there at the beginning and were able to hang on.”

          Again it was a big defensive play from a freshman, just like in Thursday’s semi final win over Shelby, as Brooke Robinson gunned down a runner from right field to end the game.

          Clear Fork (25-3) got some production from the bottom part of the order, especially Keene and Gottfried says that was pretty important.  “Looking at the box score our top three hitters were 1-12.  If you told me we were going to win a ballgame with the top three hitters going 1-12 I would sign up for that game any day.  Macy Wade in the four spot in the order had three hits and Emma Keene probably had her best game of the season.  She had a bunt singe and then laced two singles later on.  She just played like a senior like you would ask her to do.  The team as a whole played pretty decent,” he said.

          Mistakes are what kill you in games like this and Gottfried says a throwing error in the second inning by Upper Sandusky (22-5) kind of got them going.  “When we scored out three runs in the second inning we got our first run on a throwing error.  We were just bunting to move a runner up from first to second base.  It was a pretty decent bunt and the third basemen threw it over the first basemen’s head, the right fielder is sleeping and it goes all of the way down the right field line and we score from first base.  That kind of got the momentum going.  Sometimes it just takes a little thing like that.  With two good teams that might be the only run you get in the game.  They started off with some mistakes.  We made a couple of our own.  One of the two runs we gave up was unearned with just a misplay on a ground ball.  When it came to crunch time and we had to make a play we certainly did,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork plays Oak Harbor, the Sandusky Bay Conference bay division champion, a (4-0) winner over Maumee on Saturday, in the regional semi-finals next Wednesday at the Tiffin University.  Gottfried knows the Lady Rockets are very good, but he says they will come to play.  “I was having a conversation with a guy that does scouting for me.  He was talking about our opponent and I had to remind him back in ’09 the teams we beat Lima Bath, we beat Keystone, we beat Tallmadge.  Sometimes in those games you only need one run.  The other team can not score a run with their arm and as long as you can play solid defense and make plays we will figure out how to scratch for a run.  That will definitely be a conversation to have with out team on Monday about how good we really are as well,” said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/20/17

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Colts Back in Regional

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Rusty Staab

 

          Clear Fork will be making that trip to Elida for the division three regional baseball tournament this coming week for the second straight year after blasting Margaretta (9-2) Saturday in the district final played at Shelby High School.

          Freshman Gage Belcher rose to the occasion on Saturday.  He was an emergency starter in place of the injured Jalen Sheriff, out with elbow problems, and he threw five innings of four hit baseball, allowing just two runs.

          Coach Rusty Staab says Belcher is just another example of the next man up theory.  “Gage Belcher is the epitome of what has been going on with our team all year.  This has been an incredible adversity year with all of the kids that we have had hurt and people just stepping up and taking other people’s spots,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “One thing this is going to do is make them greater kids and adults when they get older because they are going to have to deal with reality and adversity in life not only in their career, but with their family and their wives.  This has been nothing but just gutting it out.  Jalen Sheriff goes down and Gage gets the ball and pitched awesome against Lexington and pitched great here (Saturday.)”

          Margaretta is known for a loud dugout and Clear Fork not as much until Saturday when they were matching the Polar Bears.  Colts assistant coach Bob Pore thought Belcher really fed off of that excitement.

          The Colts took a (2-0) in the second on a sacrifice fly by Paul Francisco and RBI ground out by Belcher. 

          They put up five in the fourth highlighted by RBI hits by Francisco, Belcher and Luke Clark.  Two more came home in the fifth on another RBI hit by Francisco and RBI ground out by Belcher.

          Staab says their offense was able to take the pressure off of Belcher and relievers Jarrod Smith and Gavin Bailey.  “When we are scoring 10 runs in the district semis and nine runs in the finals our offense has finally woken up.  Now we have a little bit of pressure off our pitching and defense.  We had our error, but we turned it around and made some nice plays.  Our offense is making our defense relaxed because we are scoring runs.  If that is a 2-1 ballgame who knows what happens,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork (16-11) will make their way to Eldia on Thursday to meet Ottawa-Glandorf, a (4-1) winner over Coldwater, in a regional semi-final.  Staab says with all the injuries and close losses they have really turned it around over the last 10 days.  “We are happy to continue, but we have just lost that and we are thinking how in the world are we ever going to make it, but slowly but surely we got there, we got hot just like we did last year.  Let’s hope we have another hot week, so we can get down to Columbus,” he said.

          The Colts had runners at least as far as second base in five of the seven innings, they stole three bases and were continually putting pressure on Maragretta and starter James Fisher, who last four and a third innings.  “With that pitch count rule that number 17 (James Fisher) pitched 45 pitches Thursday.  It is hard to bounce back from just one days rest.  He came in and pitched at four o’clock on Thursday and here is warming up at noon on Saturday.  We figured the longer he is out there we are going to get to him, kind of like (Edison pitcher Clay) Cooper.  So, when he is in the third inning, four inning struggling he has to throw it over the plate and we were fortunate to hit it,” said Staab.

 

Published 5/20/17

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Clear Fork Thumps Edison in Districts

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Rusty Staab

 

          Thomas Staab had three hits and Paul Francisco and Hunter Auck had two each and Clear Fork pounded Edison (10-1) in a division three district semi-final Thursday evening at Shelby High School.

          The Colts (15-11) play Margaretta (10-11) in the district final on Saturday at Shelby.

          Edison’s Clay Copper came in with a 7-1 record and a 0.25 ERA, but the Colts chased him in the fourth.  Coach Rusty Staab says their patience at the plate was key.  “He is still probably the best, in the top three pitchers we have seen all year.  Cooper is a stud and our game plan was to get the pitch count up.  It worked he was at 63 after two innings.  He was at 80 after three.  We kept and innings going, they didn’t have too many 1-2-3 innings, that was key,” he told Swankonsports.com in the dugout after the game, “Then we have some breaks.  We had a 2-0 lead early and we made some good plays.  The next thing you know Paul comes up with a big hit and it is 4-0 and they are yanking him and that is a huge advantage for us.”

          Clear Fork scored two in the bottom of the first on a two-run single by Gavin Bailey.

          Mitch Dulin had stranded two in scoring position when he got Bryce Roberts to hit a dribbler back to the mound in the top of the first.

          Edison coach Sean Hoover says they just couldn’t get the big hit.  “They executed with guys on base.  They got that two strike hit through the infield and scored runs.  We had the same opportunities and we just didn’t get those hits to go through.  You are a lot more relaxed if you get that lead,” he said.

          The Colts had seven two-out hits against Chargers pitching and Staab says that is something they have not gotten much of this year.  “We have not had them all year.  If we had two out hits we would have been 12-2 in the “OCC” and would have won it, but we didn’t against Mt. Vernon both games, we didn’t have it against Madison both games.  We didn’t have that two out hit, (Thursday) we did,” he said.

          Dulin, the big sophomore, went the distance for the Colts on Thursday, allowing five hits, walking one and striking out two.

          Leading (2-0) in the top of the fifth Staab made an over the shoulder catch of a Nick Frederick drive to save two runs and then the Colts bats got hot in their half.

          Francisco got probably the biggest hit of the day back through the middle to score two and make it (4-0) and three more scored  before the third out could be recorded and the route was on.

          Clear Fork won a regional title last year and Staab hoped going in that they remember that.  “One of the biggest things I was concerned with, me, (son) Joe (Staab) and Mark (Lind) even though we went where we did last year these kids, there are still some young guys, will they remember how to do it and will they be able to shine (Thursday,) especially Paul Francisco,” said Staab.

          Not only did he get two hits, but Francisco dug at least four throws out at first place and made a brilliant catch near the Clear Fork dugout.  “The catch he made here by the dugout was amazing.  He is player of the game,” said Staab.

          As far as Margaretta, a (7-5) winner over Galion in nine innings in Thursday’s first game, Staab says Friday will be big study day.  “I know Gage Belcher is starting and we are going to go over the scouting report.  I didn’t really watch them.  Chris Hollar and Mark Lind have 97 different things they wrote about them, so we will be fine.  We need a good practice (Friday,) he said.

 

Published 5/19/17

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Fisher’s Walk Off Homer Gives Margaretta Win

 

Click here to listen to a interview with coach Gregg Hedden

 

Click here to listen to an interview coach Phil Jackson

 

          Margaretta’s James Fisher hammered a two run walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Polar Bears a (7-5) win over Galion in the division three district semi-final at Shelby High School on Thursday.

          Fisher had been called in to pitch in the seventh inning and failed to hold the lead allowing Galion to tie the game (5-5) and force extra innings.

          Polar Bears coach Gregg Hedden says he was especially happy for Fisher.  “I felt good for 17.  He blows the save, balks, loses composure.  He is batting .500, he is a heck of a baseball player.  He puts pressure on himself and he is a 17 year-old kid and then he comes back to do that, so I really felt good for him that he could recover from that,” he said.

          Galion took a (1-0) lead in the first on a sacrifice fly by Will Donahue.  He added an RBI double in the top of the third to make it (3-0), but the Bears came right back to tie in their half on Fisher’s two-run double that kicked up chalk on the leftfield line to trim their deficit to one (3-2) after three.  Margaretta went in front (4-3) in the fifth with two runs keyed by RBI infield single by starting pitcher Jacob Luna.  It was (5-3) in the bottom of the sixth when Noah Esposito singled and scored on wild pitch. 

          Fisher was summoned after Devin Baugh reached on a walk and Chase Castline was hit by pitch.  He got Ryan Taubert to fly out, but then balked in Baugh in and Castline scored the tying run on a wild pitch. 

“Baseball is a funny sport and sometimes it is not your day.  A couple of those hits fall in by inches.  They had a couple of infield hits.  It was their day.  We hit the ball hard I thought.  We left a couple of runs out there that we wished we would have plated, so we didn’t have to go into extras.  If you leave a team in long enough and they find a way to score, especially that home team.  I am proud of our effort all year, you could never question that.  (Thursday) was just Margaretta’s day,” said Galion coach Phil Jackson.

Hedden really feels his team has battled adversity this year, but they have found some confidence.  “You still have to talk about the team.  I have a shortstop that got hurt in the sectional final and he has to come in and play and he is not ready.  We battled, we overcame, we threw somebody out at the plate, they threw somebody out at the plate.  It was a heck of a high school baseball game,” said Hedden.

Last season, Galion beat Maragretta (3-2) in nine innings in the sectional.  “That makes me fell pretty good too.  We only go extra innings.  They do a nice job, their coaching does a nice job and their kids play well.  They don’t make mistakes.  We probably made more mistakes, but maybe at the end we made a couple more plays.  The district level that is what is comes down to,” he said.

Margaretta’s Simon Kromer was thrown out at the play in the fourth inning and Donahue was cut down at home trying to score in the top of the eighth.

Margaretta (10-11) plays Clear Fork (15-11) in the district final on Saturday afternoon at Shelby.  The Colts beat Edison (10-1) in the nightcap.

Hedden says their schedule has been the difference for them in the post season.  “We play a really difficult schedule.  We didn’t get any non-conference games in.  We played no division four teams, we played four division three teams, everybody else is division two.  Clyde, Perkins, Vermilion.  We are losing games 4-3, 5-4.  We took Vermilion to a 2-2 tie in nine innings and we beat Clyde two nights later and then we found ourselves.  They found a rhythm.  They are a little annoying, but as long as they are not talking to the umpires or coaches on the other team they create some energy.  As long as they follow the rules,” said Hedden speaking on the Bears vocal dugout.

 

Published 5/19/17

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Clear Fork Rallies to Beat Shelby

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Jeff Gottfried

 

          Clear Fork scored three times in the fifth inning and held on to beat Shelby (6-4) in a division two district semi-final game at Edison High School on Thursday.

          The Lady Colts (24-3) play Upper Sandusky (22-4) in the district final at Edison on Saturday.

          The two teams had played in the regular season and Clear Fork won (7-4) and Lady Colts coach Jeff Gottfried says there were some similar elements to the game, one being the fact the momentum seemed to change a lot.  “It was similar in the way things happened.  Obviously it was a different atmosphere being a tournament game.  The ebbs and flows to the game, it was there.  They scored a run in the top of the first inning.  When we played at their place earlier in the season we were the ones that scored first and they came back.  It was just two good teams going at it.  High school sports is about getting momentum and getting it on your side and trying to keep it there.  We had it in the bottom of the first.  We were up 3-1 and the next thing you know they kind of chip at you and they are ahead by a run 4-3.  We made a great defensive play in the top of the fifth inning to get us out of a jam that would have given them another run and put them up 5-3.  That just kind of got our offense kick started and in the bottom of the fifth we were able to put a three spot on the board and go up 6-4.  The last three outs we had to work for it, but we were able to get it done,” said Gottfried.

          It was that defensive play in the top of the fifth inning made by freshmen catcher Carson Crowner that was the biggest play of the night, according to Gottfried.  “Carson Crowner is a freshman and we kind of switch her back in forth with Haylie Miller, a sophomore, at shortstop and catcher.  Carson is a better athletic person to behind the plate, but we feel that Haylie is maybe more solid at shortstop.  It turned out that Carson was behind the plate when the play happened.  Honestly had it been earlier in the game it probably would have Haylie.  We switch it back and forth based on courtesy runners situations,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Later in the game I could pinch run for Haylie.  It was one of those things it was right place, right time.  It was a rise ball that kind of got a way from her a little bit and tips off Carson’s glove.  Just being the athlete that she is and she slides to the backstop on her knees like you are taught to do.  I just told her be an athlete.  She made a great play and made a great throw to Darian covering the plate.  It was bang, bang at the plate.  It was a perfect throw, perfect tag and that got us out of the inning.”

          Shelby had taken a (1-0) lead in the top of the first on a sacrifice bunt, but the Lady Colts responded with three in their half, keyed by an RBI double by senior pitcher Danian Gottfried.  Shelby continued to execute the short game and took a (4-3) lead after four and half. 

          Clear Fork took the lead back on Gottfried’s two run double and an RBI hit by Miller.

          Coach Gottfried says it kind of allowed them to gain some momentum.  “We went to the bottom of that fifth inning and led on with Brooke Robinson and she was a able to hit a ball in the 5-6 hole and got on base.  It just got it going.  Honestly I don’t remember every play after that.  I think Whitney Snavley was able to chop one up the middle.  We got first and second and no outs and we have something cooking because we are at the top of the order with Carson and Darian.  I think Carson got a bunt hit, so we had the bases loaded with no outs.  Darian got a base hit up the middle to drive in two and put us ahead.  It is all about momentum and that play you just never know what is going to be, but it was a big moment at a big time and it certainly helped springboard us to a victory,” said Gottfried.

          Upper Sandusky beat Bellevue (8-7) on Tuesday and Gottfried says they have a lot of talented kids.  “They are a solid ball club.  We were able to go up there and scout them.  They have some hitters.  The (Blayc) Haker girl is going to pitch for them I would guess.  They have a couple of pitchers, but she is their main one.  She is their leadoff hitter.  She is the one that gets it going for them.  They have some solid players around her.  The (Abigail) Fogle girl at shortstop.  They are a good team.  They are well coached.  Dave Young does a nice job with them.  I really think if we are able to play the way we play I think we have a good chance.  I think we have a scouting report on what Upper is going to do.  I think if we go pitch and play good defense things will take care of themselves,” said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/19/17

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Lexington Beats Kenton in Extra Innings

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Kevin Morrow

 

          Ben Vore drove in Austin Eifrid with the winning run in the bottom half of the 11th inning and Lexington edged Kenton (4-3) in the division two district semi-finals on Thursday at Heidelberg College.

          They will be back in Tiffin on Saturday to face the Clyde Fliers, (12-11) winners over Bellevue on Thursday, in the district final.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says it was a game that he will likely never forget.  “It was so much fun,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “We watched that game in front of us Bellevue and Clyde.  Bellevue has a miraculous comeback in the seventh and that kind of set the tone going into our game.  Boy Kenton was tough.  They hit the ball hard everywhere.  Our kids didn’t break.  We didn’t allow them to get too many crooked numbers up.  Our pitchers kept it right there and gave us a chance.  We fought through some dangerous times there with the bases loaded and one out and played the infield in.  Things bounced the right way and we pulled it out with an exciting win.”

          Vore is a player that has been steadily improving as the season has gone on.  Morrow says he was a big factor all day Thursday, not just with the game winner.  “He is one of those sophomores I was talking about earlier in the season that I was really excited about.  He had a big double there in the first or second inning for our first run.  He about hit another one out.  He has really been swinging the bat as the season has gone on.  He has all the tools in the world.  He is big.  He has power.  He can run.  (Thursday) he clutched up and came through and we brought Eifrid in with the game winner,” he said.

          Lexington won the district title last year at Heidelberg and has a chance to do it again.  Morrow says he reminded his players of that fact before the first pitch.  “I keep telling them that Heidelberg field has been good luck.  We have won some big games over there regular season and tournament.  We haven’t lost yet on that field.  I brought that up before the game started.  I said you guys have a lot experience.  We have a lot of seniors.  We have three seniors that have been here three years with us.  We have an advantage.  This is one the best teams that Kenton has ever had.  I don’t think they have been there in that position.  I mean I don’t know that much about them.  I said you guys have the advantage you have been here before.  They played like (Thursday) night.  They kept their cool.  The kids kind of played rock solid.  They didn’t get too excited.  We came through and it was pretty awesome,” said Morrow.

          Clyde beat Lexington (2-1) in a game that was played at Bellevue back on April 15.  Morrow says they know what they are up against.  “We played them earlier in the year and they threw that lefty that threw (Thursday) against Bellevue.  The good thing was he threw (Thursday.)  Clyde is tough they are well coached.  We have a long history with them back when our core group of seniors were sophomores and they had a really good sophomore class.  We have played each other every year.  I could tell those Clyde kids were going to get better and better.  They put the bats on the balls against Bellevue.  We are going to have our work cut out for us on Saturday,” said Morrow.

 

Published 5/19/17

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New London Gets Past Wynford

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Tony Hamilton

 

          Ryan Lane allowed four hits and stuck out 14 and New London beat Wynford (3-1) at Heise Park in Galion on Wednesday in the division four district semi finals.

          They play Firelands Conference rival Norwalk St. Paul, a (5-4) winner over Plymouth in Wednesday’s second game, in the district final Friday in Galion.

          Lane didn’t allow an earned run on Wednesday. 

          Coach Tony Hamilton says he picked his team up quite a few times.  “We didn’t particularly help him much.  There were a lot of errors, a lot of mistakes, which is something I am going to address.  We could have hit the ball a little better, but with Ryan Lane on the mound and a few good defensive plays, especially the one Joe Christopf made at third, that was a really nice play, we were able to pull it off,” said Hamilton.

          Lane struck three guys out with runners in scoring position.  Hamilton says he was able to make some big pitches.  “He has his slider or his curve, whatever you want to call it, and that was throwing them off.  Then for the most part he was hitting them on the inside part of the plate or he was coming up at the letters where it is hard to hit,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “He threw one or two where he got down around the belt and they squared up a little bit.  Wynford is a good hitting team.  They are a good team.  Their record doesn’t show how good they are and I knew that that is why I pitched Ryan because I knew they would be good competition for us.”

          Due to restrictions in the number of pitches a kid can throw Lane will not pitch Friday against St. Paul.

          New London scored twice in the bottom of the first when Jake Gerlak walked to open the inning, was sacrificed to second by Derek Smith and scored on a wild pitch.  Lane also walked and scored on a ground ball by Keaton Houghtlen.  “In the first inning that is typical of how we score.  We get a couple of walks, somebody steals, somebody hits a ground ball or we get a passed ball.  We will score without hitting the ball.  We have got to do that to win because we don’t have really great hitters one through nine,” said Hamilton.

          Wynford got their only run in the fourth when Wyatt Smith doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch, but Lane then struck out the side.

          The Royals wasted a good opportunity in the fifth when Jalen Brown tagged a one out double to left center and Bryden Oberlander dropped a bloop double behind third base, putting runners at second and third with one out.  However, Joe Christopf made a good stop of a Caleb Stone grounder at third and threw Brown out trying to score.  Brown was kicked out of the game by umpires for a high hit on New London catcher Peyton Wilson.  “I don’t want to be too negative, but base running has been out Achilles Heel all year long and you saw that right there.  Against a kid like Lane and a team like New London you are going to have to be darn near perfect and we definitely missed an opportunity there,” said Wynford coach Jordan Oliver.

          The Wildcats scored an insurance run in the fifth when after back to back walks to Lane and Wilson, Keaton Howlin singled to right.  “That gave us some breathing room.  I think that took a little air out of the sail.  Keaton Howlin has been hitting all season long.  He missed the last two games due to an ankle injury.  That is typical of him,” said Hamilton.

          Wynford had won the Northern 10 Athletic Conference title last year and lost to New London (6-1) in the district final, but did not get off to a good start.  However, Oliver says they never quit fighting.  “We were 6-11 about two weeks ago.  We brought back all of these great players and we weren’t playing well.  It was led by our seniors they continued to play hard and we got hot at the right time.  We went toe to toe with the team we wanted to play in the district tournament and hats off to them,” he said.

 

Published 5/18/17

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Three in Seventh Gives St. Paul District Win over Plymouth

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Jason Higgins

 

          Norwalk St. Paul scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning and then survived a scare from Plymouth and beat the Big Red (5-4) in the division four district semi finals on Wednesday at Galion’s Heise Park.

          They will play New London, the school they shared the Firelands Conference title with this year, in the district final on Friday at Galion.

          Trailing (3-2) heading to the seventh the first two St. Paul batters were retired, but then they got busy.  Plymouth pitcher Austin Nester hit Curt Maxwell with a pitch and walked clean up hitter Luke Carper.  Colton Service then hammered a triple of the left center field fence sending two home and giving the Flyers the lead.  Shortstop Brandon Saldusky followed with an RBI single to give the Flyers a (5-3) lead.

          Plymouth battled back in the bottom of the seventh when Mitchell Chaffins led off the inning with a single and Jaret Miller added another single.  A.J. Hammond drove in Chaffins with a single to make it (5-4) a one run game.  St. Paul pitcher Nick Lukasko struck out Treven Lane to end the game.

         St. Paul coach Jim Carper says he had a little heart to heart with his players before the seventh.  “We had a huddle and that is the only one we had all day and I said you know this has been our M.O. all year and we have the top of the order up it and it is time to make things happen.  I said we do it now of we go home.  It’s all up to you,” said Carper.

          Nester gave Plymouth a (1-0) lead in the first inning with a solo home run, his fifth of the season, to right center.  The Big Red went up (2-0) in the third on an RBI single by Miller.  St. Paul tied it at (2-2) in the fourth on Service’s first RBI triple of the day and he later scored on an error.  Plymouth retook the lead (3-2) in the sixth when Hammond singled and scored on Anthony Montgomery’s ground out.

          Plymouth coach Jason Higgins says some of his kids didn’t react to pressure like he wished they would have done.  “Both teams played very hard.  There was a lot of emotion in the game.  Sometimes when there is emotion some guys tighten up, some guys start making plays.  We just got into a situation where we were on the wrong side of that,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “That happens in the game of baseball sometimes.  It is not ideal for the last game of the year we wished this game had come a little bit earlier in the year, but we are going to learn from it.  We knew what our potential was this year.  No one thought we would be here, but we got here and we showed we can play.”

          St. Paul had slipped back into a share of the conference title with New London when they lost to Crestview (13-12) in a conference game on Tuesday.  Carper says he told them they had to put that game behind them.  “I told them out in the outfield fellows forget about that that is over.  Come out and have fun and give it all you have got and I think they did that,” he said.

          St. Paul faces New London, they spit during the regular season, the Wildcats winning (6-1) at their place and St. Paul getting revenge (6-4) at theirs when they played back to back on April 25 and 26, in the district final.  They will not have to face New London ace Ryan Lane, who went the distance on Wednesday.

          New London beat Wynford (3-1) in Wednesday’s first game.  “I am looking forward to going home and getting some sleep and hope these boys just keep doing what they are doing and what happens, happens,” said Carper when asked about Friday’s district final.

 

Published 5/18/17

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Brown Ready to go for District Tournament

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Ryan Vermilion

 

          The division two district tennis tournament begins Thursday morning at Bowling Green State University and Noah Brown of Clear Fork is in the field.

          That in itself is a pretty rare feet for a Clear Fork tennis player, but Brown has a real chance to be successful at the district level.

          He advanced to the sectional final last Saturday at Shelby High School before losing to Luke Henrich of Mansfield St. Peter’s 6-4, 6-4.

          His coach Ryan Vermilion says Brown is a kid that is always working hard and trying to improve his game.  “His work ethic is outstanding.  He is constantly in at Lakewood (Racquet Club) working out with the Lexington players, (Lexington coach and Lakewood director) Ron Schaub, always taking lessons.  He just has a constant work ethic,” he said.

          Lakewood is located in Lexington, but Vermilion says kids from all over the area take lessons there.  “There is a lot of competition from area schools.  Actually Luke Heintrick goes there and works out.  Then you have the Webster boys this year, so there are a lot of kids from area schools that go in and work out at Lakewood,” Vermilion told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night on the eve of district play.

          Brown, who is (18-5) on the season, plays Cade Mullins of Ada in his first round match at about 10 AM on Thursday. 

          Vermilion says they have been working a lot this week to make sure Brown is prepared mentally for the match.  “We have talked many times about being prepared mentally for the matches.  Going in and coming out strong to get ahead.  We have been preparing him all week and talking to him,” he said.

          Henrich plays Ismael Assi of Ottawa Hills in his first round match.  Brent Webster of Lexington faces another player from Ada in Zack Beaschler.  Jared Schnee of Bellevue takes on Tyler Gargas of Ottawa Hills.  James Hill of Edison, who won the Port Clinton district, meets Ben Brinkman of Lima Central Catholic.

          Luke and Blake Webster of Lexington face a team from Kenton in a first round match in division two doubles.  Mike Sazdanoff and Benton Drake of Lexington play a team from Lima Shawnee.  Two teams from Norwalk have also qualified for district play.

          Two rounds will be played on Thursday and the semi final, consolation match and the final will be played Saturday morning.  The top three finishers qualify for the state tournament, which is next week in Mason, near Cincinnati.

 

Published 5/18/17

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Freddies Qualify For Regional

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Ryan Hathaway

 

          Nick Cunningham threw a one-hitter and Fredericktown downed West Jefferson (3-1) in a division three district final played at Marysville High School on Wednesday.

          They will play either Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy or Anna, who play Friday, in a regional semi-final at Athlete’s in Action Field in Xenia next Thursday.

          In a district final you need pitching and coach Ryan Hathaway says Cunningham gave them a great effort.  “That is huge.  (Wednesday) night we got a great outing out of Nick Cunningham.  He goes out and throws a one-hitter.  We were trying to keep it quite in the dugout throughout.  I don’t know if somebody slipped up or somebody didn’t knock on wood, but they ended up getting that hit.  The good thing was he was able to go out and compete on every single pitch.  So, we were really, really happy for him,” said Hathaway.

          Hathaway feels the fact that Cunningham was able to get his feet wet a little bit in a (13-3) win over Fairbanks on Monday was a plus for him in the district final.  “I think the big key for Nick (Wednesday) night was he got to throw about 13 pitches on Monday.  So, he threw in that district semi.  He was pretty nervous that night when he pitched and (Wednesday) night it seemed like his nerves were gone.  He was comfortable and he was just feeling good and that was great to see out of him,” he said.

          Fredericktown (20-8) has played some outstanding baseball over the last three weeks or so and have really hit the ball.  Hathaway says they didn’t get a lot of clutch hits Wednesday, but they were able to score enough.  “We actually left 11 guys on base.  We had opportunities.  We had bases loaded in the sixth, bases loaded in the firth inning and we didn’t get a run across.  It could have hurt us, but we got out of there with a “W.”  We kept getting guys on base.  We just couldn’t get that timely hit that we needed, but we were fortunate enough to get a few across early in the game.  I just thought our guys just kept competing,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win, “We were up 3-0 and we just kept clawing away and just keeping getting one out after another.  We just did a great job of focusing on the next pitch.  We did make some errors behind Nick.  We didn’t play clean as far as defense.  Everything just kind of clicked and came together finally.”

 

Published 5/18/17

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Hillsdale Blasts Way to District Final

 

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          Coach Mike Wolf has played some slow pitch softball in his life and his Hillsdale Falcons made it seem it little like that kind of game on Wednesday as they overwhelmed Lake Ridge Academy (20-1) in a division four district semi-final played at Medina High School.

          They play Wayne County Athletic League foe Dalton on Thursday in Medina for a berth in next week’s regional tournament.

          There was a lot of hitting, but coach Wolf says they got a pretty good effort on the mound too.  “Our pitcher Trey Williams went out and pitched well again.  He pitched a complete game.  I think he pitched a five hitter.  Our defense was solid.  We had it working (Wednesday,”) he said.

          Wolf says he told his kids after getting a look at Lake Ridge Academy that they needed to show some patience at the plate and that is exactly what they did.  “We had an opportunity to scout them coming into the game and we mentioned to our hitters to just be patient and try and stretch their pitch counts out.  He did such a great job at the plate of being patient.  Obviously that paid off,” said Wolf.

          Especially with a big lead like they had on Wednesday, Wolf says it can be pretty easy to lose you patience, but they didn’t do that.  “(Wednesday) night that was the case.  We preach don’t give away at bats.  Sometimes that is hard to do when you score a bunch of runs because kids juts have a tendency to go up there free swinging, but our kids showed discipline I am really proud of them,” he said.

          Hillsdale (18-7) plays Dalton for a third time this year on Thursday.  Both have a win so far with Dalton winning April 28 (9-6) and Hillsdale winning May 8 (17-7,) both winning on the road.

          Wolf says he knows they will be in for a battle.  “We split with them in regular season.  They beat us at our place and we beat them at their place.  We are really familiar with the Bulldogs,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “When you look at their regular season they are right around .500, but they have steadily improved as the year went along.  They are a team that is going to battle you for 21 outs.  We will have our hands full, no doubt.”

 

Published 5/18/17

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Colonel Crawford Downs Edison

 

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          Before anybody was out Edison took a (2-0) lead, but that was all they would get and Colonel Crawford rallied to beat the Lady Chargers (5-2) in the division three district semis on Tuesday at Lexington High School.

          They return Friday to play either Galion or Willard, who meet in the other semi-final on Wednesday at Lexington.

          Edison’s Hailey Stoll led off the game with a double to left center and scored after a couple of wild pitches by Crawford pitcher Sydney Studer.  The Lady Chargers added another run a walk and error.

          Lady Eagles coach Chuck Huggins had seen enough and went to the mound to have a talk with his star pitcher.  “Give Edison all of credit in the world.  They came out of the shoot fast and in the top of the first they put two up on us.  I just felt at that time I need to go out and have a talk and I came up with my best joke as I went out there, but no, actually what happened was I just looked at Sydney and told her you are a first team all-state pitcher last year as a sophomore.  You are the best,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “You need to make sure that you understand that and if I had a mirror I would show it to you right now so you could see who you are.  You just need to relax and be Sydney Studer and that is exactly what she did and from there are she was very, very tough.”

          Studer got out of the first with out any more damage, striking out the last two batters of the inning.

          Crawford cut it to (2-1) in the bottom of the first on an RBI hit by Lydia Strause.

          Studer allowed only one Lady Charger past first base the rest of the game and struck out 13 on the day. 

          Huggins says she was a little under the weather, but he says she is a bulldog.  “That is Sydney Studer.  She hasn’t been feeling good.  We have the flu bug going through our team right now.  Dog gone that is just her.  She just finds a whole different level, a whole different competitive level.  I could tell when I went out there and said that to her you could just see fire light inside of her.  When I left the mound I was very, very confident that she was going to be the Sydney Studer that was know and love,” said Huggins.

          Still trailing (2-1) going to the bottom of the third, the Lady Eagles erupted for three runs to take a lead they would never relinquish.

          With one out Studer and Strause worked walks and Abbie Bradshaw loaded the bases with a single up the middle.  Then came to the biggest at bat of the day as Catiltlin Koschinick lifted the ball over the right fielder’s head to drive in two and made it (3-2) Lady Eagles.  “They were being very careful with the meat of our lineup.  They walked Studer, they walked Lydia Strause and Abbie Bradshaw did a great job going up the middle and that loaded them and from there it was Catitlin Koschinick’s time to shine.  What a great opportunity for her because she is our DP (designated player) and I told her you have one job and that is to do be our hitter.  She unloaded on one and got it to the fence and that was huge.  That whole inning was huge because up until then we were behind and that put us ahead and it just kept going from there,” said Huggins.

          Colonel Crawford (19-5) added another run in the third when Bradshaw scored on the back half of a double steal attempt.

          Another run scored in the fourth when Kerri Reynolds tripled to lead off the inning and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Alexis Burkhart.

          Yes, there was pitching and hitting, but there was a little defense too.  Burkhart, the Lady Eagles shortstop, made a diving catch and tagged out Lauren Wolf trying to steal in the top of the third when the Lady Eagles were still down a run.  She also dove into the hole to snare a line drive hit by Leah Kroll in the fourth after he team had just taken the lead.  “I said only “Burks” and that is the only way to describe it only “Burks.”  She expects that from herself.  She knows she has that kind of God given talent and that kind of athletic ability that she can make those plays anytime, anywhere and obviously we needed those,” said Huggins.

 

Published 5/17/17

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Lucas on a Roll; Advances to District Final

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Jim Rader

 

          Lucas has been playing some outstanding softball and that continued Tuesday when the Lady Cubs drilled Crestline (11-3) in the division four district semi-finals at Shelby High School.

          They face Mohawk, who beat Monroeville (9-2) on Tuesday, on Friday in the district title game.

          Coach Jim Rader says they have been getting a sold play in all aspects of the game and that continued on Tuesday.  “We have been playing pretty well most of the year.  At this point we have an 11 game winning streak.  We are 19-6 and we are hitting the ball very well and getting very good pitching and for the most part we are playing pretty good defense, which is keeping us in games and helping us to win most ball games,” said Rader.

          Sometimes we forget about the importance of defense, but Rader says if you want to be a team that contends for district titles then you better be able to handle the glove.  “I preach the theory that defense wins championships.  People come to see offense, but if you plan on winning close games and coming from behind and keeping a lead you have play good defense and we are doing that,” he said.

          Lucas (19-6), #5 in the final Swankonsports.com coaches poll in the small school division this year, finished second in the Mid-Buckeye Conference this spring.

          Four of Lucas’ six losses have come to unbeaten Danville, who won the “MBC,” and Wayne County Athletic League champ Hillsdale.  Rader says they have consistently been getting better at what they do on the field.  “We have open gyms through the winter and then we start in late February for practice and you work all of the way through March and you start plying ball from late March through April.  You progressively want to get better as time goes on and games go on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night after the win over Crestline, “Come late April and early May that is championship month.  That is what it is all about.  We have put a lot of time in and a lot of work in and hopefully come May it pays off for you and you can get some great results individually and as a team.”

 

Published 5/17/17

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  DISTRICT 9 BASEBALL STATS AS OF 5-15-17 FINAL REPORT

AVG

Seth Bailey Plymouth .556

Michael Kirian New Riegel .547

JR Wolfe Crestline .515

Thomas Staab Clear Fork .512

James Fisher Margaretta .510

Brayden Wentling Carey .507

JR Wolfe Crestline .500

Adrien Frank Mansfield St. Peter’s .481

Austin Harper Mohawk .480

Gage Blackford Monroeville .471

Austin Nester Plymouth .464

Luke Carper Norwalk St. Paul .458

Kesey Johnson Seneca East .457

Zach Militello Fremont St. Joseph’s .453

Sam Stoll Edison .452

Avery Fisher Ontario .449

Mitchell Chaffins Plymouth .444

Jacob Webb Old Fort .438

Easton Roark Carey .437

Garrett Kuns Galion .434

Dawson LaFever Crestview .429

Aidan Loveridge Riverdale .429

Omari Thomas Mansfield Senior .429

Gavin Shifflet Crestview .422

Trey Bame Carey .413

Brennan Armstrong Shelby .412

Trey Miller Riverdale .412

Alex Theis New Riegel .411

Trey Bame Carey .409

Cal Rickert Madison .409

Luke Clark Clear Fork .408

Mitchell Perry Norwalk .406

Parker Reese Clyde .404

Kurt Maxwell Norwalk St. Paul .403

Matt Daniel Seneca East .400

Cole Noftz New Riegel .400

RBI

Michael Kirian New Riegel 38

Alex Theis New Riegel 38

Seth Bailey Plymouth 32

Austin Harper Mohawk 31

Hunter Hoffman Shelby 27

Gavin Lewis Bucyrus 27

Luke Carper Norwalk St. Paul 26

Kesey Johnson Seneca East 25

Tanner Osborn Mohawk 25

Colton Service Norwalk St. Paul 25

JR Wolfe Crestline 25

Garrett Kuns Galion 23

Austin Nester Plymouth 23

Jonathon Racheter Carey 23

Josh Aiello Lexington 22

Matt Daniel Seneca East 22

Jevon Dible Upper Sandusky 22

Jordon Hartley Fremont St. Joseph’s 22

Jared Strickler Lexington 22

Clay Cooper Edison 21

Will Donahue Galion 21

Trey Bame Carey 19

Nick Frederick Edison 19

Aidan Loveridge Riverdale 19

Jonathan Walter Riverdale 19

David Dietrich Mohawk 1 8

Cyle Smith Fostoria St. Wendelin 18

Carson Weinandy Mohawk 18

Cole Widmer Mohawk 18

Danny Bowerman Seneca East 17

Gaven Eitle Monroeville 17

Avery Fisher Ontario 17

Trey Miller Riverdale 17

Alex Paulo Shelby 17

Mitchell Perry Norwalk 17

Mac Spears Galion 17

Caleb Stone Wynford 17

RUNS

Cole Noftz New Riegel 37

Austin Harper Mohawk 33

Jacob Webb Old Fort 32

Gage Blackford Monroeville 31

Brennan Armstrong Shelby 30

Austin Eifrid Lexington 30

Kesey Johnson Seneca East 30

Mitchell Chaffins Plymouth 29

Austin Nester Plymouth 29

Alex Theis New Riegel 29

Alex Zoeller New Riegel 28

Danny Bowerman Seneca East 26

Kurt Maxwell Norwalk St. Paul 26

Brayden Wentling Carey 26

Parker Brown Mohawk 25

David Dietrich Mohawk 25

Dylan Filliater Fremont St. Joseph’s 25

Quinn Hipp Norwalk 25

Ryan Talbott Galion 25

Ryan Evans Bucyrus 24

Tanner Osborn Mohawk 24

Bo Smith Seneca East 24

Sam Stoll Edison 24

Seth Bailey Plymouth 23

Michael Kirian New Riegel 23

Carter Brooks Shelby 22

Cadin Emshoff Mohawk 22

Brayden Hood Western Reserve 22

Avery Fisher Ontario 22

Blake Obringer Norwalk 22

Logan Black Fremont St. Joseph’s 21

Thomas Staab Clear Fork 21

JR Wolfe Crestline 21

Hunter Biddle Lexington 20

Gaskill Crestline 20

Garrett Kuns Galion 20

Aidan Loveridge Riverdale 20

Dawson Nason Sandusky Perkins 20

STOLEN BASES

Brayden Hood Western Reserve 36

Jacob Webb Old Fort 33

JR Wolfe Crestline 26

Dylan Filliater Fremont St. Joseph’s 23

Thomas Staab Clear Fork 22

Brayden Thomas Fostoria St. Wendelin 22

Kesey Johnson Seneca East 21

Dylan Sheets Fostoria 21

Logan Black Fremont St. Joseph’s 20

Mitchell Chaffins Plymouth 20

Austin Eifrid Lexington 20

Austin Nester Plymouth 20

Alex Theis New Riegel 18

Donovan Vogel Fostoria 18

Cal Rickert Madison 17

Brennan Armstrong Shelby 17

David Dietrich Mohawk 16

Zach Militello Fremont St. Joseph’s 16

Easton Roark Carey 16

Gage Blackford Monroeville 15

Nolan Hatfield Ontario 15

Payton Phenicie Buckeye Central 15

Kidron Wechter Buckeye Central 15

HOME RUNS

Michael Kirian New Riegel 4

Gavin Lewis Bucyrus 4

Tanner Osborn Mohawk 4

Carter Brooks Shelby 3

Austin Harper Mohawk 3

Austin Nester Plymouth 3

Matt Boes Tiffin Columbian 2

Alex Paulo Shelby 2

Trey Bame Carey 1

Mitchell Chaffins Plymouth 1

Clay Cooper Edison 1

Mitchell Dulin Clear Fork 1

Braden Ehhardt Edison 1

Avery Fisher Ontario 1

Nick Frederick Edison 1

Brayden Hood Western Reserve 1

Adam Krebs Buckeye Central 1

Garrett Kuns Galion 1

Evan McKee Riverdale 1

Jarrett Miller Plymouth 1

Nick Ragnoni Vermilion 1

Wyatt Smith Wynford 1

Trey Stone Wynford 1

Alex Theis New Riegel 1

Nick Todd Mansfield St. Peter’s 1

Kidron Wechter Buckeye Central 1

Brayden Wentling Carey 1

Carson Weinandy Mohawk 1

Noah Widman Tiffin Columbian 1

JR Wolfe Crestline 1

PITCHING WINS

Clay Cooper Edison 8

Hunter Hoffman Shelby 8

Mitchell Dulin Clear Fork 7

Garrett Caudill Shelby 6

Wyatt Cook Mohawk 6

Michael Kirian New Riegel 6

Garrett Kuns Galion 6

Rico Lopez Mohawk 6

Jacob Luma Margaretta 6

Zach Aichholz Seneca East 5

Nik Barkdull Vermilion 5

Danny Bowerman Seneca East 5

Chase Chapman Seneca East 5

Jevon Dible Upper Sandusky 5

Austin Eifrid Lexington 5

Tanner Elliott Shelby 5

Dawson Nason Sandusky Perkins 5

Mitchell Perry Norwalk 5

Jared Strickler Lexington 5

Robby Webb Clyde 5

Seth Bailey Plymouth 4

Trey Bame Carey 4

Logan Daniels Madison 4

Trenton Dunford Bucyrus 4

Wayne Frey Riverdale 4

Bryson Harvey Norwalk 4

Stephan Hood Western Reserve 4

Nick Lukasko Norwalk St. Paul 4

Kurt Maxwell Norwalk St. Paul 4

Tristan Mayer Vermilion 4

Trent Majoy Sandusky Perkins 4

Austin Nester Plymouth 4

Treven Lane Plymouth 4

Trent Majoy Sandusky Perkins 4

Wyatt Smith Wynford 4

Mac Spears Galion 4

Justin Studd Western Reserve 4

Will Watkins Ontario 4

Brayden Wentling Carey 4

JR Wolfe Crestline 4

Alec Zoeller New Riegel 4

STRIKEOUTS

Michael Kirian New Riegel 104

Gavin Lewis Bucyrus 96

Clay Cooper Edison 68

Alec Zoeller New Riegel 68

Justin Studd Western Reserve 62

Trey Bame Carey 61

Nik Barkdull Vermilion 61

Dawson Nason Sandusky Perkins 60

JR Wolfe Crestline 60

Stephan Hood Western Reserve 57

Chase Chapman Seneca East 54

Josh Dentinger Buckeye Central 54

Mitchell Dulin Clear Fork 54

Danny Bowerman Seneca East 51

Trenton Dunford Bucyrus 50

Wyatt Smith Wynford 50

Brayden Wentling Carey 50

Jevon Dible Upper Sandusky 49

Trey Miller Riverdale 49

Wyatt Cook Mohawk 47

Chase Jessee Madison 47

Garrett Kuns Galion 46

Trenton Dunford Bucyrus 44

Tristan Mayer Vermilion 44

Nate Schemine Mansfield St. Peter’s 44

Dean Kellogg Oak Harbor 43

Kaleb Wilkinson Old Fort 43

Mac Spears Galion 42

Trey Yates Fostoria 42

Cyle Smith Fostoria St. Wendelin 41

Tanner Elliott Shelby 40

Austin Nester Plymouth 40

Hunter Hoffman Shelby 39

Jalen Sheriff Clear Fork 39

Brennan Armstrong Shelby 38

Mikey Haynes Clyde 38

Arik Schneider Upper Sandusky 38

Cole Noftz New Riegel 37

Jason Holly Upper Sandusky 36

Zach Militello Fremont St. Joseph’s 36

Jalen Sheriff Clear Fork 36

Trent Majoy Sandusky Perkins 35

ERA

Clay Cooper Edison 0.25

Mikey Haynes Clyde 0.42

Bryson Harvey Norwalk 0.43

Austin Nester Plymouth 0.47

Jacob Luma Margaretta 0.53

Michael Kirian New Riegel 0.64

Hunter Hoffman Shelby 0.65

Ian Moore Lexington 0.66

Wayne Frey Riverdale 0.98

Jared Strickler Lexington 0.99

Wyatt Cook Mohawk 1.04

James Fisher Margaretta 1.08

Chris Morakis Madison 1.11

Brennan Armstrong Shelby 1.13

Tanner Elliot Shelby 1.20

Garrett Caudill Shelby 1.29

Jake Depperschmidt Lexington 1.31

Rico Lopez Mohawk 1.31

Will Watkins Ontario 1.33

Dean Kellogg Oak Harbor 1.35

Nick Lukasko Norwalk St. Paul 1.35

Seth Bailey Plymouth 1.40

Chase Chapman Seneca East 1.43

Jake Gleason Ontario 1.46

Nick Frederick Edison 1.48

Austin Eifrid Lexington 1.50

Alec Zoeller New Riegel 1.50

Danny Bowerman Seneca East 1.52

Mitchell Perry Norwalk 1.52

David Baird Sandusky St. Mary’s 1.53

Robby Webb Clyde 1.63

Ryan Evans Bucyrus 1.69

Cole Noftz New Riegel 1.70

Gaven Wuthrich Crestview 1.80

Gavin Adkins Madison 1.81

Austin Harper Mohawk 1.82

Jake Gleason Ontario 1.84

Trent Majoy Sandusky Perkins 1.88

Dawson Nason Sandusky Perkins 1.90

Stephan Hood Western Reserve 1.94

Gavin Lewis Bucyrus 1.94

Trey Yates Fostoria 1.97

Justin Studd Western Reserve 2.04

Logan Daniels Madison 2.08

Trenton Dunford Bucyrus 2.08

Mitchell Dulin Clear Fork 2.11

Adrien Frank Mansfield St. Peter’s 2.19

Garrett Kuns Galion 2.29

Ben Vore Lexington 2.29

K Ronk Crestline 2.33

Mac Spears Galion 2.34

Trey Bame Carey 2.35

Caden Cooper Edison 2.40

Treven Lane Plymouth 2.41

Jalen Sheriff Clear Fork 2.51

Chase Jessee Madison 2.55

Ian Sanjur Mansfield St. Peter’s 2.58

Zach Militello Fremont St. Joseph’s 2.62

JR Wolfe Crestline 2.64

Shad Rieck Crestview 2.66

Bryce Roberts Edison 2.66

Jacob Roth Norwalk 2.66

Arik Schneider Upper Sandusky 2.67

Jalon Brown Wynford 2.69

Nolan Hatfield Ontario 2.71

Zach Aichholz Seneca East 2.76

Layne Berrier Madison 2.76

Blake Obringer Norwalk 2.80

Kaleb Wilkinson Old Fort 2.85

Cole Widmer Mohawk 2.91

Koree Hodgkinson Sandusky 2.92

 

 
     
 

Fredericktown Blasts Fairbanks in Semis

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Ryan Hathaway

 

          Fredericktown hammered Fairbanks (13-3) in six innings in a division three district semi-final played on Monday evening at Ohio Wesleyan University.

          They now play West Jefferson, a (4-1) winner over Centerburg, also of the blue division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Monday, on Wednesday.

          Freddies coach Ryan Hathaway says it was a pretty compete effort by his team on Monday.  “It was a pretty tight ballgame through the first five innings and we got hot in the sixth inning and were able to get in their bullpen and put some runs up after we got their starter out.  We got a good performance all around.  It was just a good baseball game as far hitting our stride here going into the district finals,” he said.

          Fredericktown (19-8) has played its best baseball over the last three weeks of so.  Hathaway says when the weather warmed up, so have they.  “Looking back at our schedule we played West Jeff twice in what seems like months ago, but that was when we really started hitting our stride.  We went down and played on a chilly Saturday and we got our bats rolling there.  Then got into our league schedule a little bit.  It seemed everything started to click honestly as the weather has gotten better we have started to play better baseball,” said Hathaway.

          When it comes to hitting, Hathaway says it has taken a little time for them to get their timing down, but now they feel pretty good.  “A lot of these guys rolled in off the basketball court and we threw them right out on the baseball field.  It took a little time to get their timing back.  We are seeing some pretty good pitching as far as our conference and non-league schedule.  We have seen some good arms this year and that has helped prepare us for the tournament as well,” he said.

          Fredericktown beat West Jefferson (11-1) and (12-1) in a doubleheader played on April 22, but Hathaway says those results really have little to do with Wednesday.  “The Saturday that we played them we ended up beating them twice, but that was a while ago.  We know they have some good players on their team.  I know they have a couple of decent arms.  I think once you get to this point in the tournament every team is good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “We are just going to continue to prepare and just keep playing baseball and doing what we do.  I don’t tend to give the guys too much information on the other team.  We just kind of keep that amongst our coaches and just let the players go out there and play and try and put them in the best position that we can.”

 

Published 5/16/17

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Galion Rips Mohawk; Prepares for the Tournament

 

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          Galion, having qualified for the division three district tournament, picked up a game Monday with Mohawk, a district semi finalist in division four, and beat the Warriors 9-1 in non conference play.

          Galion scored four times in the bottom of the first inning and never trailed in the game as four Tiger pitchers combined on a four hitter for Galion. 

          Mohawk had a balk, and error and a couple of passed balls in that first inning.  Garrett Kuns also had a two run double in the first.  The Tigers scored three more in fifth added by a couple of walks and a hit batter.

          Coach Phil Jackson says he was pleased to see the Tigers were ready to play in the game.  “I was happy to see us put a good effort in with games being played sporadically mixing tournament with league there towards the end of the year there.  It was an all around good effort with good hitting and good pitching.  I hope we are peaking at the right time and it seems like we are,” he said.

          Galion (15-10) plays Margaretta, who lost in a bay division game to Vermilion (5-2) on Monday, in the division three district semis at Shelby High School on Thursday.

         Coach Phil Jackson believes his team is going to be well prepared for what they see Thursday.  “We have approached the last couple of weeks of the season as if it was a tournament atmosphere.  We have played the likes of Shelby, Madison, and Norwalk as pick up games trying to get ourselves ready for tournament,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “Not trying to pad our schedule, but trying to get ourselves ready.  I think the players have responded and the experience of last season is really going to pay off for us.”

          They lost to Clear Fork in the district final last year.

          Margaretta shutout the top seed in the tournament Seneca East (5-0) last Friday.  Galion beat Margaretta (3-2) in nine innings in the tournament last year and Jackson knows they are going to be in for a tough battle on Thursday.  “We played them last year and they really didn’t lose too many people, so they are all back.  They probably haven’t had the season they have wanted to.  They are a scrappy team.  They never give up until the last out.  We are approaching it as if they are now the number one seed.  If you knock off the top dog now you are the top dog until somebody knocks you off, so we are kind of approaching it that way,” said Jackson.

 

Published 5/16/17

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Plymouth Gets Past Colonel Crawford

  

          Plymouth used a four spot in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally past Colonel Crawford (5-3) in a division four sectional final game at Plymouth on Thursday.

          The Big Red scored an unearned run on a Crawford throwing error in the fourth and the Eagles really hadn’t done much at all offensively, just three hits, all singles, off of Plymouth starter Austin Nester, but they reached him for three runs in the top of the sixth.  Kaden Schell led off the inning with a triple and scored on a single by Jake Johnson.  Gavin Feichtner followed with a double to put runners on second and third.  Blake Treisch followed with a sacrifice fly to center to give the Eagles the lead.  It became (3-1) Crawford on an RBI single by Noah Toman.

          However, the Big Red (18-5), #5 in the Swankonsports.com coaches poll in the small school division, got busy in their half of the sixth.  After Colonel Crawford pitcher Ethan Studer issued back to back one out walks Anthony Montgomery singled in a run to make it (3-2) and coach Joe Swartzmiller removed him in favor of Toman.  Nester’s sacrifice fly to center tied the game and Mitchell Chaffins and Seth Bailey followed with RBI hits.

          Plymouth coach Jason Higgins says he got a little nervous, but his players responded.   “I told the boys you know you have something special when you can pull out a win like that.  You can tell my voice is a little different because I about lost it with the excitement.  They are a good team.  Joe (Swartzmiller) does a nice job with them.  They were ready to play, that was a big scare.  You know you are special when you can come back like that, just never do it to me again,” said Higgins.

          Swartzmiller says he felt he had no choice but to make the pitching change in the sixth.  “We come in and take a two run lead as a pitcher you have to know there are no walks, there are no free bases, they have to earn it.  My pitcher came in and walked two batters and I said that’s it.  I had to go with somebody else,” he said.

          Jake Johnson started the game and went the first four plus one batter in the fifth.  He did have some command issues walking two and hitting three batters.  He was replaced by Studer in the fifth.

          Higgins says they had to adjust to different styles of the Crawford pitchers.  “We are some quality at bats.  We started to figure out their pitchers.  They kept switching pitchers on us.  The first guy we got into him a little bit and then they brought in the next guy and the next guy.  Sometimes it is tough with the different arm angle.  The guys for some reason like that last guy they brought in and we were excited about that,” he said.

          Nester went the distance for the Big Red, who will play Firelands Conference leader Norwalk St. Paul, a (10-0) winner over Buckeye Central, in next Wednesday’s district semi-final at Galion High School.  He allowed seven hits, four in the fifth inning, walked none and struck out nine, including Schell to end the game.

          Higgins says it was just a normal game for him in a lot of ways.  “Nester pitched great.  He has been doing that all year.  Pitching to contact he is not going to overpower you.  He is going to throw strikes.  He is not going to give free bases,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on the field, “There are a couple of things defensively we could have done a little better.  He gave us a great effort.  Our scouting report was great.  A couple guys surprised us with a couple of the swings they had. But for the most part we had our guys where they weren’t having to move too much to make the play.”

 

 

Published 5/12/17

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Williams Perfect Against Kidon

  

          Hillsdale lefthander Trey Williams tossed a perfect game on Thursday as Hillsdale beat Kidron Central Christian (12-0) in five innings to advance to the district level in division four.

          Williams, the son of football coach Tom Williams, is a three sport star as the Falcons quarterback and one of their leading scorers on the basketball court.

          Baseball coach Mike Wolf says he was spectacular on the mound on Thursday.  “Trey came out (Thursday) night and had command of three pitches and just totally dominated a Kidron Central Christian team that was coming of a (9-6) sectional semi final win,” he said.

          In high school if you can throw three pitches for strikes you are going to be pretty tough to hit and Wolf says that was the case with Williams on Thursday.  “It is pretty rare at the high school level, but you could just see (Thursday) night that he was working his fastball, curveball and change up and kept them totally off balance for the whole night,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We made the plays behind him too.  I don’t think there was ever and opportunity for them to get a base hit it was just really a dominating pitching performance by Trey.”

          Most of the leagues in North Central Ohio have been decided, but not the Wayne County Athletic League.  Hillsdale (17-6,10-3) plays host to Chippewa on Friday with the title on the line.  Wolf says these are the kinds of games you dream of.  “That is why you put the work in that you do in the off season for the opportunity at the end of the season to play meaningful games.  For us to be playing (Friday) with the Wayne County Athletic League title on the line is pretty cool,” he said.

          Chippewa beat Hillsdale (5-3) on Tuesday, but Wolf says being at home this time they have a chance to for a little revenge and that title too.  “The top four in their lineup are all three year lettermen.  They have won several Wayne County Athletic League titles.  They are battle tested kids that are very experienced.  They present some obstacles for us, but we have are due back on the mound Friday in Jay Luikart and we are going to go out there and see if we can take one at home,” said Wolf.

 

Published 5/12/17

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Mohawk Edges St. Joe

  

          Mohawk used small ball to beat Fremont St. Joe (5-4) in a division four sectional final on Thursday evening.

          The Warriors, the number one seed in the district, needed some late inning heroics.  Austin Harper scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Parker Brown in the bottom of the sixth.  Then in the top of the seventh the Crimson Streaks were able to get a runner to third base, but Wyatt Cook struck out the final two batters to win the game.

          Coach Eric Hoover says the game might not have been pretty, but they will take it.  “That’s what I told the kids after the game.  We did not play very well at all.  Good thing it didn’t come down to ascetics because it wasn’t pretty.  At the end of the day we got it done on the squeeze play.  We executed perfectly and we were able to get that run in the sixth inning and hold them off in the seventh,” he said.

          Making such plays such as squeeze bunts are not new to the Warriors.  Hoover says they work on it a lot in practice and his kids are confident they can do it.  “Close games come down to those plays.  We didn’t field the ball very well (Thursday) night and put ourselves in a situation.  We executed that last year in the district final game,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We had a walk off suicide actually in the district final game last year.  My kids that were part of it or were at the game last year knew it was coming, so they were confident in executing it.  You have to be able to do that in close games.”

          Mohawk (18-5), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, plays Tiffin Calvert, a (1-0) winner over North Baltimore on Thursday, in a district semi-final next Wednesday at Clyde High School.

          They beat the Senecas (2-1) in a district final last year.

          Hoover believes they will see Calvert’s ace in lefty Peyton Deats next week.  “You kind of have to go with your best in the semi-final and hopefully you can advance to the final and take your chances.  I am sure we will see Deats and he is outstanding there is no doubt about it.  A hard throwing lefty that has great movement on his fastball and has great off speed stuff.  He is going to Kent State if that tells you anything, that’s pretty good.  It will be a challenge and we are going to go in with a game plan and do the best we can,” said Hoover.

          Deats is headed in the “MAC” next year for pitching at the division one college level, but Hoover says they have seen a lot of him and know what to expect.  “We have seen him in that past being as close to Tiffin as we are.  We faced him a couple of times as a freshman and we did see him in the district final game last year in relief he came in and pitched the last two innings.  That is who we got that suicide squeeze off of.  We have seen him and the kids are familiar with him a little bit.  It will certainly be a challenge, but our kids will be ready to go,” he said.

 

Published 5/12/17

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Pitching Carries Vermilion

  

          Vermilion, the bay division leader in the Sandusky Bay Conference, plays Kenton in a sectional final in division two at their place on Friday evening.

          The Sailors (19-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Fostoria (8-3) on Wednesday in a semi-final game.

          Coach Jeff Keck says it has been a deep and talented pitching staff that has been the main reason for their success this spring.  “Definitely pitching is our strength.  We have a couple of veterans back from last year in Nik Barkdull that is a four year starter.  He is having a great year.  He has a 0.00 ERA and he has seven wins and 70 some strikeouts.  Tristan Mayer, he is 5-1 and has a pretty low ERA, I’m not exactly sure what it is now.  He was an all county and all district selection last year.  Both of those guys are headed to play college baseball.  Tristan is going to Lake Erie College in Euclid, Ohio, and Nik is going to Walsh in Canton.  Both of those guys are committed to playing division two baseball.  That is certainly a big plus and that is the strength of our team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Along with Mason Montgomery, he is a sophomore, has come on pitched some strong innings.  He pitched in relief on (Wednesday) night and pitched three innings and struck out nine guys.  He has been a good addition to our pitching staff.  Pitching is our strength and it has been like that the last couple of years.  We have won some close games and coaches will tell you it is all about pitching, but that has been the case for us.  We play decent defense, but we have had some lapses in defense, but our pitching has carried us.  Same thing with hitting.”

          Now with the new pitch limits you need a lot of arms, especially come tournament time, and Keck says they have those arms.  “We have been blessed with some good arms and that has been one of the biggest tributes to our success,” he said.

          Vermilion, the second seed in the tournament, plays Kenton, a (5-2) winner over Ontario Wednesday, on Friday at home. 

          Keck says they know Kenton is playing some good baseball, but really they don’t get too wrapped up in who they are playing.  “We certainly respect every opponent.  I have not officially scouted them or anything like that.  I think this year especially our team is focused on it’s all about us.  It is not really about who we play.  Everybody has got good players.  When you are in the tournament you are going to see the best pitchers and it really more about how we play than it is anybody else.  We have won some close games, so our guys have been in that position before.  We have seen some pretty good teams, so it just a matter of how we play.  We have to field the ball clean, we have to have good at bats, we have to put the ball in play, we have to continue to have good pitching.  Our team chemistry is good.  I think we worry more about us then how anybody else is because that is what we can control and that is what we do best,” said Keck.

 

Published 5/12/17

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Madison Bunts its Way Past Sandusky

  

          Madison scored five of its first six runs via the bunt and they went on to take out Sandusky (10-1) in a sectional semi final game in division two at Madison on Wednesday.

          Sandusky scored in the first inning, but Madison scored four in the second, two runs scoring on each of back to back bunts by Trenton Mortimer and Jaycob Stone.

          Madison coach Doug Rickert says that has been what their offense has been about this season.  “That has worked out pretty well for us this year.  We play a different style of baseball than we have in the past.  We work on that a lot.  I told them (Wednesday) night that we swung the bats well, but we broke their backs with the squeeze bunts.  Instead of a 1-0 lead for them it was a 4-1 lead for us.  This is a group that takes a lot of pride in that.  When they get up to bat they don’t have a problem getting one down.  We moved runners.  We wanted to add one every inning and we were able to do that until we got a couple of hits that broke it open,” said Rickert.

          It became (5-1) in the third on a sacrifice fly by Chase Jessee and (6-1) on another squeeze bunt by Cameron Finley in the fourth.

          Meanwhile, Madison starter Logan Daniels was keeping the Blue Steaks off the scoreboard.  “Logan was Logan.  He has done this all year.  That is five wins for him.  He has beaten Clyde, he has beaten Vermilion.  He goes out there and he gives up that run in the first inning and it is nothing but goose eggs after that.  He is not going to strike out a lot of guys, but he is going to mix things up just enough that they are out on their front foot.  I think they had eight hits, but he scattered them.  Defensively we played much better than (Tuesday) night,” said Rickert.

          Madison (12-12) will play Bellevue (18-7), #4 in the Swanonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, at Bellevue on Friday in the sectional final.  The Redmen beat Tiffin Columbian (10-4) on Wednesday.

          Rickert says Daniels’ performance on Wednesday allows then to be able to use their staff the way they want to.  “The idea was to have him and Chris Morakis ready.  We have got (Thursday,) but we will save Chris and Jessee for Friday,” he said.

          Madison was errorless on Wednesday and Rickert says they have to play sound defense, something they didn’t do in an “OCC” loss to Ashland on Tuesday, but he says they were focused on the task at hand on Wednesday.  “Defensively we have been really solid all year.  (Tuesday) night we lost some focus with the so called senior night.  I told the kids before the game that we weren’t ready, we weren’t focused, and we went out there and kicked it around five times the first inning and gave them four runs and lose the game 8-7.  We have lost seven games now by a run.  We have won some games by a run.  Our record is .500, but we are right there if we continue to play good defense.  We are not going to strike a lot of guys out.  Guys are going to put the ball in play,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “I looked the other day when we did stats and Cal Rickert has 116 chances already at second base.  That’s unheard of, but we throw a lot of ground balls and (Wednesday) we got some good fly balls and our defense played well.  (Wednesday) right after infield practice I said you guys are focused again and this is going to be a good night.  So, they learned a lesson (Tuesday) night and we talked about that.  A loss is not always a bad thing if we learn from it and we did.”

          Shawn Roper and Cal Rickert had RBI hits in three run fifth for the Rams and Hunter Galbraith had a RBI double in the sixth.  Madison ended up with 12 hits on the night.  “We came out and swung bats really well.  That kid pitching had pitched really well the last three ball games.  He pitched well when we saw them against Tiffin and he pitched well against Norwalk, so we were really happy with the way we swung the bats,” said Rickert.

 

Published 5/11/17

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Shelby Moves to Next Round

  

          Northern Ohio League champion Shelby, the top seed in the district, beat Port Clinton (11-1) in five innings to advance to a sectional title game against Clyde on Friday evening at Shelby.

          The Whippets (20-3), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, got on top early and coach Jon Amicome says after a little lull went ahead an put the game away.  “We did a nice job jumping on Port Clinton early.  We were able to go up 5-0 after the first inning, but Port Clinton battled back.  It was a 5-1 game going into the fourth and they showed a lot heart and a lot determination too and you tip your cap to those kids.  They weren’t intimidated by Shelby, nor should they have been,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “They came ready to play and they kind of caught us sleepwalking through the first three innings.  Luckily our guys started refocusing.  Our kids did a nice job of kind of running the bases well and getting productive at bats and we were able to go from there.”

          Shelby has two pitchers in Hunter Hoffman and Garrett Caudill with a least six wins this year, they have one of the best closers in the area in junior Brennan Armstrong, and they also have Tanner Elliott with an ERA of less than 1.25.

          Amicone says that kind of depth on the mound is a real plus come tournament time.  “We are very fortunate this year to have a lot of guys that we trust that can throw a lot of quality innings for us.  That was key (Wednesday) night to be able to get that win and get that run in the fifth inning to use that rule to save our arms and save our pitchers, especially with the new pitch count and really get our rotation set for what we want to do against a really good Clyde team.  We have to come with all hands on deck because Clyde is an unbelievable team with a lot of athleticism and a lot of good pitching themselves,” he said.

          Shelby plays Clyde, a (1-0) winner of Huron on Wednesday, in a sectional final on Friday. 

          Amicone says the Fliers are a very good team that has a number quality left handed pitchers.  “The “SBC” is no joke for baseball.  It is an extremely competitive baseball conference and they are right in the thick of it right behind Vermilion.  George (Parks) does a great job with that team.  They have a lot of lefty pitchers.  I think they have three or four that they can throw out there.  It is going to be a challenge for us.  It should be a really good ball game.  That is what championships are and it is a sectional championship game.  There are no more free passes.  Anytime you win a game in this district you are going to get another tough game ahead of you.  We need to be ready to go,” said Amicone.

 

Published 5/11/17

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Lexington Handles Upper

  

          Lexington got an outstanding effort from Austin Eifrid and they beat Upper Sandusky (8-1) in the first round of the division two district tournament on Wednesday.

          They host Sandusky Perkins in the next round of Friday.

          At this time of year you have to have great pitching and coach Kevin Morrow says they got a very good effort on Wednesday.  “Austin Eifrid pitched a great game.  The only run they scored was off walks and little infield bunts and stuff, so he was doing really well.  Then we also had a few nice plays.  We had three, four nice double plays that got us out of some jams.  Then we got to the third, fourth inning and we started to time them up and got some line drives and runs on the board.  It is a good feeling you never want to lose that first game in the tournament.  We were happy (Wednesday) night Austin Eifrid pitched an outstanding game,” said Morrow.

          With 16 teams in the district there were no byes this year and Morrow says it is good to get out on the field and play right away in the tournament. “You want to get out there and play, especially when the sun is shining and that advantage of it.  Unfortunately the way the tournament is lined up it starts the same week that you are trying to finish up games.  That can really throw you off.  We lost two Clear Fork games.  It was kind of tough because we couldn’t quite go to our top tier pitchers because the tournament is more important, but we also got some games in there and got some at bats and played against a really well coached team in the Clear Fork Colts,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Upper, “We got our feet wet in the sectional tournament and we got to feel that tournament feeling and that competition and that pressure that you know it is one and done.  You have to get a win and move on.  We are off to a good start, but we know that Perkins is pretty darn good and we have to be ready to go on Friday.”

          Lexington (15-9) plays host to the Perkins Pirates, who beat Norwalk (8-0) in their first game in the tournament at Norwalk on Wednesday.  Being the ninth seed that win would be seen as an upset, but Morrow knows Perkins has good players.  “Perkins and Kenton were kind of my two dark horses, or just kind of unknowns.  You look at their record and it’s not too bad, but they were just kind of mysterious.  We didn’t get to scout them, we didn’t get to see them, we didn’t get to play them.  I just kept hearing things about Perkins, especially with their number one pitcher on the mound they could beat anybody.  I am surprised as good as Norwalk is.  We had a scout up there to watch the game.  He just said that Perkins put the ball in play and there was a mixture of some errors and some things.  It is a concern for us that Perkins beat such a quality to team as the Truckers, so we have to be ready to go on Friday there is no doubt,” said Morrow.

 

Published 5/11/17

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Mt. Vernon Gets First Tournament Win

  

          Mt. Vernon, the Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, opened up tournament play in division one in the central district, with an (11-6) win at home against Worthington Kilbourne on Wednesday night.

          They will now play Olentangy in district play next Tuesday.

          This is Mt. Vernon’s first year in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.  They were members of the other “OCC” the Ohio Capital Conference and coach Rob Gross says they are familiar with their opponents.  “We had kind of flip flopped our schedule.  In the past we had played Madison and Lexington and all of them, so now we scheduled the New Albany’s and the Hilliard Darby’s that way we could get noticed a little bit and obviously play some of that competition.  The funny thing is playing Kilbourne (Wednesday) night they were actually in our conference last year and Olentangy that now we play Tuesday they were in our conference last year.  I think in a way that is good for the kids, especially guys that we on varsity last year because they do recognize some of the kids and are familiar with the schools,” said Gross.

          On Wednesday, the Yellow Jackets (19-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, scored eight times in the bottom half of the first inning.  Gross says when you do that kind of thing early in the game it takes the pressure off.  “Some of it you can attest to good pitching over the last week with Clear Fork and the cold weather and those kinds of things.  It was nice to respond.  We didn’t play our best game the other night against West Holmes.  We were actually down 2-0 in the game against Kilbourne (Wednesday) night and we came out and responded and put up an eight spot on the bottom of the first inning.  That helps in a tournament game to kind of settle everybody down,” he said.

          One of thing about these Yellow Jackets is they don’t get tense and Gross says they know how to win.  “I am proud of our guys.  Respond is a term that I have used all year.  There have been a lot of games, I can think of both Clear Fork games, a Lexington game, just in the last couple of weeks where we have been down and our guys don’t seem to panic,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “They just kind of stay with the approach that our pitchers are going to keep us in the game and just give us a chance.  We have kind of been a team for the most part, I would say three fourths of our games, that we tend to have one big inning.  Sometimes that is good, but sometimes when we get that big lead you can let off the gas.  We actually did it (Wednesday) we got 11 runs in the first couple of innings and just kind of sat on it.  I am not going to complain about scoring that many runs.”

 

Published 5/11/17

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Reese Won’t be Back

 

          Swankonsports.com has learned that Mansfield Senior boys’ basketball coach J.T. Reese will not be back for the 2017-18 season.

          Administration officials have told Reese, but the board has not acted on that recommendation.  Their next meeting is scheduled for May 16 and as of Tuesday an agenda for that meeting had not been posted on the district’s website.

          The Tygers had their first losing season in more than 20 years this past year when they went (6-17) and finished in the bottom half of the Ohio Cardinal Conference for the first time ever.

          Over his five years at the school Reese was (75-46) winning two Ohio Cardinal Conference titles and taking the Tygers to the division one regional final in 2014.

          We have also learned that Athletic Director Skip Fulton will not return in that position.

          Applications for the both jobs will be taken until May 19.

 

Published 5/09/17

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Clear Fork Hammers Lexington in Tournament Opener

  

          Darian Gottfried allowed only one hit and one unearned run and Clear Fork beat longtime rival Lexington (11-1) in six innings in a division two sectional semi final on Tuesday in the valley.

          Gottfried retired the last 10 Lady Lex hitters she faced, striking out five in a row at one point.

          Clear Fork got on top right away in the bottom of the first when Carson Crowner reached on an error and scored without the benefit of a hit to make (1-0) early.

          It became (4-0) when the Lady Colts scored three times in the second inning when they got a hit from Caitlynn Hilverding, stole two bases and benefited from a hit batter and two Lexington errors.

          They broke it open when they six times in the fourth highlighted by an RBI triple by Crowner, an RBI single by Zara Thomas and a two run single by Hilverding.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they kind of felt their way around early and then were able to get things going.  He says Lexington coach Mike Hamman knows what they try to do.  “It is kind of a feel game.  We have seen Lex so many times and he knows our kids well.  He knows their strengths and their weaknesses and he has a scouting report that is 20 years old on us and he knows our tendencies,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “It just took us a while to get adjusted.  She was spinning the ball pretty decent on us.  I think we just kind of waited her out and took advantage of some mistakes that she made. We hit the ball hard in that middle inning.”

          Darian only had one walk on the night compared to nine K’s and her dad says the key was she was able top throw strikes early in the at bat.  “The biggest thing with her is getting ahead.  When she gets behind and has to grove one she is going to face some good hitters and they are going to take advantage of her.  That was the biggest thing for her (Tuesday) was to get ahead.  She really was in attack mode and really set the tone for us out on the mound,” he said.

          The Lady Colts have one the area’s best power hitters in the Haylie Miller, plus Macy Wade and Gottfried have shown some power too, but it was the running game that was the killer on Tuesday night.  They finished with six stolen bases and were constantly taking the extra base on hits and advancing on errors, sometimes a couple of bases.

          Coach Gottfried says they want to be aggressive.  “We have certain kids that can and we know that.  Even if the other dugout knows it is going to happen they still have to throw it to plate and then throw us out.  We have some power too.  We didn’t show much of that (Tuesday) night, but I think that was more pitch location on their part.  We did hit a couple of gap shots that busted the doors open for us.  We do what we have to do to get some runs,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (21-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays Tiffin Columbian of the Northern Ohio League, the ninth seed, in a sectional final, again at home, on Friday.

          Gottfried says playing Tuesday allowed his kids to get their feet wet a little bit.  “That is why I wanted to play this game.  I didn’t want to wait.  Sometimes the pressure mounts too much when you are setting their waiting on everybody else.  Our kids are relaxed.  They are having fun.  We are going to get to play (Wednesday) in a conference game.  It is just like we have been doing all year long.  We play three or four games a week and keep plugging away and go win the next one,” he said.

 

Published 5/10/17

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Colonel Crawford Upends Lucas

  

          Colonel Crawford’s Noah Thoman drove in the game winning run with an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning and Colonel Crawford edged Lucas (4-3) in a division four sectional semi-final game in North Robinson on Tuesday evening.

          Crawford coach Joe Swartzmiller says games like this can give coaches grey hair, but they are going to take it.  “They are exciting.  Anytime you get your first win in the tournament.  A lot of people say that is the hardest win of them all.  A win is a win and we will take it and move on,” he said.

          Colonel Crawford (13-8) has won eight of its last nine games and Swartzmiller says it is because of the pitching and defense they have gotten better as the season has gone on.  “Defense and pitching has been super.  I mean I can’t ask for anything more.  We are making the plays out in the field.  We are throwing strikes and keeping the runs down,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Lucas, “The only problem now is we don’t know what hitting team is going to show up.  That is always a fun occasion.”

          They are likely going to have to score some runs when they play Plymouth (17-5), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, in the sectional final at Plymouth on Thursday.

          Plymouth has shown to be one of the better hitting teams in North Central Ohio all year.  They beat the Eagles (13-10) in late March in a non-conference game.

          Swartzmiller thinks both teams are playing well and it should be a good contest.   “They are playing really, really well right now.  They have shored up their pitching a little bit and they are hitting the crap out of the ball.  We are playing our best, they are playing their best, so it should be a great game,” he said.

 

Published 5/10/17

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Plymouth Belts New London

  

          It has been a very good season for the Plymouth Big Red and Tuesday night might have been their most impressive win of the season as they knocked off New London (6-0) and kicked the Wildcats out of first place in the Firelands Conference.

          Norwalk St. Paul took over sole possession of the lead with an (11-6) win at home against Mapleton.

          Plymouth coach Jason Higgins says he really liked the way they battled back after losing to New London (7-2) on Monday night.  “We always talk about how are you going to respond to a little bit of adversity?  We faced (Ryan) Lane the other night.  He is a heck of a pitcher and he is around the zone.  He challenges you at times, but then he will throw some off speed to throw you off.  It is hard to get much off of him when you really don’t see anybody else all season close to his capabilities,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “It was good that we rebounded (Tuesday) and played a really, really clean game.  We shut them out and I don’t really know how many times that has happened in the history of these two schools playing and we are really happy and it is good motivation going into the tournament.”

          The Big Red (17-5) will play host to Colonel Crawford (13-8) in a sectional final game in division four on Thursday.

          Higgins says due to their success they have had to reassess their goals for this season.  “We set some goals.  We started off we wanted to get 15 wins and a sectional title.  We have surpassed the 15 wins and now we have set the goal at 20 wins.  We are still wanting to get that sectional title and we are going to have to play one game at a time, but whatever the outcome is I know my guys and going to come and play.  We are excited to see what is going to happen at the end of this week and hopefully the coming weeks,” he said.

          Plymouth beat Colonel Crawford (13-10) in non-conference play on March 28, but they was six weeks ago and Higgins knows that both teams are better now than they were then and this is a whole new ball game.  “What is really scary at times is we played a really close game with them early in the year.  We have improved and I am sure they have improved.  We know that they are going to be ready to play.  It was a 13-10 win early in the year and we are not the same two teams, so we are going to have to come to play,” said Higgins.

 

Published 5/10/17

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Buckeye Central Downs Monroeville in Tournament

  

          Josh Dentinger allowed four hits over seven innings and struck out 10 and Buckeye Central beat Monroeville (4-1) in the first round of the division four tournament on Tuesday.

          They will play at Firelands Conference leader Norwalk St. Paul on Thursday in a sectional final game.

          Coach Chad Jensen says Dentinger was super on Tuesday night and he says his ace got better and the night went on.  “We got a great performance from our ace Josh Dentinger.  He struck out 10 and didn’t walk anybody.  He really got better as the night went on.  He got stronger.  He only threw 85 pitches.  We really didn’t really know what to expect from them,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Tuesday night, “They had a lot of kids with these unbelievable stats, so we kind of nibbled a little bit and threw a lot more breaking balls early and then we realized that Josh really had his good stuff and just went at them with fastballs late in the ball game.  He was really dominate for us and we needed that to get a good start in the tournament.”

          Dentinger didn’t walk anybody all night long and Jensen says he had great command of all of his pitches.  “Josh has only walked eight all year in 45 innings I think.  He had great command.  I think I remember him going to a full count maybe twice all night and just really pounding the zone and getting ahead and making them guess.  Again he got stronger as the night went on.  He was just really overpowering down the stretch.  We needed a great performance from him and he delivered,” he said.

          Buckeye Central scored four times in the bottom of the third inning on Tuesday on RBI hits by Kidron Wechter, Adam Krebs and Payton Phenicie.

          St. Paul (17-5), #4 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, is coming off a two game sweep of Mapleton, which has moved the Flyers into first place by themselves in the Firelands Conference.

          Jensen says they are a very talented team and the Bucks (8-17) are going to have to be at their best to get the win.  “St. Paul is a great team and they are well coached.  Coach Carper does a great job with St. Paul, I have known him for years.  They are tough kids.  They are very good in football, basketball and baseball.  These kids know how to win.  They know how to compete.  They hit the ball well and they get good pitching too.  They are a really solid, well rounded team.  All year long we have battled in our league and our league is very challenging.  We are going to put our best foot forward and see what happens.  Our kids are going to play hard and they are going to give their best effort and they are going to prepared and ready to go.  We will just see what happens,” said Jensen.

 

Published 5/10/17

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Ashland Beats Holland Springfield… Again

  

          When you do it two years in a row maybe it is not an upset.

          Ashland for the second straight year knocked off a higher seeded Holland Springfield on the road this time (6-4) Monday night in a division one sectional semi-final.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says it just seems that they have Springfield’s number for whatever reason.  “It was a great win.  This must be our lucky field.  This is two years in a row that we have played them up at their place in a sectional opener.  We beat them 6-3 last year and 6-4 this year.  So, we will take it.  Ricky Maffett gave us a great pitching performance (Monday) night for about six innings.  We had some timely hitting.  We had a couple of guys in Blake Holt and Tyler Croskey have big days at the plate for us.  We were able to hang on in there in the seventh inning.  They loaded the bases there and made it interesting.  It was a good win on the road and we are just happy to move on to Wednesday’s sectional final against Anthony Wayne,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland (10-11) not only got solid pitching, but they got clutch hitting and Lavengood says they were able to keep adding runs after getting the lead and that was key.  “We were able to get some big hits early on to get a couple of runs on the board, but I think it was really key for us in the middle innings where we were able to have a three run inning to stretch the lead from 2-0 to 5-0 and then they came back to score a couple to make it 5-2.  We came back with a really important run in the top of the seventh to make it 6-2 because they scored a couple in the seventh and had the bases loaded to end the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “So, that ended up being a big extra run that we scored there in the seventh inning.  Anytime you have a chance to tack on some runs in a tournament game in becomes huge.  You still have to get 21 outs and sometimes that 21st out is the hardest one in the game.”

          Next for Ashland in tournament play will be a visit to Anthony Wayne on the Wednesday.  The Generals dispatched of Findlay (9-1) on Monday in a first round game. 

          Lavengood says it will be a big challenge, but not one that can’t be accomplished.  “Anthony Wayne is a very good team.  They are like 14-4, something like that on the year.  They play a very good schedule in a very tough conference and they have a couple of pretty good pitchers.  They are a solid team and we are going to have to travel to play at their place Wednesday, but I think if we play like we did (Monday) and pitch like we did (Monday) we will give ourselves a chance to win, so it should be a good game,” he said.

 

Published 5/09/17

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Colts Beat Lex; Gearing up for Tournament

  

          Clear Fork pitchers Mitch Dulin, Jalen Sheriff and Gavin Bailey held Lexington to one run on four hits on Monday and the Colts beat the Minutemen (7-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at American League Field on Monday.

          During a ceremony before the game the field was dedicated in honor of the Legion Post 535 in Bellville, who has provided a generous sum of money for the improvement of the field as well as other projects for the baseball team over the last 50 years.

          Clear Fork (12-11,7-6) took (2-0) lead in the second off of Lexington starter Jacob Depperschimdt on RBI hits by Paul Francisco and Mitch Dulin.  They added two more in the third highlighted by an RBI single down the third base line by Jarrod Smith.  It became (5-0) in the fifth when Hunter Boyer scored on a balk.

          Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says they got really good pitching and finally their offense is starting to wake up a little bit.  “We got a little bit of timely hitting.  For the first time we played a team where they were the ones hitting line drives and we were making great plays.  Usually it is the other way around.  We try to preach to our pitchers if you throw strikes and let your defense play it is not as boring a game as some people think.  Jalen (Sheriff) felt a little tweak in his arm and Gavin (Bailey) comes in and starts walking and you are just putting a team right back in the game when you are giving up bases,” said Staab.

          Lexington scored its only run in the sixth on an RBI single by Ian Moore.  The Colts responded with two in their half of the sixth on a single, three walks and two wild pitches.

          Clear Fork will play its final “OCC” game ever when they travel to Lexington (14-8,8-5) on Wednesday.  Staab says it always makes him simile to beat the Minutemen.  “It is always nice to beat Lex and I know that they are saving some pitchers, but it is still a win and I hope for the best for them in the tournament after (Tuesday,)” he said.

          The Colts will play either Willard (1-18) or Bucyrus (9-9) in their division three tournament opener at American Legion Field on Friday.  The Redmen, a (14-2) winner over Ridgedale on Monday, and Willard, a (3-0) loser to Ontario, play on Wednesday in semi-final play.

          Clear Fork got hot at the right time of the year last year and advanced to the state semi finals before losing to Waynedale.  Staab says that they have the makings for another run.  “The biggest thing that I worry about is our offense.  Yes, we had timely hitting, but we still have guys that have no idea what they are doing up there and that is what is frightening.  We just can’t wait for our leadoff hitter to get back in the lineup next week because who knows if he can?  We just have to get more production out of the top and the bottom of the order.  Our middle is doing fine,” he told Swankonsports.com on the field after the win, “Luke (Clark) is in a little bit of a slump.  He hit that shot at the first baseman, but after that.  I am telling him you are not going to get anything.  Everybody knows who you are, so quit swinging and take walks.  He is stubborn though.”

          Clark was hitting over .500 for the first half of the season.  Staab says a key to get some guys around him to get hits too, so he can get some better pitches.  “It was nice see to Gavin get two hits and that has been a long time coming.  It’s all mental for him.  Now he should feel really good.  He came in in the seventh and pitched well after the first two batters.  We are kind of getting back on track,” he said.

 

Published 5/09/17

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Seneca East Outright Champ

  

          Seneca East it the outright Northern 10 Athletic Conference baseball champion for the second time in three years.

          They beat Carey (8-5) on Monday night to secure that title.

          Coach Rick Bowerman knows that championships and the like don’t come very easy and he is very proud of his players.  “Winning a championship in another is awful hard.  You have to be good and you have to have luck on your side.  They don’t come around that often.  It was nice to wrap it up (Monday) night and get that championship and not have to share it.  We battled because by far we didn’t play our best game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night after the win, “There were mistakes here and there throughout the game, but we were resilient.  They came back and tied it up 5-5 and we came right back in the bottom of the sixth inning and then closed it out.”

          With the league title in hand, the Tigers can now concentrate on the division three tournament, which begins for them on Friday having been the top seed and taking a bye out of the first round.

          Bowerman says that will put less stress on his pitching staff.  “We will have our top three pitchers available to us on Friday, which is good to have.  If somebody doesn’t have their good stuff you can bring somebody or one or two guys in.  It gives a chance to rest some guys and make sure we are healthy and arms are rested.  We should be ready to go,” he said.

          On Friday, the Tigers (19-3,14-1), #1 in Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, will play either Margaretta or Carey for the third time this week.

          Now playing team a third time in the space of five days happens more than you would think it does.  Bowerman says it they play Carey again it will be interesting.  “That is not uncommon.  You look at college and the pros they play series all of the time.  In a way it would be like that.  Carey is a very good hitting team and I am not looking forward to playing them three times, but at least we are familiar with them.  We know what they do and I am sure they know what we do.  It would be interesting,” he said.

 

Published 5/09/17

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New London beats Plymouth; Maintains Share of Lead

  

          New London won a big game at Plymouth on Monday, downing the Big Red (7-2) and maintaining a share of the Firelands Conference lead with Norwalk St. Paul.

          The Flyers beat Mapleton on Monday.

          Coach Tony Hamilton says it was one of their better performances offensively against a good team this year.  “We hit the ball really well.  We had 14 hits against some very good pitching.  Austin Nester is one of their better pitchers and had a really low ERA,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Monday, “We squared up a lot of balls and hit unlike the Mapleton game where we had a lot of pop ups.  The five, six times we did hit it hard it went right at them, but that is baseball and (Monday) night we were able to really hit the ball hard and get something out of it.”

          New London has lived on its pitching this year, but Monday Hamilton says they came through with a lot of big hits.  “We got six hits (Monday) night in the fourth inning and three or four of them off of a walk and an error I think.  They were all clutch hits.  We didn’t get too many big gap shots, but we got a lot of singles that drove in runs,” he said.

          New London (16-6,11-2), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, plays Plymouth (16-5,8-4) again on Tuesday, this time at home.

          Hamilton says they are likely going to have to get some hits again.  “We have to play Plymouth (Tuesday) and they are a good team.  They are probably the best hitting team that we will face this year.  So, we have to be ready to play some defense and then we have to be able to hit the ball.  I don’t think it is going to be a low scoring game,” he said.

          A win Tuesday by the Wildcats will give them no less than a share of the Firelands Conference title no matter what St. Paul does.

 

Published 5/09/17

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Ontario Blanks Willard

  

          Ontario shutout Willard (3-0) on Monday night in Northern Ohio League play and is now preparing to face Kenton in the first round of the division two tournament on Wednesday.

          After not playing their best in losses to Norwalk (6-3) and Bellevue (8-0) last week coach Jeff Fisher says they were much better on Monday night.  “We took our lumps the week prior here where we just didn’t play very good baseball in all three phases, but (Monday) night, especially on the mound and defensively I thought the Warriors were really clean and gave ourselves a great chance to win, which we did,” he said.

          Monday was the first time most teams played since last Wednesday, which means teams had a lot of time to work on things.  Fisher says they have been stressing the mental game.  “Considering all of the ways, shapes and forms that you have to come up with as baseball coach to keep kids sharp indoors a lot of the time we spent with our guys was above the shoulders.  With a young group confidence can wane and be fragile.  So, a lot of it was developing a sense of confidence and maturity on how to handle failure like we dealt with against Norwalk and Bellevue.  We took advantage of being off the field and felt like our kids walked out the door (Monday) ready to go,” said Fisher.

          Ontario (12-8) will be the home team on Wednesday, but Fisher says Kenton is a very good team that is going to be a big challenge for them and they will have to be at their best.  “This is team that historically has struggled in baseball.  Fantastic in football, has just really been a program that has been resurging.  They have a new coach in there that has done a fantastic job of getting the kids to believe in themselves and play winning baseball.  They haven’t lost in three weeks.  I believe they are on a nine game winning streak.  They find themselves (Tuesday) night going against Celina for second place alone because Wapakoneta has already clinched the title in their league.  The “WBL” historically is a fantastic baseball conference.  This is just one of those years where Defiance isn’t going to be the trophy winners and here is Kenton finding themselves above Defiance.  This is a ball club that is confident,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “They have a group of seniors that are playing well right now.  They have a two headed monster pitching staff hat alternates and throws complete games and then they have a shutdown closer that they are confident in in Kessler, who as their four hitter, has been outstanding and has been getting RBI hits all year for them.  I know we got the best of them a year ago in the same situation as far as the semi-final, but we have to play great baseball to move on to the next ballgame.”

 

Published 5/09/17

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Lexington Thinking Defense

  

          Lexington is trying to get healthy as they get ready to host Upper Sandusky in a division two tournament game next Wednesday.

          They won a couple of games with week over West Holmes in Ohio Cardinal Conference action (6-1) on Tuesday and (4-2) on Wednesday.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says they have started to get a little more healthy and they have to play really good defense if they are going to be able to have success in the postseason.  “Over the last week and a half we have hit a rough skid with just injuries and sore arms and people playing out of position.  Back towards the begin of the season we lost our All-Ohio third baseman Hunter Biddle, but he has played the last two games at third base and it is good to see him out there.  I think it changes him as a total player.  It helps him at bat and in a leadership role,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “To make sure our full arsenal is healthy is a big thing.  Of course, offense is always a premium, but I think we have started to hit the ball a little better here the last two, two and half weeks.  We just have to get back to where we were last year the second half of the season when we played lights out defense.  We made all of the routine plays and threw people out and kept people off the bases.  That is probably one of the biggest things that we want to see going into the tournament is that good, solid defense.”

          The Minutemen won the district title last year.

          Lexington (14-7,8-4) will play Clear Fork (11-11,6-6) in their two “OCC” games on Monday and Tuesday.  Morrow says he will kind of miss Clear Fork being in the league.  “It is going to be weird not having them in there.  I have grown to be pretty good friends with coach Staab.  It is going to be different not having them on the schedule, but we are going to make sure that every year we are going to get at least one game or two non-conference games being that they are our next door neighbor.  They are pretty good this year and they should be pretty good again next year,” he said.

          As far the games next week he says they are going to have to save some things for the tournament.  “Coming up next week it is going to be tough both of us really don’t have anything on the line as far as the conference.  We are just looking at bigger and better things here.  Obviously, we want to try and win every game and be completive, especially Tuesday being senior night we want to put on a good show for the kids to remember.  Wednesday is the tournament and we have Upper Sandusky.  These two games with Clear Fork we want to play well and get some good at bats so we are nice and loose on Wednesday,” said Morrow.

          Upper Sandusky (11-12) is in third place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference and haven’t played the same level of competition that the Minutemen have this year.  However, Morrow says they aren’t going to take anything for granted.  “They are kind of in a procurer situation with them being a bigger school with a lot of D-3 like schools, but you can’t take anybody lightly.  If you get the right pitcher on the mound and if he is dialed in that’s all they need.  Then you end up losing 2-1 or 1-0.  So, we have to get these kids ready to play.  We want to represent the “OCC” well.  We have kind of a chip on our shoulder when (Madison coach Doug) Rickert and I when we go up north to the seeding and stuff and a lot of schools tend to vote the “NOL” schools heavy and certain schools get a lot of rankings for whatever reason.  I am not sure those teams up north know what it is like to play in the “OCC” and have the type of competition we have on a daily basis is our league, especially with all of the D-one schools.  I don’t think the “NOL” or “SBC” has any D-one schools.  So, we want to represent the “OCC” well and be ready to play against Upper Sandusky.  We haven’t played them in years, so it is going to be kind of a mystery.  We just have to be ready to play and make sure we advance,” said Morrow.

 

Published 5/05/17

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Madison Rounding into Shape for the Tournament

  

          Madison has been a pretty good softball team all year long and now they are getting better as the post season begins next week.

          The Lady Rams (16-6), #4 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, isoming off wins this week over Wooster (7-6) and (10-0) will play Ashland Monday and Tuesday in their final Ohio Cardinal Conference games this spring and then host Oregon Clay in a first round tournament game in division one on Wednesday.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they have really started to peak at the right time of the season and that is what you want.  “We have started five freshmen almost the whole year and they are really talented kids and we expected them to come in an compete and compete at a high level and challenge some returning starters and all of the that happened, but at the end of the day they are still freshmen and they make mistakes that freshmen make.  I think we are starting to get out of that a little bit.  Last Friday at home against West Holmes we had a big win and we played pretty solid.  Against Wooster we played well, we left the bases loaded twice early in the first game and finally got control of the game towards the end and gave up a couple of flares here and there and the next thing you know it is a 6-6 game, but the kids came in and we went bang, bang, bang without making an out and scored the game winning run.  We turn around on Wednesday and went up to Wooster and those times we left the bases loaded the night before we capitalized on them and punched some runs home and got in and out in five innings in a 45 minute game and it was fantastic.  Kenize Mullins threw a great game, threw strikes, pounded the zone, didn’t walk anybody, I don’t think she was three balls on a single batter the whole night, and then she hit a home run with it.  The older kids are starting to step up a little more and those freshmen are starting to eliminate the mistakes that they have been making,” said Niswander.

          Niswander adds that there are some things they must do to be a good team and it begins with pitching and defense.  “The biggest thing with us is the shortstop-pitcher combination.  Whichever pitcher we throw the other kid goes to short.  We have to throw strikes and we have to play good defense at that position behind them and we have been doing that.  I think that shows.  We are 16-6 and we have lost a couple of games that we shouldn’t have lost, that we gave away, but those were earlier in the year.  I think that we have gotten to the point know with the win over Clear Fork, the win against West Holmes, and the two with Wooster in the last week, the sweep of Shelby a week a half ago.  I think our kids are finally starting to understand what varsity softball is all about.  It is a little bit different that travel, it is a little bit different that they expected.  We are finally starting to do things right all of the way around and we just have to continue to do that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have seven kids in our line up hitting over .350 and three kids hitting over .400.  That’s part of that seven, the other two aren’t that high.  We are putting the ball in play.  We have only struck out 51 times in 22 games and to me that is a really big deal in softball.  You put the ball in play and put pressure on teams I think we are pretty fast and pretty athletic, so every time the ball goes into play we have a chance to get a base hit on it.  I think our kids are finally understanding what we are trying to do and playing to their strengths.”

          When it comes to Oregon Clay, Niswander says they are a very good team and one that is going try and put pressure on the Lady Rams.  “I have a scouting report on them from a couple of friends of mine up that way.  They were at our game Tuesday, which we are pretty excited about because we didn’t throw our number one pitcher Tuesday, so they didn’t see her.  They hit the ball well.  We know how they like to pitch batters and we worked on that in practice on Thursday doing what we need to do with what they are going to try and do to us.  We don’t know if we have anybody we can compare them to.  We do know that they play a really good schedule.  They are a .500 team and they have beaten some pretty good teams and some of the teams they have lost to are very, very good like Perrysburg, Anthony Wayne and Holland Springfield and they were in those games.  We are going to have to show up and play even though we are the higher seed and it is our home game they are a really good softball team and they are going to challenge us.  They are going to put pressure on us like we are going to try and do to them as well,” said Niswander.

 

Published 5/05/17

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Galion Rallies to Beat Buckeye Valley

  

          After giving up three in the top of the seventh, Galion rallied to score four in the bottom of the seventh and beat Buckeye Valley (6-5) in a red division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Wednesday.

          Mac Spears came up with the game winning hit for the Tigers and coach Phil Jackson says they developing the right mental approach to baseball games.  “Everybody believes that it isn’t over until that last out is made.  When you get that mentality it is tough to beat a team that believes that.  You are battling throughout the whole game and every mistake you make they capitalize on.  I am happy to see we are developing that at the right time where we think we are in the game until that last out.  That really showed (Wednesday,)” said Jackson.

          High school sports is a lot about momentum and Jackson says his kids where able to feed off that excitement on Wednesday and come up with the win.  “Everybody wants to make that big hit or make that last out.  The dugout just comes alive with all of the chatter and the crowd comes alive.  It just creates that momentum.  High school baseball is exciting at this time of year.  You are happy for the kids to finally get it done and come through when they are needed most,” he said.

          Galion (14-8,8-4) earned the third seed in the division three tournament next week.  They play Western Reserve of the Firelands Conference on May 12.

          Jackson believes they really are playing their best baseball of the season and that is what you want.  “There are days when maybe we aren’t peaking.  I think we battled a good Shelby team the other day, but we didn’t play our best.  Played a pretty decent Northmor team the other day and came back and played Buckeye Valley.  I don’t know how they have such a losing record they are a talented squad,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Wednesday night, “We are not shying away from competition.  We want to play good competition.  Next Monday we have Madison at home.  We are going to try to be peaking at the right time when tournament hits and let’s hope that pays off.”

 

Published 5/04/17

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Colonel Crawford Ready for Championship Month

  

          Colonel Crawford has set itself up to have a great season and now they need to take advantage it.

          After a (16-0) win over Buckeye Central on Tuesday, the Lady Eagles stand in a tie with Upper Sandusky and a game ahead of Carey in the loss column, although the Lady Blue Devils has played four fewer league games due to rain outs.

          Speaking of rain if Mother Nature allows, and it looks like she isn’t going to, Colonel Crawford (17-3,12-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the small school division, will host Carey (9-4,7-2) on Thursday and Upper Sandusky (18-4,13-1) on Friday and then play at Upper on Monday.

          Coach Chuck Huggins is happy in what he has seen from his players leading up to this week.  “We worked our tails off during the month of April just to have this opportunity.  We look at it as a golden opportunity.  I have always prided myself in calling May championship month.  All five of them are out there, I know the state tournament is usually in June, but these next five weeks everything is on the line.  We have certainly put in a lot of hours together and had a lot of fun doing it and now it is time to see where we are at,” he said.

          Huggins, the Lady Eagles coach for three decades, and winner of more than 600 games, says these are the fun games to play in.  “You can just tell in some of these ballgames the last couple of weeks, I don’t want to say we are bored because we definitely talk about making each game a championship game because if you get bumped off early you don’t put yourself in that situation to play for championships,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “Our program prides itself in preparing themselves and having these opportunities.  I can’t say enough about how excited these kids are with everything falling into place perfectly with the “N10” championship this week and then next week we start tournament already and we go from there.”

          Huggins says his team has improved a lot since the beginning of the preseason, but they know they still have to be better.  “They have really learned the game of softball.  Are we perfect yet?  Absolutely not.  From the point they have come since late February when we first got in the gym until now I can’t say enough about what they have accomplished and most of all the time they have put in to make sure we have gotten to this point.  They understand, they look up at those banners and they know what it is all about.  They understand that you just don’t put on a Colonel Crawford uniform and it happens.  They pride themselves in putting themselves in position and now it is time to have fun and get it done.  We will see where we are at,” said Huggins.

 

Published 5/04/17

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Bellevue Responds With Shutout of Ontario

  

          After a tough loss to Shelby on Tuesday, Bellevue battled back and blanked Ontario (8-0) in a Northern Ohio League baseball game on Wednesday.

          Shelby claimed the “NOL” title with a (3-2) win over Bellevue on Tuesday.  Coach Andy Dennings says that was tough, but he was pleased with how his team came back against Ontario.  “It was a good bounce back win for us.  It was a real tough game (Tuesday) night.  It is a really good Shelby team.  Jon (Amicone) has done a really nice job with them.  That is a group that has won games all different ways this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “They deserve a lot of credit.  It was a fun battle to be a part of.  We were a run short (Tuesday,) but to come home and play like we did against Ontario (Wednesday) was very pleasing.  We had Cody (Snyder) on the mound and he threw really well as he has done all year.  We had good command of his pitches and he was down most of the day.  We played really well defensively.”

          Pitching has been a corner stone for the Redmen (15-7), #4 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, and Dennings believes they are starting to hit the baseball better.  “This is a team that seems like they are starting to play a little better right now.  The pitching has been there all year and defensively we have played pretty well, but I feel like we are doing a lot more things offensively and starting to be a little more competitive one through nine.  We are pretty excited about where we can go from here.  I know we lost a tough one (Tuesday,) but I felt like we hit some balls well and hit them right to gloves.  It was just one of those games. We are excited to make a little tournament run here and see if we can get another shot at Shelby here down the road,” said Dennings.

          Bellevue was the third seed in the division two tournament and will play “NOL” foe Tiffin Columbian on Tuesday at home.

          Dennings knows this is a very deep district, but he believes they can make some noise.  He says there are a lot of teams in the district that are in that position.  “There are no slouches whether it is a sectional opener or a sectional final you are going to get tested.  There are plenty of quality programs in our tournament this year in division two.  It is one game at a time.  Being this competitive I think you are going to see some upsets here and there.  The level of competition is very high right now and that is the exciting part of it.  It will be interesting to see how things play out,” he said.

 

Published 5/04/17

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Ashland Preparing For Second Season

  

          Ashland put together a good performance on Wednesday with a (20-1) win over Mansfield Senior in Ohio Cardinal Conference play and now they want to get on a grove for the postseason.

          After struggling Tuesday in a (13-11) win over the Tygers, Ashland coach Rob Lavengood thinks they were much more focused on Wednesday.  “We were much better (Wednesday) night.  We came out and swung the bats a lot better.  Bryce Stormer gave us a good outing on the mound.  He threw 37 pitches in four innings and 25 of them were strikes.  That is what you ask for to pound the strike zone and make them hit the ball and he did a nice job.  It was nice to get everyone a chance to get some at bats and playing time and not have to sweat one out,” he said.

          It looks like Mother Nature is in a bad mood and we might get to play any baseball the rest of the week.  Lavengood says they have some good games coming up and he says they don’t want to be practicing inside.  “Especially this time of the year when you really don’t want to have to go back inside and it looks like we are going to have to do that for the next couple of days if the weather forecast is right, which is unfortunate because we have a nice game set up with Bellevue (Thursday) night at Heidelberg College.  They are a quality team for one, but also getting a chance to play on a college field to get ready for tournament.  You hate to not be able to get those games in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “Then we have a home doubleheader with Orrville on Saturday, which would be another nice tune up heading into tournament.  So, we are hoping we are able to get those games in, but the weather doesn’t look great and Monday we have to head up to Springfield for our tournament opener.  If we have to go back inside it is not ideal, but it sounds like everyone might be in the same boat as we are, but it is what it is and you just have to do your best to prepare for the tournament when we are able to get back outside.”

          Ashland (9-11) plays at Holland Springfield in a division one tournament game on Monday.  The Arrows upset Springfield (6-3) last season and Lavengood believes they will enter the game with some confidence.  “We went up there last year and got a big win in the sectional opener at Springfield.  So, we are playing someone that we have had some success with, so hopefully we are able to do it again this year.  It is going to be a good game.  It should be a good match-up with two teams that are pretty evenly matched and hopefully we are able to come out of there with a victory,” he said.

 

Published 5/04/17

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Clear Fork Gets to Within One

  

          Mt. Vernon was three outs away from earning a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference softball title, but you never count out the Clear Fork Lady Colts, history tells us that.

          Clear Fork scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and rallied to beat Mt. Vernon (7-6) and now trials the Lady Yellow Jackets by one game entering the rematch at Mt. Vernon on Wednesday.

          Trailing (6-4) with one out in the bottom of seventh Darian Gottfried reached when her pot up dropped in the Mt. Vernon infield.  Haylie Miller took advantage and belted her 10th home run of the season to tie the game and set the Clear Fork crowd on fire.  Macy Wade then doubled, her third hit of the day.  Zara Thomas followed with her third hit when the Mt. Vernon third basemen knocked down a hot shot.  With runners on first and second, Caitlynn Hilverding hit a slow roller between first and second and Mt. Vernon was unable to make the play and the winning run scored from second.

          Lady Colts coach Jeff Gottfried says they were able to make the big plays with their backs against the wall.  “It was an uphill battle from the top of the first.  They scored three and we are down early.  Give our kids credit we put three on the board in the bottom of the first to make it a new ballgame.  Then we struggled to get anything going.  They kind of held us at bay to the fifth when we got one run, but at time they were up 6-3.  We gave ourselves a chance in the seventh inning,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We didn’t get the leadoff batter on, but Darian hit a little pop up in the infield that they had a miscommunication on and the ball fell.  Then Miller hit her big home run to tie it up.  Once it’s tied up our kids can really relax and we were able to produce even after that to get the game winning run.”

          In order to win games like Tuesday you have to have a belief and Gottfried says there is no give up in his kids.  “That is in our dugout.  We have had that belief for a lot of years.  It is what is great about this game there is no clock you play until the end.  It was nice to be in that home dugout and have the last swings at it.  Our kids once we got that thing tied up they were loud.  They were loud all night long.  They were pumped up and they were really excited when the outcome turned out like it did,” said Gottfried.

          Wednesday, Clear Fork (18-2,9-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll, will be at Mt. Vernon (17-1,10-1), #1 in the poll, with a lot at stake in terms of the “OCC” title.  “I told the girls it is going to be even tougher down there.  Mt. Vernon is mad.  I think we made that Yellow Jacket a little mean, but you know what?  We gave ourselves a chance and that is all we can ask for is to get that next game and we will see what happens,” said Gottfried.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Shelby Wins Second Straight “NOL” Baseball Title

  

          No matter how talented you are it is hard to repeat, but that is what they Shelby Whippets have done.

          With a (3-2) win over the Bellevue Redmen on Tuesday, the Whippets laid claim to their second straight title.

          Coach Jon Amicone says it something that the kids really wanted and he is proud of them.  “Proud of the word and we kind of reiterated that to them after the game.  Going back to back is a very tough thing.  Winning a conference in any way is a very tough thing.  Our kids did a nice job of working hard and staying focused. We lost some guys, but the younger kids really stepped up.  They wanted to accomplish the goal and they worked towards it.  I am proud of their efforts.  I can’t say enough about the way they competed all year,” he said.

          Shelby took a (3-0) lead in the bottom half of the third inning on Tuesday and Amicone says the bottom of their lineup did an outstanding job of setting the table.  “The bottom of our lineup did a nice job, our eight and nine hitters.  They came up first and got back to back base hits and turned the lineup over to the top of the order and the top of the order did their job.  Davey Hipp and Brady Hill did a nice job at the bottom of the lineup to kind of get that inning rolling.  When you are getting that type of production at the bottom of the order you need to put up crooked numbers and the top of the order did their job to turn their base hits into runs,” said Amicone.

          With that 3-0 lead starter Garrett Caudill held the Redmen scoreless through the fifth inning and when he got into a little trouble in the sixth closer Brennan Armstrong was able to come in put out the fire.  Amicone says those two deserve a lot of credit.  “Garrett (Caudill) our starter did a nice job and then in the sixth inning they got to him.  They are great hitting team and they put some really nice at bats together.  They cut the lead to 3-1 with runners on second and third and one out, so we brought Brennan in.  It is tough to do,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Tuesday night, “We like to bring him in to start innings.  It was cold weather, but he came right in and gave up one run, but held the lead.  That is all we ask him to do.  He was able to strike out the side in the seventh.  I am very proud of both our pitchers efforts.  They threw strikes and gave our team a chance to win and that is what pitching is supposed to do.  I am proud of both them.”

          Shelby (19-3,10-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home against Port Clinton in a first round game in the division two tournament next week.

          Amicone says they are going to have to continue to play outstanding baseball in order to win the district title, but they want to do some celebrating first.  “It is a tough district and when you get past round one and all of the sudden you are going to play a Bellevue or a Clyde or a Lexington, there is no getting around it.  I let our kids know that they need feel good about themselves.  They need to feel that sense of accomplishment for a few days.  This was a nice thing that they did.  We kind of made a deal with them after a couple of days we will backup and get refocused and hope to make a tournament run,” said Amicone.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Mt. Vernon Earns Share of “OCC”

  

          Mt. Vernon railed to beat Clear Fork (5-3) on Tuesday evening and that win coupled with a Wooster loss to Madison gave the Yellow Jackets at least a piece of the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title.

          Clear Fork scored first with three spot in the second inning on Tuesday.  After a base hit by Hunter Boyer, a walk to Gavin Bailey, and a bunt single by A.J. Blubaugh loaded the bases, Jarod Smith plated the first run with a sacrifice fly to right.  Mitch Dulin followed with a two run single to give the Colts a 3-0 lead.

          Mt. Vernon scored twice in the fourth on an RBI single by Marcus Shellenbarger and a sacrifice fly by Dylan Tarrh.  They then tied the score on RBI single by second baseman Jaret Gaumer in the top of the fifth.

          Jacob Tiell led off the top of the seventh with a double to letfcenter and scored on a on an infield grounder by Nate Orr.  A second run in the inning scored when Isaac Stallard got involved in a run down between first and second and Tim Zeller scored before he was tagged out.

          Mt. Vernon (17-3,10-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, has made it a practice of coming from behind in recent weeks. 

          Coach Rob Gross they keep their heads in the game and keep pushing.  “All year long I feel like when these guys have tasted adversity we have kind of stayed with the approach.  We stayed with it (Tuesday.)  Tim (Zeller), they kind of got to him in one inning.  We kind of preach to our pitchers that you are going give up some runs, but keep us in the games until our offense comes along,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We were able to do that.  It was nice to have that insurance run at the end.  We didn’t have our big inning, but it was nice to be able to have that steady approach and get us back in the game.”

          Tim Zeller went the distance for the Yellow Jackets allowing seven hits, walking three and striking out five.  He was able to get out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth by striking out Gavin Bailey.

          Gross says he got better as the game went along.  “Clear Fork has a good ball club.  They can hit baseball.  It helped to get us fired up and get back into the game at 3-2.  You could just tell after that that Tim was zoned in.  He mixed his pitches more.  He got his curveball over for strikes and that is important when you are facing a good hitting team,” he said.

          The two teams play again on Wednesday afternoon at Mt. Vernon.  A win by the Yellow Jackets gives then the outright title.  “As we have preached again all year long it is huge to get that first game of the series.  It is even more huge to be on the road to get it.  Now we go back home (Wednesday) and hopefully we can finish it off.  I know we have to take care of business, but it would be nice to get a little help too,” said Gross.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Seneca East Earns Share of “N10” Title

  

          Seneca East will be no less than co-champions in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference this year after a (9-3) win over Colonel Crawford in league play on Tuesday night.

          They will win it outright is they beat second place Mohawk on Wednesday.

          They scored nine times, but coach Rick Bowerman says it was pitching and defense that told the story for them on Tuesday.  “It was very windy (Tuesday) night.  It was tough going for both teams.  Colonel Crawford had been playing very well.  We knew they could hit the ball and they came out swinging.  All year we have been hanging our hat on pitching and defense and that did it for us again (Tuesday) night,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Colonel Crawford, “Zach Aichholz threw a very nice game and our defense was very solid.  We turned our 15th double play of the year.  It was nice to get that win to assure a share of the title so we don’t have that off our shoulders.  I know we can go on and try and win it outright and get ready for the tournament.”

          Defense can be the forgotten part of high school baseball, but without it you can not be a very good team, it’s that simple. 

          Bowerman says they work hard on defense and it is something that makes their pitchers more comfortable.  “Our kids take pride in their defense.  When we turn a double play they all want to know, coach how many is that this year?  They really like to play defense.  That helps when our pitchers know we don’t have to strike guys out.  If we pitch to contact our defense is going to be there and be behind us to make the outs,” said Bowerman.

          Seneca East (18-2,13-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, travels to Mohawk (15-3,10-3), #4 in our poll, on Wednesday.  The Eagles won the first meeting (5-1) April 24 at their place.

         Bowerman says it is nice to have part of the title, but they don’t want to share it with anybody.  “Our kids want more.  They are greedy.  We talked after the game and they want to go undefeated in the league.  They don’t want to lose at all.  Mohawk, we know they are in second place, and they are a very good team, a nice rival.  It will be a big game and I think we are ready,” he said.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Hillsdale Belts Northwestern; Continues to Share Lead

  

          Hillsdale broke a two game league losing skid and outscored Northwestern (11-7) Tuesday to remain in a share of the Wayne County Athletic League lead.

          The Falcons (14-5,9-2) scored 11 times in the first three innings of the game Tuesday and coach Mike Wolf says they needed almost all of those runs too.  “We jumped out to an 11-3 lead after three and where cruising along and then the new pitching rule came into a affect,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Northwestern Tuesday night, “We were trying to manage our staff.  We have another league game (Wednesday) and then we actually have another league game Thursday against Dalton.  We tried to manage around that.  It kind of reared its ugly head (Tuesday) night.”

          The OHSAA this season has installed a new rule that forces a day of rest if a pitcher throws 30 pitches, two days for more than 50 pitches, and three days if he throws 75.

          Last week, Hillsdale suffered back to back losses to Waynedale (3-2) last Wednesday and (9-6) to Dalton last Friday.

          Wolf says they had a couple of good practices and they were able to work on some things having to do with their approach at the plate.  “We had an opportunity to get a couple of good practices in and talked about some of deficiencies that we noticed last week in our game and worked really hard at correcting some of those things.  I think (Tuesday) night our approach at the plate was much better than it was last week,” said Wolf.

          Hillsdale travels to Northwestern on Wednesday.  The Huskies are now a game behind Hillsdale and Chippewa, a (7-1) winner over Rittman on Tuesday.

          Wolf says it should be a well pitched and well played by both sides.  “(Wednesday) is going to be great.  They are throwing their number one Ryan Swartz, who I think is undefeated on the season and we are throwing our number one in Jay Luikart.  It should be an interesting pitching match-up,” he said.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Madison Beats Wooster

  

          Madison won its fifth “OCC” game in its last six by knocking off second place Wooster (6-4) at home on Tuesday night.

          Coach Doug Rickert says they were finally able to put a big inning together and that was crucial for them.  “It was a good win for our kids.  They played well and Wooster is a great team.  They swing it really well.  They jumped out on us 3-1.  The good thing was a lot times when teams have jumped on us early we haven’t responded, but we responded with four runs in the third inning.  We were able to tack on one more big run in the bottom of the sixth.  That two run cushion was big in that last inning.  It was a big win for us,” said Rickert.

          Madison (10-10,6-5) has started to get some more hits and score more runs and Rickert says this a team that is willing to work hard and become better baseball players.  “Some of them have gotten better as hitters.  I think we have worked more on our hitting than we ever have.  Everybody has a little something they can work on.  One thing about this team is they are willing to learn,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “Especially if you have a lot of seniors if things don’t work out they think man this my senior year and it is going to be a miserable year.  We keeping telling them we have a lot of baseball to play.  I think some kids really bought into that.  We tell them to flush it and don’t remember the bad. We talk about living the next pitch and not getting caught up in an error or strikeout of whatever.  We have had some kids really buy in.”

          The Madison win gave Mt. Vernon, who beat Clear Fork (5-3) on Tuesday, no less than a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

          The Rams play at Wooster on Wednesday, weather permitting.

          They play host to Sandusky in a first round division two tournament game next week.  Rickert says this can be a good tournament team, especially if they can find a way to be more consistent with the bats in their hands.  “I think we can be dangerous, but we are also a team that lacks consistency.  We get a couple of wins and we get back to .500 and then we lose a game.  We are kind of a team that could win the thing or we could lose right away.  We are confident and we feel good, but the margin of error for this team was not as big as it was in the past.  We just don’t have enough hitters yet.  We are getting there.  We have to throw strikes and we have to field the baseball to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Rickert.

 

Published 5/03/17

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Shelby Beats Galion; Ready for Bellevue

  

          Shelby beat Galion (7-2) Monday in a non-conference high school softball game and now they face a huge opportunity when they host Bellevue on Tuesday.

          First year coach Natalie Huggins says they put together a nice game against Galion.  “It was a huge win for us (Monday) night.  We were able to beat a quality opponent in Galion and that was very important for us not only heading into the tournament, but the end of our “NOL” season, which we have a big game (Tuesday) with Bellevue.  It was a very nice tune up for us,” she said.

          They play Mansfield Senior in their opening division two tournament game next week.

          Huggins says they are constantly talking about getting better and she says they have to be very good in all areas in order to beat a team like Bellevue.  “We talk a lot about there are three big aspects of softball one being offense, two being defense, and pitching having its own category.  We have been talking quite a bit about when we lose a game all three are not working together.  We usually have two of three, but that won’t win ball games.  So, (Monday) night I thought we did a really good job of bringing all three of those together.  That is something we are always striving to improve making sure our defense is perfect, making sure we get the key hits when we need them and also make sure our pitchers are rested, but also throwing hard and on top of their game,” said Huggins.

          Shelby (13-8,7-2) lost to Bellevue (17-2,9-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, on the road (7-4) back on April 11 and they are going to need this one if they are going to have a chance at the league title.

          Huggins says Bellevue has been the best and if you are going to win league titles you have to beat the best and that is their goal come Tuesday afternoon.  “If we want to be the best we have to beat the best.  For many, many years Bellevue has been the best and Bellevue continues to be the best.  They have no losses in the league and we are sitting two back with a very slim outside chance, which makes (Tuesday’s) game very important.  With that being said they have earned the right to be considered the best,” she told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “The five straight “NOL” championships that they have going into this year speaks for itself.  (Tuesday) is a huge one, but we have also talked to our kids about that (Tuesday) is just another game.  We just need to play Shelby softball and if we play Shelby softball in all three aspects of softball as far as pitching, defense, and offense come together when they need to come together then we will be fine.”

 

Published 5/02/17

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Mohawk Rallies to Beat Ridgedale

  

          Mohawk kept itself alive in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference race with a come from behind (2-1) win at home over Ridgedale on Monday evening.

          Cole Widmer and Tanner Osborn has RBI doubles in the sixth inning and Mohawk (15-3,10-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, kept itself three games behind first place Seneca East in the “N10” baseball standings.

          Coach Eric Hoover says they stranded runners in the first second, fourth and fifth innings, but they were able to step up when they had to the most.  “We had some nice clutch hits there in the sixth inning.  It was really getting down to crunch time.  We had opportunities in other innings and just couldn’t come up with the hit.  It was great to see us come through when we really needed it and get out of there with a win,” he said.

          The Warriors left runners in scoring position early in the game, but Hoover says you have to put at bats that you don’t produce behind you and move forward.  “Hitting the baseball is a hard thing to do.  You are not always going to be able to get the job done, but it doesn’t help to worry about the last at bat.  It doesn’t matter what happened before you just have to worry about the next thing you can do.  It might not even be you.  When you are going though a lineup you don’t want to be worrying about if Harper can’t get it done how am I suppose to it or anything like that.  You do what you need to do.  We had some guys step up in the sixth inning and get it done for us,” said Hoover.

          Harker Brown and Austin Harper combined to allow only two hits on the day striking out 11 on the day.  Mohawk pitchers have three of the four best ERA’s in the conference this spring.

          Hoover says Brown had some control issues early in the game and they made some mistakes on defense, but he says the pitchers gave them a chance to win the game.  “Hits were hard to come by for both teams (Monday) night.  The wind was brutal out there.  It was pretty tough to find holes in the defense.  Our pitching really stepped up,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night after the win over Ridgedale, “We had trouble walking guys in the first inning when they got their run.  They had a couple of infield hits and some plays we made errors on there in the infield.  We had some tough plays to make and didn’t quite get it done.  Overall when you give up one run you figure you have a chance to win.  We were able to keep holding them at one and found a way to get done on offense.”

 

Published 5/02/17

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Crawford Wins Sixth Straight

  

          Jake Johnson went six innings allowing two runs on five hits and Colonel Crawford won its sixth straight game in topping Buckeye Central (3-2) in New Washington on Monday in Northern 10 Athletic Conference action.

          Ethan Studer’s two run double in the third inning gave the Eagles the lead (2-1) and Johnson made it stand up.

          Crawford coach Joe Swartzmiller says they have found some momentum over the last couple of weeks.  “We have kind of turned things around, which is good to see come tournament time.  Our overall play has been pretty good,” he said.

          The Eagles play Lucas in their first tournament game next week.

          Colonel Crawford (10-7,6-6) struggled a little bit earlier in the season, but Swartzmilller says they have made some changes in the lineup and that has been a big difference for the ball club.  “The lineup has changed since earlier in the season,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night after the win, “We have put people different places and we have tried to get comfortable that way.  Now that we have got settled here the last couple of weeks things have just took off.”

          Johnson walked four and stuck out six on the day in throwing 105 pitches.  Swartzmiller says it was a difficult day to play with all of the wind, but Johnson did a good job in keeping himself loose.  “Jake threw well.  He threw strike after strike after strike.  He had a little bit of trouble in the second inning.  In between innings he just got cold.  He just got loose outside the dugout there.  He threw really well,” said Swartzmiller.

 

Published 5/02/17

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Baseball Match-ups determined

 

          Area Baseball coaches gathered Sunday to place their teams on the bracket for tournament play, which starts on Saturday.

          Of the 17 teams in the division one bracket will cover just two of them, both in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.  Ashland (7-11,) the nine seed plays at Holland Springfield on May 8.  Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says it should be a good match-up.  “Springfield and us are very similar teams with similar records.  It’s a rematch of last year’s sectional when we went up there and beat them, so it should be a good game,” he said.  Mansfield Senior, who is the last seed, plays at 16th seeded Lima Senior on Saturday.

          In division two, Northern Ohio League leader Shelby (17-3) is the top seed, Vermilion (16-3,) the Sandusky Bay Conference bay division leader the second, Bellevue (14-6) of the “NOL” third and Lexington (12-7) on the “OCC” fourth.

          “It was nice to get the number one seed.  We were able to secure home field advantage throughout the district, but that is about all the number one seed gave us because in this district you can throw all the seeds out the window.  I’ve coached football and baseball for 10 years now and I can’t think of a more challenging and competitive district or region then this one.  It’s anyone’s tournament and it should be fun,” said Shelby coach Jon Amicone.

          The first round match-ups on the field of the higher seed all take place on May 10.

         Shelby hosts 16th seed Port Clinton and the winner plays either Huron, the 11th seed, or Clyde, number six.  Also in the upper bracket Bellevue hosts number 14 Tiffin Columbian and 12th seeded Sandusky is at 8th seeded Mansfield Madison, (9-10) on the season.  “We were happy to get to play a home game.  However, we have had to fight and claw for every win this year, so Sandusky won’t be easy.  They have some really good players and are extremely athletic.  We will have our hands full,” said Madison coach Doug Rickert.  “I think this district is a very competitive one and our first round match-up exemplifies that with Columbian.  They beat us earlier this year so I am sure that factored into why they put themselves with us.  If we are able to get by Columbian, we have the winner of Madison and Sandusky, which is another tough match-up.  Whoever gets out will have to earn it,” said Bellevue coach Andy Dennings.

         Lexington won this district last year.  “We wondered which way three seed Bellevue would go.  We figured they would go to the Vermilion side, but they chose Shelby.  We got Upper Sandusky opening round, which was favorable.  If we move on we have to face the winner of two dangerous teams in Norwalk and Perkins.  There are several teams that have a shot to win this.  When we are healthy and the defense is good we can play with anyone,” said Lexington coach Kevin Morrow.

          In the lower bracket, 13th seed Upper Sandusky is at Lexington, with winner meeting either Sandusky Perkins, number nine, or Norwalk (12-5,) number five.  “Our seed was about what we expected,” Norwalk coach Wes Douglas told Swankonsports.com on Sunday, “We look forward to playing our best ball of the season.  We play Perkins this Friday and then play them again the first round.”  In the other half, 10 seed Kenton is at Ontario (11-7,) the seventh seed, and Vermilion plays host to Fostoria, the number 15 seed.  “Pick your poison bracket.  If the 10th seed currently sits tied for second in the Western Buckeye League, that speaks volumes for our district,” says Ontario coach Jeff Fisher.

          Down south in the Central District Jonathan Alder (17-2) is the top seed.  The Pioneers play either Linden McKinley or Whitehall-Yearling on May 11.  Other Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference teams have first round games on May 9, Highland hosts Columbus Beechcroft, Buckeye Valley is at home for Amanda-Clearcreek and River Valley hosts Columbus East.

          As far as division three goes, Northern 10 Athletic Conference leader Seneca East (17-2) earns the top seed, Clear Fork (11-9) of the “OCC,” a state tournament qualifier last year is number two, Galion (12-7) of the tough red division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference is third, and Edison (9-9,) of the equally good bay division is fourth.

          In the upper bracket, Margaretta plays at Carey on May 10, with the winner getting Seneca East at their place on May 12.  Western Reserve also plays at Galion on the 12th.

          Seneca East coach Rick Bowerman says they have to play well, no matter who they play. “The draw went about exactly as I thought it would.  Galion wanted to stay away from Clear Fork, as they play a lot of D-one and D-two schools.  Overall, I am pleased with how the brackets look.  Once you get to tournament time, you know you are going to face top-flight pitchers, so you have to be mentally ready for that,” said Bowerman.

          “I really didn’t have a good choice as we had Seneca East on one side and Clear Fork on the other.  I chose to put myself in the bracket with Seneca East as I think Clear Fork’s tough schedule prepares them for tourney play.  We will have to see later if the reasoning works out,” said Galion coach Phil Jackson.

          In the lower bracket, Willard travels to Bucyrus on the 10th, with winner playing at Clear Fork on the 12th.  “We are very happy with the second seed.  We play Bucyrus or Willard.  If we win we play the winner of Edison and Crestview,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.   The other game in the lower bracket does have Crestview and Edison.  “I think the draw went as I expected it to and we face a really good Edison team that is 9-9 like us,” said Crestview coach Don Keener.  Edison coach Sean Hoover says something similar “The tournament draw turned out about as I expected.  There are a lot of good teams in the district and we will have to come ready to play against Crestview,” he said.

          In the Central district in division three Fredericktown is the top seed, followed by Worthington Christian, Centerburg and West Jefferson.

          All of the first round games are May 8.  As far as “MOAC” teams are concerned Centerburg hosts Grandview Heights, Elgin is at Pleasant, North Union entertains Johnstown Northridge, Northmor is at home for Utica.  Okay, there is one game May 6 and that has Columbus Bishop Ready at Mt. Gilead, and the winner plays Fredericktown two days later.

          Among the small schools in division four, the top two seeds are Firelands Conference co-leaders New London (14-5,) number one, and Norwalk St. Paul (15-4,) number two.  Plymouth (14-4,) also of the Firelands is number three, followed by Ridgeway Ridgemont at number four.

          “We will probably meet Ridgemont in the semis.  I don’t know much about them, but will try to scout them before we play them,” said New London coach Tony Hamilton.

          Upper bracket games include, Mansfield St. Peter’s, the 11th seed, at number nine South Central on May 9, the winner plays New London on the 11th.  Seventh seed Wynford plays at sixth seed Crestline and Ridgemont hosts 13th seed Mansfield Christian, both on May 9, with the winners playing May 11.

          On the other side, number 12 seed Lucas plays at number five Colonel Crawford on May 9, with the winner getting Plymouth on May 11.  “We know Colonel Crawford is a very solid team from our game against them earlier this year.  We will have our guys ready regardless of who we play,” said Plymouth coach Jason Higgins.  Colonel Crawford coach Joe Swartzmiller says the postseason is always the most fun time of the year.  “We played Plymouth early in the year, so we have some familiarity with them.  I will find out more about Lucas this week so we have a scouting report for the kids.  I am looking forward to Lucas.  It has been some years since we played them once we went to different conferences.  It should a fun tournament,” said Swartzmiller.  Meanwhile, 10th seed Monroeville plays at number 8 Buckeye Central on May 9 and winner plays Norwalk St. Paul on the 11th.  “We were fortunate enough to earn a home game and that’s always something we strive for.  Our kids have worked hard and deserve the opportunity to host a tournament game.  We play a very solid Monroeville team and we know we will need to play our best,” said Buckeye coach Chad Jensen.

          In another D-four district where the final is at Clyde High School.  Mohawk is the number one seed, New Riegel number two, Tiffin Calvert number three and Hopewell-Loudon number four.

          In the upper bracket on May 9, Vanlue, the ninth seed, is at Fremont St. Joe, number 7, with the winner playing Mohawk on May 11.  The other two games on May 9 in that bracket have Old Fort, number 11, at Tiffin Calvert and Maumee Valley, the 13th seed, at North Baltimore, number 6.  The winners of those two games play at the higher seed on the 11th.

          As far as the other bracket, St. Wendelin, number 14, is at Arcadia, the 10th seed, on May 9 and the winner plays New Riegel on the 11th.  On May 9, Danbury Lakeside, number 12, is at Hopewell-Loudon and Sandusky St. Mary’s, number eight, is at Kansas Lakota, number five.  The winners also play the 11th.  

          There are few schools we cover in the Central District in division four.  They all play May 11.  With Danville, the fifth seed, hosting the Wellington School, East Knox, the “MOAC” blue champ and the number two seed, hosting Gahanna Christian, and Cardington, the number six seed, at home for Ridgedale.

 

 

Published 4/30/17

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Softball Tournament Parings

 

          Veteran softball coach Chuck Huggins calls May “Championship Month” and with good reason that is when league championships and tournament titles are won.

          Those tournament match-ups were determined on Sunday through a series of seed meetings across the state.  Seeds were already voted on electronically.

          In division one, there are two schools in the Northwest District we cover in Mansfield Madison and Ashland.

          Madison earned the six seed and will host the number seven seed, Oregon Clay, in a first round game on May 6.  The winner would meet either Lima Senior, 16th seed, or Holland Springfield, the fourth seed, in the district semi final.

          “We figured that we would be anywhere from the three to six seed.  We got six and play Oregon Clay, who is a very good program.  We should be in for a great ballgame,” said Madison coach Tim Niswander.

          Ashland is the number 10 seed and will play at Findlay, number 8, also on May 10.  If they win they will play either Toledo St. Ursula or Toledo Notre Dame.

          In division two, Clear Fork is the number one seed, Bellevue is number two, Clyde number three and Upper Sandusky is number four.

          There are five teams in the upper bracket.  In a semi-final match up on May 9 Ontario is at Norwalk, in a battle of “NOL” schools.  The winner would play at “NOL” leader Bellevue on May 12.  Vermilion plays at Upper Sandusky, also on May 12.

          In lower bracket semi finals on Clear Fork hosts rival Lexington, the number 10 seed, in what would be first of a possible three meetings next week, and number six seed Shelby is at home for Mansfield Senior, the 11 seed.  Those games are on May 9.

          On May 12, the Clear Fork-Lexington winner plays Tiffin Columbian, the ninth seed, on the field of the higher seed, and either Shelby or Mansfield Senior plays at Clyde.

          “We made the choice to play a first round game as opposed to taking a bye to give our kids an early opportunity to play in the tournament atmosphere.  Our first round opponent will certainly give our kids that taste as our opponent Lexington is a familiar foe.  When Clear Fork and Lexington play you can usually throw the records out the window before the game even starts.  We will certainly be tested,” said Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried.

          “We are super pleased with how things turned out for Shelby softball at our tournament draw.  No matter what we knew we would end up facing a good, traditionally strong program.  Whoever makes it out of the Edison district will be a tough, well tested softball team,” said Shelby coach Natalie Huggins.

          In the division three tournament Colonel Crawford is the top seed, Margaretta number two, Galion is the third seed, and the number four seed is Crestview.

          “It was an honor to receive the necessary votes from our opposing coaches and earn the number one seed in our D3 tournament at Lexington.  But, with that said, in all my years of coaching, I have never seen that number one seed win any team a single, solitary game.  It’s definitely an old cliché, but it is ole so true.  Everyone goes back to a 0-0 record come tourney time so we are absolutely gonna need to be at the top of our game and earn whatever we can each and every game out,” said Colonel Crawford coach Chuck Huggins.

          Upper bracket play begins with number nine Fostoria at number eight Huron on May 9.  The winner plays at Crawford on May 12.  Also on the 12th seventh seeded Wynford is at Edison, number five.

          In the lower bracket, 10th seed Bucyrus is at Margaretta on May 9.  The May 12 games have the Bucyrus-Margaretta winner playing Galion and Willard, the sixth seed, at Crestview.

          In division four, the number one seed is Lucas, the number two seed is Monroeville, number three is Crestview and Mohawk in number four.

          The match-ups look like this.  In the upper bracket on May 8 Mansfield St. Peter’s, the 13 seed, is at sixth seeded New London and Norwalk St. Paul, the 12th seed, is at number five Seneca East. 

          May 11, Lucas hosts the St. Peter’s versus New London winner and Crestline awaits the St. Paul-Seneca East winner.

          Now in the lower bracket, Mansfield Christian is at South Central, Buckeye Central at Mohawk, and Western Reserve at Plymouth, all on May 8.  In the second round the Mansfield Christian-South Central winner is at Monroeville, May 11, and the winners of the other two games also meet.

          In another division four district in the NW District, Gibsonburg is the top seed, New Riegel is the second seed, number three is Old Fort and Kansas Lakota is number four.

          In the match-ups, in the upper bracket on May 8th Sandusky St. Mary’s is at Tiffin Calvert.  The winner gets Gibsonburg on May 11.  A second game on May 11 has Danbury Lakeside at Kansas Lakota.

          Lower bracket games on May 8th Fremont St. Joe is at Northwood and Cardinal Stritch is at Hopewell-Loudon.  New Riegel hosts the St. Joe-Northwood winner and Old Fort gets the Stritch-Hopewell-Loudon winner.  Those games are May 11.

 

Published 4/30/17

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Lexington With Tough Week

  

          Lexington must be playing one of the toughest schedules in North Central Ohio this week.

          They lost twice to Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Mt. Vernon (6-4) on Tuesday and (7-5) on Wednesday and now the play Shelby (17-3), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday in a non-conference game.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says he wants to play as many good teams as he can each spring.  “Playing good teams is the only way you are going to find out if you are legit or not.  I have learned that from some other coaches I have talked to.  Coach Rastetter, the former wrestling coach at Lex.  He always said go after the big ones.  It so happens that this year we had a big one enter our conference so we play them automatically.  It just worked out that we also play Shelby that also has an outstanding record the same week.  We are looking forward to the challenge.  It is also a possible preview to things down the road in the tournament.  Shelby is going to be one of those teams you are going to have to go through to advance,” said Morrow.

          The Minutemen (12-6,6-4), #3 in our poll, lost to Mt. Vernon, #2 in the poll, on Wednesday after giving up a seven spot in the second inning.  Morrow want proud of how they kept fighting to come back.  “One thing that we talk about is the mental toughness and being able to bounce back and hang in there to the end.  I was real proud of them for that to come back from seven runs down.  Austin Eifrid has just been lights out for us all year.  He developed some soreness in that second inning and just didn’t have his usual stuff.  He couldn’t put the ball where he wanted to.  You knew with a team like Mt. Vernon that just hits and hits some more.  So, it got out of hand quick,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Jake Depperschmidt came in there, he is a sophomore that we have been excited about, and stopped the bleeding.  We started to chip away at the end.  We had a chance to tie it up and actually had the winning run at the plate.  So, we weren’t quitting against a really good team.  Hopefully, against Shelby we can stop that big inning.  We had two big innings against Mt. Vernon that cost us that got away from us.  We had some errors and a walk and a big hit, so hopefully that doesn’t happen against Shelby on (Friday.)”

          Lexington won the division two district title last season and is going to be a factor this spring too.  Morrow says they have a good chance to get a home game, but repeating that district title is going to be tough.  “We have some success since they have started that home team higher seed deal.  That is always fun to start out on your own field.  It is going to be another meat grinder.  Shelby and Vermilion are up there, of course, Bellevue.  I tell people a lot don’t sleep on Madison they are sneaky good.  They spit with us and they just swept Clear Fork and that is a team you don’t want to run into in the tournament.  I think we are in the upper half of the bracket, so we should get that higher seed advantage.  We just have to get ready to play some good baseball as May comes around because it is one and done with the tournament, so we want to make sure we are playing at our best and finally get healthy by then,” said Morrow.

 

Published 4/28/17

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Ontario Gets Past Tiffin

  

          Ontario beat Tiffin Columbian (7-6) in a Northern Ohio League baseball game on Thursday.

          The Warriors (11-6,3-5) has been involved in a lot of one run games this year and coach Jeff Fisher says it was nice to be able to get one of those on Thursday.  “It could of went either way.  One thing that I have seem this year is there is a lot of teams that any given night can come out with a victory.  No matter how it shapes up.  Being able to get that one run win against Tiffin was good for us,” he said.

          With about a month left in the school year there can be a lot of distractions.  Fisher says they have been doing a pretty good job of staying focused on what they are supposed to be doing baseball wise.  “You have to make sure you are on the growth side of things.  When you get to this time year kids can see the light at the end of the tunnel academically with school, prom is past, the weather turns, you know all of those external factors can really undermine a locker room.  It takes a lot of extra work for our young guys in any high school situation at this time of year, especially in Ohio to keep things going forward here.  With tournament time knocking on the door it is better to be on the upswing rather than looking for answers,” said Fisher.

          The draw meeting for the division two baseball tournament is going to be on Sunday.  Fisher believes with non-conference wins against teams like Madison, Lexington, and Clear Fork will help his team earn a seed that will put them at home for the first round.  “I would like to lay eyes on all 16 teams at one point.  That is just hard to do in the spring to evaluate and see teams first hand.  You are going to have to go off black and white paper and count on other coaches who played some of the other teams up north.  I think we have put ourselves in a position to host a first round game based on the quality of our schedule playing “OCC” teams when we aren’t playing “NOL” and having some success,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “Winning more than 10 games and putting ourselves in position to possibly host is a goal for us.  We have to wait until Sunday and bracket it up.  So, hopefully that works out.  I think the goal for each of us in the tournament is to get to Heidelberg.  Hopefully, in the next week and half we will do everything possible to get yourself shaped up for that.”

 

Published 4/28/17

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Plymouth Rips Seneca East

  

          Plymouth has proven this season they are a force to be reckoned with on the baseball diamond.

          On Thursday, they hammered Northern 10 Athletic Conference leader Seneca East (19-9) in six innings in non-conference play.

          Coach Jason Higgins says they played some good baseball, especially on offense, and they may have caught Seneca East on a bad day.  “The biggest thing is I want stay Seneca East that is a great program, a great team.  We played really well (Thursday) night.  They probably didn’t play their best game.  If we played them 10 times I don’t know how many times we win, but luckily (Thursday) night for us we came out on top.  We swung the bat well, we had some timely hits, and we ran the bases well.  We took advantage of some mistakes they were making that I am sure they usually don’t do and we came out on top,” said Higgins.

          There probably weren’t many people talking about the Big Red (13-4) at the beginning of the baseball season, but they have been pretty consistently good over the first month.  Higgins says they have been telling their kids how good they can be.  “We tell our kids that the potential is there.  They had some struggles last year in baseball, they had some struggles in their other spots, but we feel like we play good baseball.  When we play a clean game we feel like we can play with about anybody,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “It is a mentality thing.  If you can get through the kids heads and tell them you guys can play ball and you guys are capable of beating some really good teams things kind of work out.  We are really excited about the guys and how hard they are working this season.”

          The tournament draw is on Sunday throughout the state.  Higgins hopes they can get a pretty good seed and he hopes the coaches take into consideration what they did on Thursday night too.  “At this point we are kind of thinking St. Paul and New London probably will get the seeds over the top of us.  Ridgemont has a similar record.  Unfortunately on our bio that we submit this win over Seneca East will not be there.  I watch the scores every night and I know what teams are doing and hopefully other coaches are looking at those scores and seeing that we can play with the big boys,” he said.

 

Published 4/28/17

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Norwalk Still Looking to Improve

  

          Norwalk hammered Willard for the second straight day in Northern Ohio League baseball, but they really still aren’t where they need to be yet on offense.

          The Truckers scored early and often Thursday in beating the Flashes (24-2) and they had beaten them (20-4) on Wednesday.

          Coach Wes Douglas says they still aren’t hitting the baseball all that hard.  “We are still looking to get them going.  We did score a lot of runs.  To be honest we didn’t square up too many balls.  Not as many as I’d like to.  We still had a few too many strikeouts in there.  We are winning the games we should.  We are working hard on improving and I think the guys understand that we still aren’t where we need be offensively.  We have six, eight, 10 games to go here and we are still hoping to get better before the season is over,” he said.

          When it comes to their hitting, Douglas says they have to have more confidence when they get to the plate and if they have that they are going to have better pitch selection.  “The two things I see, I think our mechanics are pretty solid, there are a couple of things we can tweak a little bit, but I think our confidence and our pitch selection which comes with confidence when they are guessing a little more,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “Our pitch selection has been a little better here the last four or five games.  We are swinging at strikes and taking balls.  I think most of it is confidence and try to get some of these younger guys better.  A few of our older guys are starting to grove it a little bit.  Mitchell Perry is up over .400 and Quinn Hipp is up over .400.  So, we have a few guys, but to win big games you have to be 1-9 with some quality at bats.”

          It’s a deep division two district tournament again this season.  Douglas believes they have a good chance to get a high seed and be home for the first round of play.  “I see us getting the five or the six in there somewhere.  In the last 30 games I think our program is 24-6 and those six losses have come to three teams.  Two to Shelby, two to Bellevue and two to Lexington.  To win our league title you usually have to go through a Bellevue or a Shelby.  To move on in the tournament you have to get through one of them or a Lexington or a Vermilion this year and some other quality teams in there that you have to play well to beat.  I think we have positioned ourselves to be home for the first round and then we will see who we end up with after that,” said Douglas.

 

Published 4/28/17

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Lady Colts Bounce Back

  

          A night after dropping a one run decision to Madison, Clear Fork bounced back to down the Lady Rams (8-2) on Wednesday and keep themselves in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

          Catcher Haylie Miller hit two home runs and the Lady Colts scored six runs in the first two innings.

          Madison beat Clear Fork (5-4) on Tuesday and the Lady Colts trailed Mt. Vernon by two games.  Clear Fork coach Jeff Gottfried says Wednesday night was a game they absolutely had to win and his girls came ready to play.  “We knew we didn’t play very well (Tuesday) night.  We kind of felt like we left some things out on the table that needed to be accomplished.  Our number one goal was to defend that conference.  I know it is a new year and it really isn’t defending you have earn the next one.  Our kids took the loss pretty hard (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t play very well.  We didn’t hit the ball very well.  Basically our backs were against it.  We couldn’t afford another loss.  To get that conference title back here at Clear Fork again with two losses with now four games to go we know we have to win out,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on Wednesday, “Our kids came ready to play in that first inning.  I think we were nice and relaxed and we made some great adjustments from (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t have time to practice so you pretty much had to verbally go through things pre game.  Our kids responded very well with what we suggested they do and it showed by the way we played (Wednesday) night.”

          Gottfried says they came out focused and were able to put the pressure on Madison right away.  “Leading off the first inning Carson Crowner hit the ball hard to the third basemen and put some pressure on them with her speed.  They misplay the ball so we get on that way and we advance the runner to second base.  She steals third and we just play the way that we play.  Haylie Miller connected on one in the first inning and put us up 2-0 and gave a nice start.  We didn’t quit.  Caitlynn Hilverding drove in Macy Wade with our third run of the first inning.  I think Madison knew from then on we were going to bring it.  We put three more runs on the board in the second.  We hit the ball.  We had seven hits as compared to (Tuesday) night when we only had three and played much, much better defense (Wednesday) night.  Like we told the girls when you pitch and play defense you are going to keep yourself in a lot of ballgames,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork (15-2,8-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays first place Mt. Vernon next week and finishes against Lexington.

          Gottfried says his kids are coachable and they tend to respond very well.  “We made the adjustment at the plate.  We thought this is the approach they were going to use because we saw what they did (Tuesday) night.  The basically pitched us the same way.  Our kids, give them credit, we made suggestions for them, this is what you need to do, this is the way they are going to try and attack us.  We need to turn it around and start attacking them.  The kids did that they listened very well.  High school sports is all about momentum and it was on our side early and stayed on our side all night long,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Madison Edges Clear Fork

  

          Cal Rickert scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Cameron Finley in the top of the 10th inning and Madison got past Clear Fork (5-4) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday night.

          Cal walked with one out in the 10th, stole a base and advanced to third on a single by Hunter Galbraith.  He scored what turned to be the winning run on Finley’s bunt.  Gavin Adkins, Madison’s fourth pitcher of the night, got the Colts 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th for the save.

          This is Clear Fork’s last year in the “OCC” and Madison coach Doug Rickert felt it was a big win for him and his program.  “It is huge because we have had great games all of the way through.  We talked to our kids about the history here.  When they won the state championship (2010) we are the only undefeated team ever in “OCC” history and when we came here that night we were able to beat them.  I’ll never forget Mike Siwek’s three run homer that night.  We told them that every game we play they are going to be well coached and they are going to be ready to play.  They are going to make a strong tournament run.  There is no doubt about it that that team can get all the way to state again.  We have really been battle tested,” He told Swankonsports.com on the field after the game, “We have had so many one run ball games.  Early in the year we wouldn’t have won this game, no way we would have won this game.  Right now they just believe in themselves and we are getting production out of other kids finally and we are making our plays.  In ten innings we gave up four runs.  We will take that anytime.”

          Madison (9-9,5-4) scored first in the game on Trenton Mortimer’s two-out RBI single in the top of the second.  The Rams would add another run in that inning on an error.  Clear Fork would make it (2-1) in when Hunter Boyer scored when Mortimer threw the ball away trying to pick him off third base in the fourth.  Madison went back up (3-1) when Cal Rickert scored on a passed ball in the top of the fifth.  Mortimer came up with another RBI single in the sixth to make it (4-1) Madison.

          The Colts (11-9,6-4) were down to their last out in the bottom of the seventh when Mitch Dulin came through with a two-run single and pinch hitter Jarrod Smith added a run scoring single.

          Both teams had their in extra innings.  Madison left them loaded in both the eighth and ninth and the Colts also left the bags juiced in the ninth.

          It was small ball that turned the trick in the 10th and coach Rickert says they were ready to execute.  “We missed some bunts early that we were a little frustrated with. Cameron Finley can handle the bat as well as anyone on our team.  That was an excellent squeeze bunt on a really, really tough pitch.  We had some big plays in the game.  We talked about that being a really big play.  I thought Cal (Rickert) getting home on that little passed ball with a big play.  You don’t realize you have to add a run every time out.  We were a little frustrated that we didn’t get some bunts down.  In the ninth we left them loaded and they left them loaded.  It was one the best high school games I have been involved in,” said Rickert.

          Logan Daniels and Layne Berrier relieved starter Chase Jessee and Gavin Adkins came in to get the last three outs in the 10th.  Rickert says they made some big pitches.  “Layne Berrier has been a very good pitcher for us.  His arm angle was down, he was walking some guys and we brought in Logan (Daniels) he is a strike guy and he got us out of a jam.  He was wearing down just a little bit.  We were able to come back with Gavin (Adkins) who hasn’t pitched in a while and I thought he was fantastic in the last inning throwing strikes and making them hit the baseball,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Galion Beats State’s Top Team

  

          Garrett Kuns went the distance and scattered six hits as Galion handed Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference red division leader Jonathan Alder just its second loss of the season in beating the Pioneers (5-2) in a conference game on Wednesday.

          Tigers coach Phil Jackson knows the significance of the win on Wednesday.  He says the Pioneers are a tremendous team and he is very proud of his kids.  “That was a huge win.  People up here don’t know much about Alder, but they are a perennial power.  They are currently ranked number one in the state.  Our kids came ready to play (Wednesday) like I have not seen in quite some time.  I was pleased with out approach,” he said.

          In order to beat a team like Jonathan Alder you have to be at your very best.  Jackson says his kids were focused on Wednesday.  “You have to have that mentality.  You have to be focused in your pre game activities and have your mind right.  You know, these guys are kids we are working with.  Throughout the day the go through girlfriend-boyfriend problems and school work and things like that.  When they get to the field they have to be able to flip that switch and focus on the game ahead,” he said.

          Kuns did not walk anybody and gave up only one extra base hit against Alder.  Jackson says he has been getting great leadership from his seniors.  “That is something we have worked on for the past couple of years.  I think we have really developed that.  Garrett Kuns pitched a gem (Wednesday) and he was a little behind at the beginning of the season because he went to the state championships in wrestling,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win over Alder, “So, that really put us behind and we struggled for a couple of weeks.  The other seniors stepped up and now he is starting to do the same.  We are starting to jell as a team.  We are playing good baseball right now.”

 

Published 4/27/17

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Crestview Blanks Western

  

          Crestview shut out Western Reserve for the second time in two days beating the Roughriders (10-0) on Wednesday at home in Firelands Conference play.

          Shad Rieck did a marvelous job keeping the Western hitters off balance all day on Wednesday.

          Crestview hurlers have not given up an earned run in about a week.

          Coach Don Keener says their guys on the mound have had good command and they haven’t kicked the ball around much either and that is a good combination.  “They have been lights out as far as pitching goes.  This is our third shutout in a row I think and the previous game before that we didn’t give up any earned runs and unfortunately we lost, but we still got some solid pitching and solid defense, which is obviously very important at this time of year.  Guys are really starting to hit their spots and we are playing pretty good defense too,” said Keener.

          Crestview beat Western (4-0) on Tuesday and Norwayne (1-0) in eight innings on Saturday.  Keener says they haven’t been doing anything special.  They are just doing their jobs.  “I think the guys that we have got throwing for us are getting really comfortable.  We have Gavin Wuthrich, our senior, and Shad Rieck, our sophomore, that are our one and two and then Jay Oswalt has been kind of our middle reliever and filling in as our third starter and he has been throwing really well also,” he told Swankonports.com on Wednesday night, “Those guys have really been letting their defense work and not trying to do too much and I think they are really doing a nice job.”

          The Cougars chances of winning the Firelands Conference aren’t very good, trailing co-leaders New London and Norwalk St. Paul by four games, but Keener says they are starting to put some things together.  “This is the time that you have to be playing well.  The last two weeks of the season I guess you could say has definitely been our best time of the year.  These guys are hopefully peaking at the right time.  We are going to have a really tough sectional that we are going to be in, but we are playing pretty good baseball right now,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Northmor Explodes in Seventh to Beat Mt. Gilead

  

          Northmor scored 13 runs in the seventh inning and they rallied to beat Mt. Gilead (18-8) in a blue division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Wednesday.

          Trailing by three (8-5) entering the top of the seventh inning the Golden Knights were able to get on a roll.

          Coach Buck Workman says his kids never give up until the final pitch and that was evident on Wednesday.  “That is the thing about our kids I don’t think we have ever given up.  We fight to the last out and (Wednesday) was no different.  We were down 8-5 and we led on the seventh with a walk and a home run and we were back within one.  You could just seem them gain and confidence and we just kept going and we put up 13,” he said.

          Northmor (8-10,4-8) has won its last three games and Workman says his kids are getting into the grove a little better at the plate.  He says the blue division has some pretty good arms.  “The thing is our league is pretty impressive.  Top to bottom every night is a battle.  You are going to struggle to get hits on some nights when you face Mack Aglin (Highland) Monday and the kid is going to Clemson.  He held us to five hits and struck out 10.  It is just not easy,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “Then you have to adjust to some different pitching (Wednesday) night.  The kid we saw we saw earlier in the season too and he is pretty decent.  You have to make adjustments and it took us a little while to do so.”

          You are not going to score 13 runs in an inning very often.  Workman says they have to better at doing the little things that will end up in them scoring runs.  “I think our kids are hitting the ball pretty decent right now.  What I want to see is better execution on bunts and moving runners and doing the little things like we need to do to be successful.  We have a good enough hitting lineup when they are on.  We just need to do those little things better,” he said.

 

Published 4/27/17

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Whippets Win Again; Shutout Ontario

  

          Shelby posted its 11th straight win on Tuesday when they beat Ontario (3-0) in Northern Ohio League play.

          The Whippets (16-3,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, remain unbeaten in “NOL” games and on the verge of defending their league title.  A win next week against Bellevue will give them no less than a share of the title.

          Coach Jon Amicone says he is proud of how focused his team has been this year.  “I think our kids have a good approach to the game.  They handle themselves really well.  They know how they want to go into a game.  They know what to expect.  They know what is expected of them.  They have done a really good job of coming to the game ready to play.  That is all you can ask as a coach.  They know when it is game time it is time to get focused and do the job,” he said.

          Again the Whippets got outstanding pitching from senior starter Garrett Caudill and closer Brennan Armstrong, headed to Minnesota to play college football. 

          Amicone says Caudill got them out of two big jams on Tuesday.  “We went with our senior leader and Garrett Caudill threw five shutout innings.  We were very fortunate.  They had the bases loaded twice with nobody out and got no runs.  He really buckled down and was able to throw his three pitches.  He is not going to overpower you with his fastball, but he has a lot of confidence in his change up and his curve ball and will through them at all times,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “He makes it very uncountable batting.  He was able to keep them off balance and really did it when he needed it the most.  We booted the ball around a little bit and it was Garrett that bailed us out on the mound.  He got some strikeouts and ground balls to get us out of some innings.”

          Amicone says Armstrong, who has accepted the closer’s role with the team this year, was up to the challenge as well.  “We do not win the game (Tuesday) night without Garrett Caudill on the mound for the first five innings.  A lesser pitcher probably gives in a little bit and maybe doesn’t throw his off speed stuff.  Those were two key innings.  It was Garrett’s pitching that got us out of those key innings.  The last two innings we were able to throw Brennan (Armstrong.)  It really worked out for us that this was our only league game this week.  We were going to stretch Brennan a little more to a two inning save.  He did a great job and came in an struck out four batters in two innings and really pounded the strike zone and did his job as the closer,” said Amicone.

          Having a week off of league play in maybe not the best thing, but Amicone says they have things to work on.  “You want to play those league games when the team is feeling good and the beautiful sunny days that we have had this week you want to keep playing these league games.  Unfortunately that just wasn’t in the cards.  It is out of your control, so you those have to prepare and work on the small things and what you need to do to win.  We have Upper Thursday and a really good Lexington team on Friday that we are excited to play.  Then next week we will play Galion, so we have three games to sort of prepare us for that Bellevue game.  We don’t expect to let up,” said Amicone.

 

Published 4/26/17

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Mt. Vernon Now Two in Front

  

          Mt. Vernon railed with a big sixth inning and beat Lexington (6-4) in a crucial Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday.

          The win over the Minutemen coupled with a Madison (2-1) win over Clear Fork gave the Yellow Jackets a two game lead in the conference standings.

          Being at home on Tuesday, coach Rob Gross thought it was an especially big win for his team.  “That what we focused on when I talked to the guys.  I was thankful that the first game of the home and home was at our place.  Lexington came in playing very good baseball.  Their pitching has been solid.  They typically play good, fundamental baseball team.  I have known (Lexington coach) Kevin (Morrow) for a long time,” said Gross.

          Gross is a former coach at Crestview.  Morrow played his high school sports at South Central.  They are both members of the Firelands Conference.

          The Mt. Vernon coach says they had to come up with some late inning magic to get the win on Tuesday.  “They had us on the ropes.  We scored first and they had one fairly big inning after two outs and had some clutch hits and put up three in the third.  We didn’t score again until the sixth,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “Their pitcher (Jared) Strickler did a very nice job (Tuesday) night.  Luckily in the sixth we were able to get it going and string some hits together.”

          Mt. Vernon (14-3,8-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, has produced more than one rally this season.  They beat Wooster (12-11) last week with a sixth inning home run.

          Gross says they have confidence they can do things late in games because they have been there before.  “I kept waiting.  I thought it might be a little earlier.  We had a couple situations, but we just couldn’t string it together.  We were just waiting for our time.  We have had some games this year where we have kind of exploded for a big inning and luckily we were able to do that (Tuesday) night in the sixth,” he said.

          The Yellow Jackets face a trip to Lexington (11-5,6-3), #3 in our poll, on Wednesday where they will likely face their ace Austin Eifrid.  Gross knows that will be a tough assignment.  “We enjoy this one (Tuesday) night with this win at home.  Lexington has shown all season.  They lost a tough game to Wooster on their first night and they came back and shut Wooster out and Wooster has a good ball club.  We are going to have our hands full, but it will also be nice for us to hopefully dig in and get us one on the road (Wednesday) night,” he said.

 

Published 4/26/17

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New London Takes Sole Possession

  

          Peyton Wilson hit a two run homer as part of a four run first inning and Ryan Lane made it stand up as the New London Wildcats handed Norwalk St. Paul its first Firelands Conference loss and took sole possession of the conference lead with a (6-1) win over the Flyers on Tuesday.

          They play again at St. Paul on Wednesday.

          Lane and Derek Smith also had RBI hits in the first inning for the Wildcats.

          Coach Tony Hamilton says it was a huge win for his club against a very good St. Paul baseball team.  “It was a big win for us.  We were able to jump out early.  We started out the game with four extra base hits, including a home run by our clean up hitter and jumped out to a 4-0 nothing lead.  They made a pitching replacement and they slowed us down a little bit, but we had Ryan Lane on the mound and he as able to hold them to two hits and had 12 strikeouts and we ended up winning.  It was a good win for us,” said Hamilton.

          New London has started to play better offensively and get some big hits.  Hamilton says that first inning explosion made everybody more comfortable.  “It is a big relief.  We really haven’t jumped on a team like that all year with that big an offensive surge.  Everything was just right for us.  We got the right pitches.  Guys hit the ball where the other team wasn’t and we were rolling there for a while,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night after the win, “St. Paul came in and kind of slowed us down a little bit, they are a very good team.  With the momentum we had and the pitching we had it was too much for them.  (Wednesday) we are going to have to go with our number three pitcher and we will see what happens.”

          New London (13-3,9-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at St. Paul (13-3,7-1), #3 in our poll, on Wednesday in the rematch.

          Hamilton says he feels with what happened on Tuesday that puts more pressure on the Flyers, who would fall two back if they lose to the Wildcats again.  “I really wanted to get this one, so the worse we could come away with this week is a tie in the conference.  So, we got that first one.  I think there is more pressure on St. Paul now than there is us, so hopefully that will be a factor in our favor where we will be able to come out play relaxed and make some plays defensively and get some key hits,” he said.

 

Published 4/26/17

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Hillsdale Holding First Place

  

          A (5-3) win over Waynedale on Tuesday night gives Hillsdale a two game lead in the Wayne County Athletic League baseball standings.

          They lead both Northwestern, a (6-4) winner over Rittman, and Chippewa, a (3-2) winner over Smithville, on Tuesday in the league standings.

          They play have yet to face either the Chips or the Huskies in league play this year.

          Waynedale (9-7,4-3) is the defending league champion and Hillsdale coach Mike Wolf says they had to be prepared mentally after a tough (3-2) eight inning loss to Northern Ohio League leader Shelby on Monday.  “Waynedale is the division three state runner-up and our defending league champion as well.  Our kids didn’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves because we knew we were facing a pretty good team (Tuesday) night,” he said.

          Hillsdale (13-2,7-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, built a pretty good lead Tuesday night through six innings, but Wolf says they had to hang on for dear life at the end.  “(Tuesday) night we were leading (5-0) going into the seventh.  We got one out and the next you know there is a walk, a hit by pitch, and the next batter hits a three run homer and it is 5-3,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Then we bring in our kid that hasn’t given up a run in 16 innings and he walks the first batter and the next guy gets a double down the line, so they have second and third and one out.  Garrett Goodwin proceeds to strikeout a pinch hitter and get the final out on a fly ball to leftfield.  So, it was interesting.”

          Hillsdale has played teams like Shelby and number of top teams from around the country when they were in South Carolina last week and Wolf believes that helps them in games like Tuesday night.  “I think our schedule up to now has helped us in those types of games because we have played a pretty competitive schedule and have been in that situation more than once,” said Wolf.

 

Published 4/26/17

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Buckeye Gets Ridgedale

  

          Brady Biglin went seven innings allowing one run on five hits and Buckeye Central beat Ridgedale (3-1) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference baseball game on Tuesday.

          Coach Chad Jensen says Biglin realized his potential on Tuesday night against the Rockets.  He says now he has to build on that.  “We got a great start from Brady Biglin, one of our sophomores.  He has been up and down this year for us.  We are just continuing to work with him.  He has tons of potential and he finally put it all together (Tuesday) night.  He only threw 84 pitches in seven innings.  He was throwing three pitches for strikes and kept their kids off balance.  We knew what we had in him.  It was just a matter of him adapting to the varsity game and just getting out there and throwing strikes, just having great confidence.  He did a great job (Tuesday) night.  I think it is a sign of things to come,” said Jensen.

          Buckeye (7-12,2-8) has struggled at times, like a (19-1) loss to Carey in conference play on Monday, but Jensen says there have been some bright sports.  “Our kids compete everyday.  They compete and they play hard.  They do what is asked of them.  There are times we look like we are going to turn the page and then we do a couple of things that inexperienced teams do, but I think it is part of the process.  The one thing that I love about this team is they are coachable, they listen, they do what is asked of them, and they make mistakes, yes, but we correct it, and they don’t make it again.  We are in that process were we are just continuing to teach and coach these guys up and just teaching them how to play at the varsity level.  We do see signs of turning the corner.  We struggled the last couple of games we played, but we did great (Tuesday) night, so it one of those things were just have to continue to improve.  That is all we talk about everyday is improve each day,” he said.

          Buckeye plays Bucyrus (6-8,3-7) on Wednesday in “N10” play.  The Redmen lost to Colonel Crawford (5-4) on Tuesday.

          The OHSAA has introduced a pitch limit for kids this year.  Jensen says it has definitely affected the way he manages the pitching staff.  “It has affected us quite a bit.  The one day rest thing, the 31-50 range, that is where it has affected us.  I generally don’t pitch a kid of 125 pitches anyway, usually it is not even over 100.  So, the back end hasn’t affected us, but it is that over 30 range, that is where it has affected us.  (Monday) against Carey I had to take kids out, Carey got us pretty good, so I didn’t want to waste our arms in case I needed them (Tuesday) night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “I had to get them out under 30.  It has really affected us in that 30 to 50 range where if you go over 30 you have to have a day of rest.  You just have to be more cautious because generally a kid that a kid can throw 35 pitches and most of our kids could throw the next day, but it is illegal now.  That has been the biggest change that zero to one day rest.”

 

Published 4/26/17

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Seneca East Solidifies Lead in “N10”

  

          Seneca East took a two game lead on the field in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference with a big (5-1) win at home over second place Mohawk on Monday.

          Chase Chapman went the distance allowing one run on five hits, striking out five and walking three for Tigers.

          Coach Rick Bowerman says it was a very important win for them and it is the kind of game you look forward to playing in.  “We knew going in that Mohawk had a very good team.  They were on a roll and we had been playing well.  That is why you play the game for.  These are the fun nights.  We came out and did what we had to,” he said.

          Mohawk scored in the top of the first, but the Tigers would come back to tie it at 1-1 in their half on a RBI hit by Bo Smith.  Then the Tigers took command by scoring four times in on four hits and two errors.  Zach Aichholz and Matt Daniel had RBI hits for the Tigers.

          Bowerman says they were able to take care of some situations.  “They are a very good hitting team.  They came right out of the shoot at the get go.  Harper singled and they ended up scoring him.  We were able to come back and score a run in the first and add some in the second, they had a couple of miscues,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night after the win, “Chase Chapman, our pitcher, threw a whale of a game.  From the second inning on he was on and the defense came up with some key plays.  Pitching and defense will win it for you if you can score a couple of runs and that’s what we did.”

          Momentum is huge in high school baseball and Bowerman says it was a big key to respond the way they did.  “When the visiting team scores right away they have the momentum and for us to come back and be able to counter and push a run across.  Then come back in the second inning and be able to shut them down that way it kind of put the momentum in our court and we kept that momentum for the rest of the game,” said Bowerman.

          Seneca East (15-1,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at Mohawk (12-2,7-2), #4 in our poll, on May 3 and Bowerman says that game is going to be just as important as we get down toward the end of the regular season.  “We have them next Monday over at their place.  I am sure they are going to be gunning for us.  It will be exciting.  It will be a lot of fun,” he said.

 

Published 4/25/17

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Madison Plays Clear Fork Back to Back

  

          The next two days baseball rivals Madison and Clear Fork lock horns in back to back games in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          They play at Madison on Tuesday and at Clear Fork on Wednesday.

          Over the last 25 years, Madison has been the best big school baseball team in North Central Ohio, but this has not been one the Rams (7-9,3-4) best years.

          Veteran coach Doug Rickert says they are willing to learn the game and than is going to be the key to their improvement.  “We haven’t been very consistent.  We have preached consistency, mental toughness.  We have done more work this year than maybe we have in the last couple of years in teaching.  We have had to do a little more of that, especially when it comes to hitting.  The good news is I really have a bunch of kids that have been willing to work and willing to learn and willing to listen.  In the course of a baseball season there just isn’t a lot of time.  It’s 27 games in six weeks, so you do as much as you can and sometimes you are doing it before and after a game.  We are getting there.  We are getting better, but we aren’t where we want to be yet,” said Rickert.

          After graduating some pretty good players last year, Rickert says they really haven’t had a lot of guys step up into positions on the field.  “I think the toughest thing for us is we haven’t had anybody in some of our spots really take the job.  Somebody shows signs and then they fall off a little bit and the other guy shows some signs.  We have had to play just about everybody.  We have had a lot of different lineups,” he said.

          Defense and especially pitching have been good for the Rams, but Rickert says the hitting has been the problem area this spring.  “It has really been hitting.  Our pitching has been fairly consistent all year.  The batting average against us is only .240 something, which is fantastic.  Our ERA is around 3.00.  We just haven’t been consistent hitting and we have made a couple of errors at crucial times and what happens when you don’t hit everything is magnified because one error becomes a really big deal because you can’t hit your way out of it,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I have had some teams that have made some mistakes defensively before, but no one remembers then because we scored four, five, or six runs.  It is kind of tough on the kids because they put a lot of pressure in themselves to make plays.  We don’t have strikeout pitchers, so when you aren’t striking guys out you have to field the ball 18 times you are going have a chance to make a lot more mistakes.  There was a time there when we had guys striking out 13, 14, 15 guys and we only had to field six, eight times a game.  We just haven’t been able to get a lot of keys hits this year.”

 

Published 4/25/17

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Highland Downs Northmor

  

          Highland has won four its last five games after the Scots downed Northmor (5-1) in a blue division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Monday.

          Mack Anglin went the distance of the Scots scattering five hits and giving up one unearned run to get the victory.

          Again Highland hit the ball pretty well as they picked up 13 hits, three from Lane Ballard, and two from Anglin and Sam LoPiccolo. 

          Coach Donnie Kline says they are starting to feel more comfortable at the plate over the last week.  “We are a very young team.  We have five sophomores in our everyday lineup.  There have been some growing pains, but it is starting to click for the boys a little bit.  Conference play is always tough, going on the road is always tough, going to a place like Northmor.  We got some hits (Monday) and it is starting to click for the boys.  We are playing pretty good baseball,” he said.

          The game was tied at 1-1 after four, but the Scots scored two in the fifth on back to back two out hits by Reese Weissenfluh, Anglin and Ballard.  Single runs were scored in the sixth and seventh on RBI hits by Max Schreiber and Matty Reid.

          Highland (9-8,6-4) batters are going to plate with a plan in mind, according to Kline.  “I try to get guys to play disciplined and how to approach guys that are 17, 18 years old and who are experienced in getting guys out.  They are going up there with a plan and trying to get something done for the offense and that is really important, it really is.  Varsity baseball is a tough sport.  The more reps they are getting the game is slowing down for them.  They are trying to understand that.  We are definitely improving,” said Kline.

         The post season tournament starts in May and Kline says hopefully they can make some noise.  “We certainly hope so,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night after the win over Northmor, “The goal for our team every year is to play our best baseball at the end of the season.  We are getting that way.  If you are going to make a run in the tournament you need solid pitching and catching and good defense.  We are working towards that and now the offense is staring to wake up a little bit.  The boys are starting to use the stick the right way.  We are getting there.  It will be interesting.  It will be a lot of fun.  If the boys can get hot at the right time it will be fun to play in May and into June.”

 

Published 4/25/17

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Lady Whippets Remain in Contact

  

          Shelby got a win they absolutely had to have on Thursday as they rallied to beat Tiffin Columbian (11-10) on a walk off single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

          The Lady Whippets remain two games behind league leading Bellevue in the league standings.

          Trailing the whole game, the Lady Whippets came up with the win on Rachel Ensman’s walk off single.

          Coach Natalie Huggins says it was an exciting win and they are kind of pumped up about it.  “We talked (Thursday) night about that is wasn’t an ugly win, it was an exciting win.  We always say there is no such thing as a bad win sometimes it is ugly,  (Thursday) night you can’t even say it was ugly it was just exciting.  It was back and forth.  It was not the game that when we woke up this morning that we anticipated having, but very proud of the battle that we got into and coming out triumphant,” said Huggins.

          Wins like this can be important to a softball teams.  Huggins says the way things played out can be an injection of confidence for the team.  “Our confidence has been improved in knowing that we were not ahead ever in this ball game until we won.  So, just understanding that we have that fight in us and that we were able to execute when needed.  I want to give a big shout out to Camryn Zehner,” she said after the win on Thursday night, “She tore her “ACL” this winter and her first game back was (Thursday.)  She has been rehabbing like crazy.  She led off the seventh with a walk and gave us the opportunity to get that base runner on when we were tied 10-10.  So, the fact that Camryn got in (Thursday) and we had that walk off it was a huge confidence booster.  It was just a very good feel good game.”

          Shelby (12-4,6-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, plays Mansfield Senior on Friday, weather permitting, and Madison in a doubleheader on Saturday.  They play Wayne County Athletic League power Hillsdale on Monday and return to “NOL” play against Ontario next Tuesday.

          Huggins says a plus for them has been the depth and versatility of their lineup.  “I think our offense is very potent and definitely one of our strengths.  We are big believers in hitting is contagious, but we are also big believers in one through nine can bunt the ball and one through nine can get us that clutch hit when we need it.  We don’t have any less confidence the further down the lineup we go.  I think that is a big part of our offense,” said Huggins.

 

Published 4/21/17

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Shelby Remains Unbeaten in “NOL”

  

          Shelby maintained its two game lead in the Northern Ohio League baseball standings with a (6-2) win over Tiffin Columbian on Thursday evening.

          Shelby remains unbeaten in the league and holds a two game lead over Bellevue.  The Redmen were to play Ontario on Thursday, but their game was called due to rain.

          Coach Jon Amicone says the Whippets seem to be in a good grove really for the first month of the season.  “I think our kids are playing extremely hard.  I think they know the goals that have been laid out in front of them.  As a coaching staff we are very pleased about where we are heading mentally and the way they are approaching the game right now with a lot of focus and a lot of determination,” he said.

          Shelby (12-3,8-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, has been very consistent this season.  Their only losses are in weekend doubleheaders to Vermilion and Ashland. 

          Amicone says they work on hard on the mental part of the game and he feels that has worked very well for them this season.  “That is something we are really trying to coach in our kids the mental aspect of the game.  Baseball is really a game against yourself.  You are the one that has to make the plays, you are the one that has to put the at bats together, you are the one that has to pitch,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “You are playing against someone else, but you are really playing against yourself.  We really try and instill that with our guys and be the best they can be in every pitch and every play.”

         Shelby hosts Mansfield Senior (1-11) in a non-conference game on Friday, weather permitting, play always good Edison in a doubleheader on Saturday, and Wayne County Athletic League leader Hillsdale on Monday.  They return to “NOL” play Tuesday at Ontario.

          Amicone says they need to understand they haven’t accomplished anything yet.  “We have got to reiterate that fact to our players probably everyday that no goal has been accomplished yet.  We don’t want to wait for a score and see who is beating this team or that team we just need to focus on ourselves to compete at a very high level as much as we can during “NOL” games.  The baseball saying over the years is it ain’t over until it’s over.  Our guys have done a good job to put ourselves in a nice position, but they have to continue to work and continue to strive,” said Amicone.

 

Published 4/21/17

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Mt. Vernon Maintains “OCC” Lead

  

          Tim Zeller’s solo home run in the bottom half of the sixth inning game Mt. Vernon a (12-11) win over Wooster Wednesday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball action.

          The win allowed Mt. Vernon to maintain its one game lead on both Lexington and Clear Fork.  The Minutemen beat Ashland (10-3) and Clear Fork got past West Holmes (5-4) also on Wednesday.

          Mt. Vernon had built an (11-4) lead, but the Generals battled back to tie the score (11-11) in the sixth, before Zeller’s blast gave Mt. Vernon the lead back.

          Wooster (8-5,5-3) had beaten the Yellow Jackets (8-0) on Tuesday night giving them their first league loss and Mt. Vernon coach Rob Gross says he wanted see his kids fight back.  “I think all of the way around and even in building that big lead early I wanted to see how we would respond.  We went to Wooster (Tuesday) night and frankly didn’t play well.  They kind of put it to us.  We came out and got that 11-4 lead and unfortunately had some hiccups there, but we responded.  It is always great to see a senior leader like Tim Zeller step up.  He hits that home run and we set them down in the seventh inning.  The old thing is you will take a win anyway you can get it,” said Gross.

          If you are going to win conference titles sometimes you have to get some breaks.  Gross says the Yellow Jackets (12-2,7-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, took advantage when they had the chance on Wednesday.  “I have been in that situation before and sometimes you have to be lucky.  You have to have some breaks go your way and I felt like (Wednesday) night we did.  I felt like we hit the ball well enough to win.  Unfortunately we didn’t defensively.  You are not always going to be able to shut them out,” he told Swankonsports.com after the comeback win, “That is what I try and tell the kids it is not always going to a 13-0 score and it is easy going.  Sometimes it is going to be tough.  We were fortunate enough to get that tough one (Wednesday) night.”

          When you make some mistakes you have to get past them and Gross feels they did that.  He says that is a game they could have easily lost.  “We try to preach that.  I know that is tough sometimes with teenage kids to try and get over that emotional situation.  I think a lot of our kids are able to do that.  That showed (Wednesday) night because otherwise we could have easily went down because when they tied it we could have easily sat on our hands so to speak and gave up that game.  I told them, hey, I want you to make the next play and don’t take what happened in the field to the plate and vise versa.  That is something we just try and preach all of the time,” said Gross.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Lady Colts Continue to Roll

  

          Darian Gottfried scattered eight hits in going the distance and Caitlynn Hilverding went four for four with four RBI and Clear Fork smoked West Holmes (10-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game on Wednesday.

          They trail Mt. Vernon by a game in the “OCC” standings.  The Lady Yellow Jackets beat Wooster (11-1) on Wednesday.

          Again on Wednesday there was some late inning magic for the Lady Colts as they scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth highlighted by a three run homer by Haylie Miller, her sixth of the season.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they have been able to come up with that big inning lately, especially late in the game.  “We haven’t gotten off to fast starts, but we have scored a run maybe in the first, second or third.  We are not putting crooked numbers up, but we are getting one or two here or there.  It does seem as of late when we get to those late innings we will put a crooked number up like we did (Wednesday) night,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “It was 5-1 going into the bottom of the sixth and we put up a five spot.  I mean it was huge.  We got a big three run home run from with two outs from Haylie Miller.  That was a back breaker.  A 5-1 ballgame West Holmes still feels like they are in it.  That home run was definitely the deciding blow.”

          Miller has developed into as a good power hitter as there is in local softball.

          Darian again did her normal outstanding job.  Her dad says she knows what she has to be successful.  “They hit her all over the place (Tuesday) night.  They had eight hits.  They had more hits than we did.  I didn’t feel like they hit it as well (Wednesday) night.  She battles.  She knows she isn’t going to dominate as a pitcher.  She relies on her defense.  She is gutsy, very gutsy, that is the best way to describe her.  She has a lot of confidence out there and really trusts what her battery mate in Haylie Miller calls and they go at it,” he said.

          Clear Fork (14-1,7-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, faces a big series with rival Madison next Tuesday and Wednesday.

          Gottfried says they are in stretch drive now.  “They said we only have three weeks left?  And I said, yeah.  It’s crunch time now.  We have Madison, we have Mt. Vernon, and we have Lex.  I mean they are stacked up.  I mean it is one game at a time.  I just had to remind them we are past the halfway point of the season.  I think they still think we are in the gym, I don’t know,” said Gottfried with a smile on his face.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Colts Get Past West Holmes

  

          Jarrod Smith and Gavin Bailey combined to throw four plus innings of shut out baseball out of the Clear Fork bullpen and the Colts rallied to beat West Holmes (5-4) Wednesday in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball.

          The win keeps the Colts (9-7,6-2) a game behind conference leader Mt. Vernon, who beat Wooster (12-11) on Wednesday.

          West Holmes marched 10 players to the plate and scored four times in the third inning chasing Clear Fork starter Dylan Wade.  Brendan Bridenthal, Shane Jones and Eric Hanna all had RBI hits for the Knights.

          However, Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says the bullpen was able to save the day.  “Dillon didn’t pitch the game that he was able to pitch.  I think he is in a little bit of a pitching slump.  He’ll get out of it.  He just needs to work a little harder.  We are down 4-0 and I am thinking we don‘t want to waste anymore pitchers what am I doing to do?  Then Jarrod (Smith) kind of kept us in the game.  We made some plays and then we had the big inning,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We are still struggling offensively.  When we have the bases loaded and our clean up hitter is up and he pops up to the first basemen that kind of makes me concerned.  We were able to have some two out hits finally that we haven’t had this year.”

         Clear Fork got four of their own in the fourth, highlighted on a two-run single by Hunter Auck.  They then took the lead in the fifth when two errors and a hit by Luke Clark loaded the bases.  What turned out to be the winning run scored on a sacrifice fly by Bailey that plated Jared Lind, but turned into a double play when A.J, Blubaugh was thrown out at the plate.

          Bailey came in with a runner of first base and nobody out in the top of the sixth and was able to stand two runners by striking out Brigger Cline.  He walked two guys in the seventh but was able to retire Drew Campbell on a line drive to right to end the game.

          Staab says they have been wanting to use Bailey as a close this year.  “That is what we have been planning all year for Gavin to do is to come in when we get the lead and shut the door down and that’s what he did.  It was a little tense at first.  We still have to teach him the pick off moves and the bunt coverages, but it is only game 16,” he laughed.

         Injuries continue to be a concern for the Colts.  Leadoff hitter and centerfielder Thomas Staab, the youngest son of the coach, was injured when he was hit by a pitch on Saturday against Olentangy Orange.  He suffered a hairline fracture on this leg.

          Coach Staab says they need to continue to find ways to score runs and stay in games.  “It has been baby steps.  We lose Luke (Clark) and you hate to talk about injuries.  I think the kids are getting over the fact that we ain’t going to have Thomas (Staab) for at least three weeks, so we are going to have to manufacture some runs and get to the top of our order up so we can get some runs in and do the things we are supposed to do.  It is starting to happen now, so we hope that it continues,” he said.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Hillsdale Wins Again

  

          Hillsdale completed its third sweep in Wayne County Athletic League action with a (11-1,) five inning whipping of Norwayne on Wednesday night.

          The Falcons have been one of the more consistent teams in North Central Ohio this season and coach Mike Wolf says he has been happy with the kid’s focus.  “We are pretty pleased with the consistency they have shown throughout our early season.  We had one big breakdown down at Myrtle Beach, but other than that I have been super pleased with our effort game in, game out,” he said.

          Norwayne (7-4,4-3) is a contender too in the league.  Wolf says it was a huge series for them in the way it played out.  “(Tuesday) night sort of set the tone because they threw their ace against us and we were fortunate enough to come out with a victory against them even though we committed five errors,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night. “Then (Wednesday) we had our ace Jay Luikart on the mound and he pitched a three hitter and we were able to put the ball in play quite a bit.  We were aggressive on the bases (Wednesday) night and that was cool to see.”

          Hillsdale (10-2,6-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, is good and when you are talented sometimes you can become complacent.  Wolf says that has not been the case with his kids.  “The one thing that I really like about our kids this year is they are always trying to get better.  They are never satisfied.  Every opportunity we get in practice situations our kids are trying to get better than they were the previous game and that is pretty nice to see out of this group,” said Wolf.

          After a couple of days off, Hillsdale will host Northmor, Mansfield Christian and Waterford on Saturday.  Wolf says they want to keep that momentum going.  “Our next two games we are having our Hillsdale slugfest this Saturday, so we have three teams coming in and hopefully we can get that in because that is always a good time for us,” he said.

          Now, in the slugfest on Saturday all of the teams will be using wood bats.  Wolf says they like the uniqueness of the format.  “We went to a wood bat format a couple of years ago.  It kind of breaks up the monotony of the season.  The teams that come in really like it.  The offense is a little less than normal and makes the games go a little quicker.  We are playing four games in one day on our field,” he said.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Madison Belts Mansfield Senior

  

          Madison hammered Mansfield Senior for the second straight night (10-0) in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball on Wednesday.

          They had beaten them (13-0) on Tuesday.

          Coach Doug Rickert says he thought they had pretty good focus against the Tygers.  “We told the kids before the game for whatever reason a lot of times this year we have played to the level of our competition.  Taking nothing away from Mansfield Senior.  We thought we played well against Lexington and we played well against Vermilion and we played well on the spring trip we thought against a Calvary Day team that travels all over the place to play and ended up beating them.  We played another team on the spring trip that we didn’t think was good as we lose 5-4.  So, our mentality (Wednesday) night was we have to start playing baseball games here every night the way we want to play them.  Fortunate for us we were able to do that,” said Rickert.

          Last week, Madison (6-8,3-4) played in the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  They went 3-3 and Rickert says they were either good or bad, there was no in between.  “When we played well we played really well and then we had a couple of down moments.  It was basically it was the games when we didn’t throw strikes.  When we throw strikes this year we have been in every game.  We had a couple of games there where we didn’t throw strikes and we got beat.  We walked eight in a game and we lost 5-4,” he told Swankonsports.com after the Mansfield Senior game, “The games where we threw strikes we won the games.  Chase Jessie is a kid will give you all he has, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together.  Fortunately the last game down there against Buckeye Valley he was as good as we have seen him and we were able to win a 1-0 ball game.  He has lost a couple of one run games this year.  He struck out 13 and only gave up one hit.  So, if he can emulate that for another start.  If he throws strikes he is really affective.

          Madison plays Norwalk and Clyde in a tri on Saturday in what should be some good games.  Rickert says they have to continue to hit the ball.  “I think we are starting to hit the ball a little bit better down there.  I really thought it started on Saturday before we left.  I thought we hit the ball really well against Vermilion.  I thought we hit the ball pretty well down there.  I thought our approach was better and hopefully we continue to do that this weekend,” he said.

 

Published 4/20/17

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Galion Rallies to Belt Marion Harding

  

          Trailing (3-2) going to the fifth inning, the Galion Tigers scored six in the fifth and three more in the sixth to beat Marion Harding (11-3) in a red division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Wednesday.

          Will Donahue had four RBI and Mac Spears went the distance on the mound and scattering eight hits, walking three and striking out six.

          Coach Phil Jackson says they are limiting their mistakes, they had only one error on Wednesday, and that is allowing them to take advantage of their offense.  “We are eliminating some of the silly mistakes that early in the season were costing us.  Early we were out hitting some of our opponents two to one and still finding ways to lose the game.  It seems like lately we have cut down on a lot of those mistakes and put the ball in play when we needed to.  My seniors have stepped up and we have really got some timely hitting, so the runs are starting to show on the board and some meaningful at bats, so I am very happy,” said Jackson.

          Tiger hitters only struck out four times on Wednesday and Jackson says when you put the ball in play some good things can happen.  “There are a lot of good high school players around, but they will kick the ball and boot the ball around a little bit if you just hit a hard ground ball at them good things will happen.  Balls will squeak through gaps when you try and eliminate that strikeout.  We work on two strike hitting hard to have our kids to be able to take that approach where you are still going to take a swing, but you are going to do something for the team you are going to put that ball in play,” he said.

          Galion (8-5,5-3) has put together a five game winning streak and remains on the edge of the race in the red division, three games behind leader Jonathan Alder.

          Jackson says they have been getting good pitching lately too and that has been a big plus.  “The stats aren’t always the full story.  I have a great couple of pitchers in Mac Spears and Garrett Kuns.  Mac threw all seven innings (Wednesday) night against a really tough Harding team and just battled the whole time.  I was a really tight zone, but he was locating really well.  I am very happy with the way he is devolving,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the game, “Garrett Kuns is 4-1 right now.  We are rolling.  Winning five straight makes everybody feel really good.  We have a couple of young pitchers that are starting to deal a little bit, so I am very happy with that.”

 

Published 4/20/17

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Lexington Gets Closer

  

          Lexington rallied Tuesday to beat Ashland (5-2) and climb to within a game Ohio Cardinal Conference leading Mt. Vernon.

          After surrendering two runs in the first inning, Lexington shutout the Arrows over the final six innings to come up with the win.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says they were able to settle down and start to do the things they have been doing all season.  “That is how we have been winning, mostly on pitching and usually some pretty solid defense.  We had a little bit of a meltdown the first inning and Ashland made us pay for it.  They pushed two across, but we kept it there.  After that we didn’t really let too many opportunities happen for Ashland and that kept us in the game and we were able to tie it back up.  In the sixth we pushed three across to beat a tough Ashland team that is very well coached,” said Morrow.

          Morrow says any win over Ashland (6-6,2-5) is a good one.  He says they were able to gain confidence as the game went along on Tuesday and get the win.  “We were a little disappointed in that first inning.  I just felt welt we were a little bit flat.  We just weren’t ready to go.  I don’t think Ashland even hit it out of the infield, but they just kept putting pressure on us with some small ball.  My message was hey don’t let that get you down, don’t let it get you frustrated, just have confidence and keep playing.  Our pitchers have just done an outstanding job this year at usually keeping it to one or two runs to give us a chance.  We just have to get these hits rolling and try to put up five, six, seven runs a game instead of just trying to squeak by.  In the sixth inning we were able to get a big inning put together and push some runs across,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “It is a tough Ashland team that we have spilt with every single year that I have been coaching because they are well coached.  They are just going to make you make mistakes and they are going to push you and they are going to do some small ball and they are going to come through with a clutch hit.  It feels good to win this first one against Ashland, that’s for sure.”

          Lexington (9-3,5-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Ashland on Wednesday.  Wooster’s (8-0) win over Mt. Vernon on Tuesday gave the Yellow Jackets their first “OCC” lost of the season.

          Morrow says they are right in the race for the conference title.  “Every one of these games is so important.  You can’t look past anybody.  You are going to be in a dogfight with everyone, especially with Ashland.  It sounds like good news with Mt. Vernon getting a loss.  It gives us some hope that this thing is still very much wide open.  We just have to keep playing game by game and hanging these “OCC” wins to give ourselves a chance,” he said.

 

Published 4/19/17

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Big Win Keeps Lady Eagles in Share of First

  

          Colonel Crawford downed Carey (5-1) on Tuesday night and they remain in a share of first place with Upper Sandusky in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference softball standings.

          Last Wednesday, Colonel Crawford lost to Seneca East (1-0,) that is their only loss of the season.

          Veteran coach Chuck Huggins, who won his 600th softball game last Saturday against Crestline, says they learned a lot from that loss that they can take forward for the rest of the season.  “I really think the Seneca East game was a good teaching game for us.  When you lose you are going to learn some things and I think we learned a lot in that game.  First of all, we let a good ball team hang around with us and the longer they hung around with us the more confidence they got and being the home team that night they were able to scratch one across in the bottom of the seventh and gave us our only loss of the season,” said Huggins.

          Huggins says they did not let Carey hang around on Tuesday and they were able to take advantage of some things on offense and get some clutch hits and that was a key.  “We learned from that and we realized you have to take advantage of opportunities and I thought we were very opportunistic (Tuesday) night.  It was just a great high school game between two great programs.  No mistakes, there were no errors in the whole entire game.  We had some timely hitting in some key spots and Carey didn’t and we were able to come out ahead,” he said.

          Colonel Crawford (11-1,6-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the small school division, plays Bucyrus again on Wednesday.

          Huggins says Monday night they hit the ball well and that is what they have been doing most of the season.  “Just like the other night against Bucyrus we scored 13 runs and when I got home and looked at the scorebook we had 13 runs and nine different kids scored those 13 runs.  The more productive you can be up and down your lineup the better off you are going to be offensively.  You don’t have to rely on the top of your order or the meat of your order.  Once you get down there in six, seven, eight, nine you are still productive and you can put some runs on the board,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night after the win over Carey, “That is the kind of team that we have this year.  I can go deep in my bench and if I need a good pinch hitter or something done in the short game I feel very, very confident in the kids and the kids have confidence in themselves and each other and confidence goes a long, long way in all athletics in the success of kids.”

 

Published 4/19/17

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Lane Dominates South Central

  

          They might even get him presents and it’s likely the rest of the Firelands Conference can’t wait for Ryan Lane to graduate.

          He was first team all Swankonsports.com in basketball and he is even better in baseball as he proved again on Tuesday.  He is headed to Kent State University to play baseball next year.

          Tuesday, he struck out the first nine South Central Trojans (5-7,2-4) he saw and New London went on to beat the South Central (10-0) to remain in first place in the Firelands Conference.

          New London coach Tony Hamilton says Lane was in command on the mound the entire night against South Central.  “We have a really good chance to win when he is on the mound.  When you have a guy that has that kind of talent, that kind of size, and in high school throws 90 MPH.  He has only walked a couple of guys all year.  (Tuesday) night he was just extra special.  He struck out the first nine batters.  He had 13 strikeouts in six innings, so he was really at his best,” said Hamilton.

          One thing that is clear about Lane is that he works hard to get better.  Hamilton says every year he has been a better pitcher than he was the year before.  “As a freshman he was about a .500 pitcher and threw in the low 80’s, but you knew with the work ethic and the talent that he had that he was going to get better.  His sophomore year he kind of came into his own,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “Last year, he was even better and this year he has gotten stronger.  He has added three or four MPH to his fastball.  It is really impressive to watch him pitch.”

          New London (8-2,5-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, hammered South Central (13-2) on Monday night.  Hamilton says they really starting to come into their own at the plate too, including Lane.  “Ryan has hit the ball really well right now too, which is an added bonus.  We have two or three guys that seem to be seeing the ball good.  We have a couple of guys that seem to be able to get on base.  We have been able to put that together and have some high scoring game here the last two games,” he said.

 

Published 4/19/17

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Ontario Blanks Sandusky in “NOL” Play

  

          Avery Fisher and Jake Gleason combined on a one hitter as Ontario shutout Sandusky (4-0) in Northern Ohio League play on Tuesday evening.

          Ontario lost to Ashland in a non-league game on Monday and coach Jeff Fisher says it was good to come right back and play well on Tuesday night.  “Considering our mood just 24 hours ago where we put on a circus clinic if you will against Ashland.  We threw the ball around and threw it everywhere and every which way.  For us to come back (Tuesday) night and play errorless baseball and really kind of dominate from the mound like we did was unforeseen yet with a young club you never know what you are going to get.  I think (Tuesday) night we saw are potential realized a little bit,” said Fisher.

          Ashland beat Ontario (9-3) on Monday and Fisher says it was about a 180 degree turnaround for the ball club on Tuesday and that is what they needed in league play.  “We were fortunate the next one was (Tuesday) night.  We didn’t want to think about the Ashland game any longer than we did that would have been troublesome.  Our kids fought hard,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “They put the ball in play more efficiently (Tuesday) evening and defensively they played pretty well.  To go against Sandusky that we think is one of the better clubs in the league, the top four guys in their lineup are good, but we were on.  This was a good night for us.”

          Fisher went the first 6 and a third with nine strikeouts.  Gleason finished up by getting the last two outs.

          Coach Fisher says Avery settled down after a rough start in the first inning of the game when he had some concerns with his command.  “It didn’t start that way.  Avery Fisher was our starter and this was his first start of the year.  He had a 26 pitch inning where he was just sort of fighting consistency.  After the first inning he just continued to get stronger throughout.  We have been looking for one or more to add depth to our top two in Hatfield and Gleason to give us some length.  This was certainly a shot in the arm for the Warriors,” said Fisher.

 

Published 4/19/17

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Plymouth Fights Back

  

          After being blown out by rival Crestview on Monday, Plymouth fought back and edged the Cougars (1-0) in Firelands Conference action on Tuesday.

          The win keeps them on the edge of the conference race, three games behind New London and Norwalk St. Paul.

          Coach Jason Higgins says they had to show some guts and some more heart than they did on Monday and they were able to do that.  “Monday night was probably one of the worst games we have played all year.  I told the guys we have another game with Crestview and you are going to come back and I am going to look your in the eyes and you are going to be a group of guys that are going to lay down and take it again or man up and play a good baseball game the next day,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Tuesday, “Luckily for us we showed a little heart, we showed a little desire, and we showed a little passion.  We played a really fine game.”

          Higgins says they were able to field the ball better on Tuesday and they got a good performance on the mound from senior pitcher Austin Nester.  “There wasn’t a tone of earned runs on Monday.  I think we gave up between three and five earned runs.  Austin Nester, my senior pitcher, really did a great job.  I think he gave up six hits, had a decent number of K’s.  He got ahead of guys.  He was above 66 percent strikes, which is about the number you want to be at.  Keep your pitch count down and pitch to contact and try to get guys out,” said Higgins.

          Plymouth (8-4,3-3) plays at Western Reserve (7-5,3-2) on Thursday in more Firelands Conference action.  Higgins says they need to keep winning if they are going to reach some of their goals.  “We have two huge games with Western Reserve on Thursday and Friday. We are there on Thursday and back at home on Friday.  They are key games.  Every one of them is a key game.  You have to get that record up so you can sell yourselves when you are getting seeded in the tournament.  You never know what is going to happen in the conference.  You always want to be competing,” he said.

 

Published 4/19/17

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Seneca East in First Place by Themselves

  

          Seneca East belted Upper Sandusky (9-3) in Northern 10 Athletic Conference baseball game on Monday.

          The win, combined with a Wynford loss to Mohawk (7-6,) gave the Tigers a one game lead on both the Royals and the Warriors.

          Upper (7-8,5-2) has put together a five game winning streak going into Monday’s game and Seneca East coach Rick Bowerman says they went into the game with a goal.  “Upper has been playing well lately and we came in and played well,” he said.

          Kesey Johnson two hits and three RBI for the Tigers and Zach Aichholz and Matt Daniel had two hits and two RBI for Seneca East.

          It was 3-0 Seneca East after two innings and Bowerman says they made a big play on defense in the bottom of the third to preserve the lead and then went on from there.  “As we have said hitting in contagious and we scored in five of the seven innings and we had runners on base in six of the seven innings.  We had a couple of big defensive plays.  We were up 3-0 in the bottom of the third and they get the first two guys on and they hit into a 1-5-3 double play, which we executed very well,” he told the Swankonsports.com after the win on Monday, “Then we strike out the next batter to get out of that one.  That takes us into the fourth inning where we score four runs.  In the bottom of the fourth after a leadoff walk we get a strikeout and a 4-6-3 double play.  When good things happen it just seems like they pile on each other.”

          Danny Bowerman earned the win for the Tigers on Monday. 

          Seneca East (10-1,5-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, plays at home against Upper on Wednesday in the rematch.

          The Tigers are known their good pitching and Bowerman says their work on defense has been solid this season too.  He says those double plays, like they got on Monday really kill rallies.  “We have turned a lot of double plays this year.  That is something we work on in practice a lot.  It is a rally killer for the other team and it’s a big momentum burst for our team,” he said.

 

Published 4/18/17

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Mohawk Dumps Wynford in Big “N10” Game

  

          Mohawk scored four runs with two out in the top of the sixth and they outlasted Wynford (7-6) in a huge Northern 10 Athletic Conference game on Monday.

          Wynford lead (3-1) after three, but Austin Harper tied with a two run homer in the fourth.  The Royals, the defending conference champs, retook the lead (5-3) in their half of the fourth on RBI hit and a sacrifice bunt.  Harper drove in a run in the crucial sixth and Carson Weinandy gave the Warriors the lead on a two run double.

          Mohawk (10-1,7-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, trails Seneca East by a game in the conference standings.

 Coach Eric Hoover says they got the big plays when they needed them the most.  “It was up and down.  They took the lead early.  We got some momentum and we were able to come back and tie it and they came right back.  We were able to make the last run in the sixth inning.  We made some plays on defense to get out of a jam there in the seventh.  They were knocking on the door again in the seventh,” he said.

          Wynford (4-5,4-1) got back to back singles from Caleb Stone and Wyatt Smith with one out in the seventh and Blake Williamson drove in a run, but Hoover says they were able to make a heads up play.  “We got a big out in the seventh inning.  They had a hit and scored one run and we cut the run at home.  We got to it quick enough that they couldn’t score.  We got a guy trying to get to second base and got an out there.  That was a huge out for us and then we only needed one,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win Monday night, “We took away some opportunities that they would have had to score on us on a sacrifice fly to tie it.  Just being heads up and having that play and connecting on it, that was huge for us.”

          Because of that play a fly ball was the last out of the game instead of a possible game tying sac fly.  Hoover says there are just so many fundamental plays in baseball.  “We had good awareness on the play.  We knew where runners were and had good communication.  (Tanner) Osborn at second was talking that there was a possible play there.  We had some other opportunities to make plays and we didn’t.  We had four errors (Monday) night and we were able to overcome those and made a couple of tough plays and did just enough to win,” he said.

 

Published 4/18/17

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Madison Back Home; Gets Win Over West Holmes

  

          Madison spent last week in sunny and warm South Carolina playing softball and improving and Monday night they went out and beat West Holmes (6-2) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Tim Niswander says the Lady Rams (8-4,3-2), #5 in the Swankonsports.com softball coaches poll in the large school division, did got some timely hitting and solid defense on Monday night.  “West Holmes does a really good job swinging the bat and they are solid defensively, so it is one of those games were you have to do all of the little things right to get a win, especially on the road.  Our kids played well.  McKenzie Mullins pitched really well and we made some plays defensively behind her.  Then we were able to get a couple of timely hits that scored some runs.  Mullins had a based loaded two run double.  Then we had a suicide squeeze that was followed up by a three run homer.  The timely hitting coupled with some good defense really helped us (Monday) night,” said Niswander.

          Madison went 6-2 on their trip to Myrtle Beach of spring break and Niswander says it could have been better than that really.  “The two games that we lost I think we had an opportunity to win and they were really good teams.  Moore Catholic from Stanton Island, New York was one of the them and they were as good a hitting team that we have seen in a couple of years, but we controlled that game and ended losing in extra innings.  We were up two, three runs most of the night and just didn’t make plays at the end of the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “The other one was West Allegheny, Pennsylvania, who has lost one game in the last two years, obviously that was a tournament game.  They are also very, very good.  They jumped on us early and we came back and tied it up and had a couple of opportunities and couldn’t get a base hit and then they got us in the bottom of the sixth inning and ended up winning.”

          Niswander believes they got better in a lot of areas of the game last week and that is going to help them the rest of the year.  “Some of the other teams we played there were some quality kids on those teams.  The one girl from Croton Harmon is a division one signee.  That was their shortstop.  We saw some decent competition.  The biggest thing is we got to play seven games in five days and we got to work on some things that we haven’t always had a chance to work on and got to do it in a setting where that was more contusive to learning than your nose to the grindstone and it is conference all of the time.  It was beneficial from a softball standpoint that we did get to work on some things that we don’t normally do and a couple of those things we executed (Monday) night,” he said.

 

Published 4/18/17

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Crestview Hammers Plymouth

  

          Crestview kept itself in the Firelands Conference race Monday with a (13-3) win in six innings over rival Plymouth.

          The win kept the Cougars (5-6,3-2) two games behind conference co-leaders New London and Norwalk St. Paul.  The Wildcats belted South Central (13-2) and St. Paul throttled Monroeville (12-7) on Monday.  Western Reserve, like Crestview, stayed in the race with a (3-2) win over Mapleton in eight innings.

          Crestview coach Don Keener says they understood the importance of the game and it was a huge win for his club.  “That was a great win for us.  I mean they are a really good ball club.  They are solid all of the way through their lineup they have some good hitters.  They have some good experience throughout their lineup as well.  Our guys played well and it was kind of back and forth there.  They had a few mistakes there early on and that kind of helped us out a little bit.  We had a big inning in the sixth that just helped us pull away,” said Keener.

          Plymouth (7-4,2-3) made some uncharacteristic mistakes on Monday and Keener says they were able to take advantage and they hit the ball pretty well too.  “If the opportunity is given to you you have to take advantage of it and they guys were able to do that (Monday) night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday after the win, “They had a few errors and I don’t think they have had many in some of their earlier games and we took advantage of it and our guys were hitting the ball pretty well.  When you put those two things together it kind of helped us out.”

          They started the season struggling a little at the plate, but Keener says over the last week or so they have settled in a little bit in that batter’s box.  “The guys are starting to adjust at the plate and starting to get used to the varsity level pitching and they are taking some good swings,” he said.

          The two teams play again at Plymouth on Tuesday and Keener says really this is an even more important game for the Cougars.  “Every conference game is huge.  There is a lot of balance in the league this year.  I told the guys, same as always, enjoy today, but tomorrow is going to be more important.  So, hopefully they will be ready to go,” he said.

 

Published 4/18/17

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Lexington Blanks Wooster

  

          Lexington got a win on Thursday that they absolutely had to have.

          They beat Wooster (4-0) to remain two games behind Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Mt. Vernon.  The Yellow Jackets downed Mansfield Senior (10-0) on Thursday to remain unbeaten in the league.

          The Minutemen (7-2,4-2), #4 in the first Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, had lost to Wooster (11-2) on Wednesday and coach Kevin Morrow says they had to play better in all areas of the game and they were able to do that.  “I challenged the kids after the kind of debacle we had over there.  I said I know you guys can play better than that, but we need to step it up and have a nice bounce back and we did,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Thursday, “What a tale between two days how different can they be?  Over there we kind of looked like boarder line “Bad News Bears” with just errors everywhere and hanging our heads.  (Thursday) night we started out with good energy.  Austin Eifrid just pitched an outstanding game.  We had a couple of clutch run scoring hits and bunts and played good defense and we bounced back.”

          Eifrid, who went six and two-thirds innings of shutout ball on Thursday, was brilliant.  Morrow says he gets ahead in counts and has a great assortment of pitches.  “Austin Eifrid has just been spectacular this year.  We gave him a week off last week to give him some rest.  He said his arm was a little bit sore, so we gave him a week off and set him up here for the Wooster Generals.  He gets strike one a lot of times.  Even when he gets down he will throw a change up or and off speed pitch to get an out.  We made some plays (Thursday) night where we didn’t make them over there.  We made them and held Wooster, who is very good with all of those bats they have.  To hold them to zero runs that is a heck of a night,” said Morrow.

          Lexington was able to scratch across a couple of runs early in the game to take the lead and Morrow says that takes a little of the pressure off of the kids.  “It helps the pitching, it helps Austin.  It just gives the kids a little bit of a boost.  We got a couple of opportunities with some kids at the bottom of the lineup.  We played a little small ball and ran a little bit and where able to push some runs across.  Jacob Reichle has just been on fire the last couple of games.  We have moved him up to the five hole.  He had another clutch two out, two RBI hit (Thursday) night.  Four runs was all Austin needed and he was just spectacular,” said Morrow.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Colts Down Ashland in “OCC” Action

   

          Mitch Dulin went the distance allowing only three hits and Thomas Staab was 3-for-3 with four RBI and two runs scored as Clear Fork belted Ashland (9-1) in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball on Thursday at American Legion Field.

          The Colts (7-5,4-2) also got some production from the bottom of the lineup as Gage Belcher, Dulin, and Mason Cox combined for thee hits and six runs scored.  “It was the first time this year that it was a 1-9 effort.  We did the same thing (Wednesday) we jumped out to a 6-0 lead and then got complacent and they almost came back and beat us.  We showed some resilience (Wednesday.)  (Thursday) with Mitch (Dulin) it so great to have an ace that you say that we need this outing out of you and he gives it to us every time.  We had some run support and played some great defense.  It has been a while since we have played error free baseball, well we had an error there in the seventh, but it is starting to come around.  It is starting to look better than it did a week ago,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.

          Dulin stuck out eight and retired 13 in a row at one point.

          Only one runner got as far as second base in the first two innings, but the Colts put up and five spot in the third highlighted by a two-run single by Staab and three stolen bases by Clear Fork.

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says they made too many mistakes, but he says Clear Fork was the better team on Thursday.  “We got off to a good start the first couple of innings.  After two innings we are setting 0-0 and then they put some pressure on us by doing some things offensively and we didn’t handle it really well.  We had a couple of errors, a couple of passed balls, wild pitches, some lapses on defense that allowed them to have a five run inning.  When you give up a crooked number that is tough to come back from,” he told Swankonsports.com before getting on the bus, “You have to give them credit.  I thought the Dulin kid pitched well and they put the ball in play and put some pressure on us.  I felt like they beat us (Thursday) night and I thought (Wednesday) we beat ourselves.  The difference is they outplayed us (Thursday) and you have to give them credit.”

          Clear Fork got four more in the fourth highlighted by an RBI single by Staab and a two-run double by Jared Lind. 

           The Colts trail “OCC” leader Mt. Vernon by two games.  Staab says they are going to get better as the season progresses.  “I think once we get all of our guys off the “DL” I think that is really going to give us a mental push too.  We are waiting for Hunter Auk to get back, and for Jarrod Smith and Luke Clark, of course.  We have guys that are doing a great job, role players that are coming in and being starters, but I think when we get our main group back on the field that is when we can take the next step,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork plays a tough non-league schedule and Staab says they will play one of Ohio’s best on Saturday.  “We can celebrate this win, but we play one of the top D-one schools in Ohio in Olengangy Orange with one of the best players that is probably going to get drafted with Tyler Brown.  So, we have our work cut out for us on Saturday.  We like to play really good teams and set it as a yardstick to see where we are at.  Maybe get a few autographs after the game,” he said.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Clear Fork Rallies Past Plymouth

  

          Emma Keene’s RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Clear Fork a come from behind (8-7) win over Plymouth in non-conference softball action in the valley on Thursday.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they made some mistakes and maybe didn’t have the focus they normally have, but he says the really rose to the occasion when they needed it the most and that is what is team, and his program, is all about.  “It was one of those wins where sometimes you win ugly, but it is better than a pretty loss.  That was an ugly win for us.  It has been a tough week.  It was a tough loss (Wednesday) night to Ashland and I think we had some hang over affects (Thursday,) but give our kids credit.  We just fought hard.  A senior came up with a double down the line to win the ballgame after she had had an error earlier in the game to cost us two runs.  Nobody felt worse than she did with the dropped fly ball.  She kind of redeemed herself.  That is one thing we can say about our kids is they fight and they fight hard and I’ll take that everyday,” said Gottfried.

          Trailing (7-4) to begin the bottom of the seventh Darian Gottfried singled to open the frame and came home when Haylie Miller ripped a two-run home run to make it (7-6) Plymouth.  Macy Wade then doubled, stole second, and scored on an error.  Now it’s a tie game, but not for long.  With two out Shannon Longshore walked and stole second and scored the winning run on Keene’s double.

          Gottfried says there is no quit in his Lady Colts.  “That is the great thing about this sport there is no clock.  Until that last out is made you just keep fighting and you dig a little deeper.  There is a poster that is right outside on that wall as they come in and out of that locker room every single day that says you’ve got more.  They look at it everyday and say there is more in the tank.  We you think you are tired, when you think you are defeated, pick each other up,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We have had a tough week.  Macy Wade had a grandfather pass away and all of the kids feel that.  They feel her sorrow with her, but they just keep rallying around each other.  I still like this team.  We are not where we want to be, but we still keep fighting and at the end I think we will be where to be.”

          Clear Fork (10-1) will host Wayne County Athletic League powerhouse Hillsdale on Friday.  Gottfried looks for a tremendous game.  “It is a good team to finish up with.  We kind of picked that up the last minute.  We will see what we are made of.  We have played three days in a row with two “OCC” games and a tough win on (Thursday) night.  Let’s go play ball.  I told the girls you can do one of two things.  You can come out and lay and egg like you are tied of the week or you can come out here and fight pretty hard and I think I know what team is going to show up and I think Hillsdale will show up.  You will be in for a special treat Friday night,” he said.

 

Published 4/14/17

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New London Keeps Firelands Lead

 

          New London kept a share of the Firelands Conference lead with a (6-1) win at Western Reserve on Thursday night.

          Ryan Lane went the distance striking out 14 and allowing only four hits.  Payton Wilson had two hits and two RBI for the Wildcats.

         It was Roughriders (4-4,2-1) first loss in conference play after sweeping Monroeville last week.

          New London coach Tony Hamilton says they knew Western was going to be a challenge and they were ready.  “It sure was a big game.  We were very concerned.  We have been following them and they have been playing good defense and have had good pitching,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We faced their best pitcher (Thursday) night and we actually executed one our better offensive games of the year and came away with a victory.”

          Justin Studd went six innings for Western and allowed five runs on eight hits.

          Western Reserve scored first on a RBI double by Braedon Wright in the second inning.  New London (5-2,3-0), #3 in the first Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, tied it in the fourth on Wilson’s RBI single.  The Wildcats took a (3-1) lead in the fifth when they scored on a bunt and a Roughrider error.

          Hamilton thought their offensive execution was sound.  “We decided we were going to go in and battle.  They had their Studd kid that throws low to mid 80’s and had a good curveball.  We decided we were going to make him earn it and put it in play.  We were going to bunt and move runners and then hope for a big hit and that is pretty much what happened,” said Hamilton.

          It became (5-1) in the sixth on another Wilson RBI single and the Wildcats added a run on a ground ball.

          Lane is defending conference MVP and is headed to Kent State on a full ride.  Hamilton says he got into a grove as the game was going on.  “They got to Ryan early in the second inning.  They go two hits and they went up 1-0.  Ryan didn’t lose his cool and our team didn’t lose their cool.  They came back and started battling more,” he said.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Seneca East Stays Unbeaten in “N10”

  

          Seneca East erupted on Thursday evening and they powered past Colonel Crawford (14-4) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference baseball game in North Robinson.

          It keeps the Tigers (7-1,4-0), #2 in the first Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the small school division, in a share of first place in the league with Wynford.

          Coach Rick Bowerman says they came into the game with good focus and took care of business.  “Colonel Crawford is a nice team.  They have lost a lot of close games.  We never take anything for granted.  I thought we had a really nice team win (Thursday) night,” said Bowerman.

          Seneca East is a team built around its pitching, but they got out the lumber, or in this case the aluminum, on Thursday.

          Bowerman says everyone in the lineup was hitting against the Eagles (2-6,1-5) this time.  “We banged out 16 hits.  Everyone of our hitters except one had a base hit (Thursday) night.  I think we had seven players with two hits,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “The first six batters went six up and six down, but after that we settled in and we started hitting the ball very well.”

          Sometimes when you are able to get couple of hits it makes everyone a little more confident.  Bowerman says that was the case on Thursday night and it was fun.  “Hitting is contagious.  When you get momentum going the kids get excited and one hit leads to another,” he said.

          Seneca East plays improving Upper Sandusky, a (9-1) winner over Buckeye Central on Thursday in their “N10” series.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Clear Fork Pitcher Chooses College

  

          Darian Gottfried has played three sports at Clear Fork High School, but it’s softball that is her true love.

          She will be a four year letter winner playing for her parents head coach Jeff Gottfried and his assistant Kerri.

          She has chosen to take hear skills west and will play for Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, beginning next year.

          Darian says she went on a college visitation this year and sort of fell in love.  “We know the coach out there and she came home over break and kind of looked at me and she thought I should have the opportunity to go out for an official college visit.  So, we went out.  I just really liked it,” she told Swankonsports.com Wednesday morning, “It was nice and small and kind felt like Bellville in a bigger sense.  They seemed to have a program going and I want to be part of that.  It’s an awesome opportunity to go out there and play the game I love.”

          She signed her letter of intent during a ceremony with family, friends, and teammates on Wednesday in the high school library.

          The Yellow Jackets are coached by a Clear Fork graduate in Lane Leedy and she says Gottfried can be a building block in her program.  She likes her makeup.  “Darian is a standout pitcher with an incredible work ethic.  She mixes good speed with great down ball action and a stellar change up.  That’s the scouting report, but for me Darian represents everything you look for in a student athlete.  She has poise, compassion, skill, drive, self-awareness and most importantly academic superiority,” said Leedy.

          Plus, she knows where Gottfried comes from and that makes this really special for her.  “She was born and raised in this uniquely special environment, as was I.  That makes this incredibly special to me and to the growth of the program,” added Leedy.

          Darian knows she is not going to play right away for the Yellow Jackets, but she is willing to put in the work.  “The plan right now is for me to redshirt my freshmen year and then play after that.  So, I will probably take next year to develop my skills more and go from there,” she said.

          Black Hills has also recruited Shelby’s Maddie Fidler to their program along with two young women from Colorado.

          It is 1,276 miles from the Clear Fork Valley to Spearfish.  It’s about an equal distance from Black Hills State to the Pacific Ocean.  Darian says the distance from home might help her grow up a little faster.  “The goal was to not go that far away from home, but I guess 19 hours is pretty far.  I think it will be fun though because there is someone else going out there from Shelby and she is one of my friends and I think it will be fun.  With technology I can facetime all of the time and I will get to come home on breaks.  I think it will be better that I won’t be able to just drive home whenever,” she said.

          As for her mother?  We hope she grows up too.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Plymouth Gets Back on track; Belts Willard

  

          After back to back tough losses to Norwalk St. Paul, Plymouth got back to winning as they pounded Willard (11-1) in five innings in a non conference game on Wednesday.

          Coach Jason Higgins admits those losses to St. Paul (5-3 on Monday and 6-5 on Tuesday) were thought to take and it was nice to get that win on Wednesday.  “As a spectator those games were probably pretty exciting against St. Paul, but as a coach those close games they sting right afterwards and they sting the next day.  It was nice we took care of business (Wednesday) night against Willard,” he said.
          Baseball can be an everyday event in Ohio if the weather cooperates and Higgins says he told the players on Tuesday night that another chance to win was right around the corner.  “It told the kids after the St. Paul series one of the nice things about baseball is most of the time you playing the next day or the next couple of days,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “It is all about how you respond to it.  Early in the season it is especially important to respond positively because it can be a long road if you start getting poor attitudes and losing confidence.”

          Plymouth (6-2,2-2) gets back to play in the Firelands Conference on Monday and Tuesday against the rival Crestview Cougars.  Higgins says those games against Crestview, they kind of mean more.  “The kids know the other kids by name and they have been competing against them their whole lives.  Emotions play a part of it.  There is a lot of competition.  Anybody in conference they don’t want to lose to.  Sometimes that Crestview game seems a little more important.  They have been playing some good baseball.  I think it is going to be a really, really fun series for us,” said Higgins.

 

Published 4/13/17

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Mohawk Holds Off Bucyrus

  

          Mohawk score twice in the second and another in the third and Cole Widmer made it stand up as the Warriors beat Bucyrus (3-2) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference game on Wednesday.

They remain a game behind Seneca East and Wynford in the conference standings.

Coach Eric Hoover says Widmer was able to get big outs when he needed them the most.  “It was his first start this year.  He’s a sophomore.  He went out there and pitched pretty well.  His curveball was nasty (Wednesday) night and they had a lot of trouble with it.  He struck out 15 guys in six innings.  He ran into a little trouble in the fourth.  He walked three in a row, the only three walks he had the whole game, but there were two outs and he struck the next guy out to end the inning and get out of it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win, “It didn’t hurt anything.  They got a couple guys on with an infield hit and error in the sixth inning to bring it back to 3-2, but he did a great job.”

When you have great stuff or good movement you have to be able to control that curve and throw it where you want to.  Hoover says Widmer was able to do that Wednesday.  “He did a great job controlling it.  It was in the strike zone, out of the strike zone when he needed it to be.  Our catcher did a great job of keeping the ball in front of him.  He was comfortable throwing the ball and he wasn’t worried about it going in the dirt.  They swung at a few of those.  He was able to do it confidently and it was really breaking hard,” he said.

          It looks like at least a three horse race in the “N10” this spring and Hoover says you have to be ready on any night because there is a lot of good pitching in the league this year.  “It is pretty spread out.  So many teams have good pitching.  They at least have one.  Anybody can beat anybody on a good night.  We only had three hits (Wednesday) night.  We found a way to win, but their starter did a great job also and he went the distance.  You just never know in baseball.  It’s pretty even,” said Hoover.

 

Published 4/13/17

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Lady Colts Stay Unbeaten

  

          Senior Darian Gottfried went the distance allowing just six hits and freshman shortstop Carson Crowner had three hits, two runs scored and three stolen bases as Clear Fork topped Ashland (5-2) Tuesday in Ohio Cardinal Conference softball.

          They share first in the “OCC” with Mt. Vernon.

          Clear Fork (9-0,5-0) took the lead in the first when Crowner singled, stole a base, advanced on an error and scored on a wide pitch.  Bryanna Masters tied the game with a home run in the top half of the second, but the Lady Colts would come right back. 

          They scored in the bottom of the second when Zara Thomas walked, stole two bases and scored on an infield ground out by McKenzie Baker.  It became (3-0) in the third when Whitney Snavely singled, advanced to third, somehow avoided being caught in a run down between third and home, and scored on a force play. 

          Two more Clear Fork runs scored in the fifth when Crowner again singled, stole two bases, and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Gottfried.  The final run scored on a rocket shot by Haylie Miller over the left center field fence, her fourth homer of the young season.

          Masters drove in her second run with an RBI double in the sixth.

          Clear Fork’s first four runs were directly due to do their speed on the bases.  “I think we have a good combination of some power and some speed.  Against Masters you have to generate some of your own offense sometimes because she is good she is going to shut you down.  You are not going to string three or four hits together to score a run.  You are going to have to generate some stuff.  Fortunately we had the right kids get those hits where we could use our speed and crank out some runs,” said coach Jeff Gottfried.

          It has been a rough start to the season for Ashland (1-6,0-5,) who has also played unbeaten Mt. Vernon and talented Shelby.  Coach Bill Herman says he is starting see some good signs.  “Bry did a nice job.  We are starting to come together.  It is early in the season.  We have played what seven games.  Things are starting to fall into place for us.  We will get it figured out really soon.  Everybody is back from spring break and that stuff.  It’s too bad we had to start with some of the tougher teams in our conference,” he said.

         Clear Fork stole nine bases on the day and also picked up extra bases with the aggressiveness.  Gottfried says that is the way they like to play.  “It’s fun, the kids the enjoy that.  Sometimes it is risky, risk versus reward, it probably all evens out in the end.  I know our kids enjoy playing that way and I think our fans enjoy it certainly and I enjoy coaching that way.  It’s a mentality that our kids have they know when we are aggressive I am not going to be upset about it if we make a mistake,” Gottfried said.

          Darian Gottfried, who will sign a national letter of intent to play college softball at Black Hills State University on Wednesday, was again on top of her game.  Her dad says the biggest thing was no walks.  “I thought she threw very well.  The biggest thing is stay away from those free passes.  She didn’t allow a walk on (Tuesday.)  Masters had two hits and drove in two runs.  She is a good player and sometimes good players just get you, but overall she handled the other eight kids in the lineup very, very well.  She set the tone for us out on the mound,” he said.

          Clear Fork’s defense has been solid all season and again there were no errors on Tuesday. A new name, freshman Brooke Robinson made a circus catch in rightfield in the seventh inning.  Gottfried says that was a huge play.  “I don’t think there was anything that was outstanding or spectacular.  Probably the best one of the night was the one in the last inning.  I mean if that one falls they have two runners on no outs and they have something brewing with the tying run at the plate.  Instead we have a freshmen come in and she had a big hit in Saturday’s doubleheader.  She is one of those kids that I think will be ready maybe a year from now, but when we have a chance for her to come up and help us she certainly can,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork and Ashland play again at Ashland on Wednesday in “OCC” play.  They are both part of the Wendy’s Tournament in Ashland over the weekend.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Shelby Gets Huge Win Over Bellevue

  

          Shelby and Bellevue are likely the two best teams in the Northern Ohio League this year and they met for the first time on the baseball diamond on Tuesday.

          Whippets’ starter Garrett Caudill fired a two-hitter and Shelby beat Bellevue (3-0) to remain all alone in first place in the league standings.  Bellevue is now two back.

          Shelby coach Jon Amicone says it was a huge win for his team on the road on Tuesday.  “Going on the road in the “NOL” it is always tough to win.  When you are going up against a team the caliper of Bellevue, a perennial baseball club around the state it was a big win for the program and a big win for the league standings.  These are games you have to win if you want to be on the top of the league at the end of the year.  I am very proud of our kid’s effort (Tuesday) night.  They didn’t back down from the challenge and they played a very solid baseball game,” said Amicone.

          Amicone gave the ball to his senior Garrett Caudill and he turned in a tremendous performance on Tuesday.  “We had our senior Garrett Caudill go and he pitched a complete game, a two hit shutout and that is what seniors do.  Seniors lead and Garrett has done that as a senior.  He has embraced that kind of ace role and he always wants the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “Coming into the seventh inning, and we have Brennan (Armstrong) as our closer and he is special.  I kind of asked Garrett about it and he said I am finishing the game coach.  He told me I want the ball.  He is the caliper of kid you want with the ball in the seventh inning.  He did a great job of going 1-2-3 in the seventh and getting a complete game.”

          This season Caudill, who had two walks and two strikeouts on the day, has been a bulldog for the Whippets and Amicone says he was going to give him the chance to get the win.  “I was one of those games where he was throwing well.  He was locating three pitches.  He was keeping them off balance.  In the back of my head I’m thinking we have this lefty Armstrong, who is our guy, but at the end of the day you trust your kids and you coach them and when a kid looks you in the eye and says I want the ball I am going to give him every chance to do it.  He competed for us and the team owes him a thank you,” he said.

          Bellevue’s Cody Snyder, who threw a no hitter last week, had 11 strikeouts on the day.

          Shelby had eight hits on the day and none bigger and Brennan Armstrong’s RBI single in the fifth inning that gave Shelby the lead.  Amicone says his team also had some productive outs.  “It was a tie game going to the fifth.  Their pitcher Cody Snyder is an absolute stud and he got the first two guys out and turned it over to the top of our lineup.  Carter Brooks got a double and Brennan brought him in with a base hit.  Runs are at a premium when you go up against Cody Snyder and Bellevue.  We were fortunate to put some good at bats together.  We really did a nice job of having productive outs later on in the game and tack on two runs.  We got a nice sac fly for an insurance run in the sixth.  Our kids did a nice job top to bottom in the lineup of being productive,” said Amicone.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Colonel Crawford Ready For Seneca East

  

          Colonel Crawford kept its record unbeaten for the season as they rocked Wynford (9-0) in Northern 10 Athletic Conference softball on Tuesday.

          They share first place with Seneca East and play the Lady Tigers Wednesday and Thursday.

          Coach Chuck Huggins says they did a good job of keeping their focus against a Wynford squad who has had its problems early in the season.  “We knew the last couple of nights that Wynford was next up.  I know it is an old coach’s cliché and us coaches use it a lot, but it really holds true.  You have to trust your kids that they are going to concentrate on the next game and they heard that from me both nights we can’t be overlooking Wynford because if we would happen to drop one of the games to them then we are going to be playing catch up with Seneca East,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “So, we took care of our end of the job and beat Wynford twice and Seneca East has remained undefeated.  The next couple of nights, Wednesday night and Thursday night, are going to be awfully fun to be a part of.  It is going to be fun to see where my team is at and how we are doing compared to a very, very good Seneca East team.”

          Both the Lady Eagles and Seneca East are unbeaten in conference play and Huggins the next two nights are going to be good tests for them.  “You want both teams to be at the top of their game.  If you have the better team you are going to come out ahead and if you don’t then you are not.  It’s a situation where you know it is going to come down to a play here or a play there.  Just knowing Seneca East I know they are going to be aggressive and we like to play an aggressive brand of ball.  It is going two very evenly matched teams.  Like I said it is going to be a lot of fun,” he said.

          One thing that Colonel Crawford (5-0,3-0) has is a talented and experienced pitcher in Sydney Studer and Huggins says she is very focused too.  “I am very glad that Sydney Studer wears the black and gold and she will be traveling on the Colonel Crawford bus up to Seneca East on (Wednesday.)  I just can’t say enough about the start of the season she has had.  The thing is you can just tell that she is still hungry.  She still has that demeanor about her.  I know we are off to a good start coach, but she listens well and she listens to everything I say and she said (Tuesday) night I know how important these games are and you don’t have to say anything coach.  It is just nice to have somebody with that kind of grit and that kind of determination and competitiveness in them.  The nice thing is she is right there in the pitching circle for us,” said Huggins.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Northmor Downs Buckeye Central

  

          Every player that got into the game except one got a hit and Northmor beat Buckeye Central (12-6) in a non-conference baseball game played on Tuesday outside of New Washington.

          Northmor has been able to keep their focus and coach Buck Workman says they don’t tighten up when they get behind in a game they just get busy.  “We have been finding a way.  We are 6-2 and I think five of those wins we have come from behind at some point in the game to get it done,” he said.

          Each of the Golden Knights that saw the diamond on Tuesday got an RBI and Workman says they have started to swings the bats and make better contact.  “We have 14 hits (Tuesday) night and I think our previous high had been 11 (Monday) night, so hopefully the bats are starting to heat up.  We were fortunate (Tuesday) we just had some balls find the right spots,” said Workman.

          Hard hit balls or ones where you feel lucky all add up the same and Workman says with a chuckle they try and tell the kids they will get their share.  “We tell the kids that it all evens out in the end.  It is hard when you smash one right at somebody,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Buckeye, “You hope that that bloop we fall in and make up for that at some point.”

          Northmor (6-2,3-1) plays at Cardington (4-2,2-2) in a blue division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Wednesday.  The Golden Knights share first place with East Knox and we are only four games into the conference schedule and nobody is unbeaten in league play.

          Workman says he expected there was going to be balance.  “That is what we expected going in and it is not proving us otherwise.  You have to play seven innings every night or you are going to be in trouble,” he said.

 

 

Published 4/12/17

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Shelby Beats Willard

  

          So far, Shelby has won seven of its first nine games for first year coach Natalie Huggins, but they know they still have to get better as the season goes on.

          They beat Willard (11-7) in a Northern Ohio League game on Monday night to remain a game behind league leading Bellevue.

          Huggins says she has a smile on her face, but is still looking forward.  “So far we have put ourselves in a good position to compete.  I have absolutely no complaints.  There is room to grow, but we are off to a very good start,” she said.

          Bellevue (8-2,3-0) beat Tiffin Columbian (13-7) on Monday.  The Lady Whippets (7-2,3-1) play at Bellevue on Tuesday.

          They lost their only “NOL” so far last week to Norwalk (5-4) and Huggins says it was important for them to right back on the beam.  “The Norwalk loss we definitely a heartbreaker.  We talked to the kids that it is okay to be upset about the game.  It is okay to let that one hurt a little bit, but we needed to get back in the saddle,” she told Swankonsports.com after the win over Willard, “We ended up dropping one to Ashland this weekend and learned a lot in that game, but then bounced right back and beat them in our second game of our doubleheader.  It was nice to get those games in with Ashland this past Saturday.  We had been rained out at the “MVD” last weekend, but ended up being able to pick up that doubleheader with them and that worked out well and get back in the saddle.”

          Natalie is the daughter of longtime Colonel Crawford coach Chuck Huggins and she understands what it takes to be a good softball team.  She says you have to learn something every time you take the field.  “If you have a loss that you didn’t learn from as a team and you didn’t learn from individually then that was a wasted night on the softball diamond.  So, every time we win, every time we lose, we want to be better softball players to prepare yourself for what we like to call championship month in May.  It is absolutely necessary to learn from a loss,” said Huggins.

 

Published 4/11/17

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Columbian Knocks off Bellevue

  

          Tiffin Columbian handed Bellevue its first Northern Ohio League loss (5-3) on Monday in what is going to be a very competitive league here in 2017.

          Columbian kept itself in the league race, a game behind Shelby, with the win and coach Curt Mellott says they showed some guts to come up with the win over the Redmen on Monday night.  “It was a very big win for us.  We battled some adversity and it was great to come out on top against a great program and a very well coached team,” he said.

          Not everything is going to go perfect in the game of baseball, that is just the way it is.  Mellott says the good teams are the ones that that find a way to get past the errors and the misplays and the bad breaks.  “That is always a strong test in baseball the adversity that you face, which seems to be almost every inning and when you can learn to overcome it you have a chance to be a good baseball team,” he said.

          Tiffin (3-3,2-1) plays at Sandusky (4-4,2-1) on Tuesday and Norwalk (5-3,1-2) on Thursday in league games.  Mellott says the way the “NOL” is you better be ready to play on every night.  “Willard is a very improved program.  Top to bottom there are no days off.  It is something that you kind of come to appreciate because you like that competition.  It is also something that is a great reminder to kids that they have to bring their “A” game each and every time,” said Mellott.

          Of course, these are the final months of the “NOL,” which has been together as a league since 1944 and Columbian has been part of it since 1953.

          Mellott says it is bittersweet, no doubt about it.  “I am going to be leaving this with very good memories.  I am a former “NOL” player myself, a ’92 graduate of Tiffin Columbian.  It has been just an absolute pleasure and privilege not only to play in the league, but to coach in the league.  So, this year is very special to us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “One of the goals we have set for ourselves is to the best we can in this last year in the “NOL.”  The “SBC” coming ahead of us in going to be an unbelievable league and a lot of great baseball teams and just a lot of great schools in general.”

 

Published 4/11/17

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Norwalk Rallies Past Sandusky

  

          Bryson Harvey’s game winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Norwalk Truckers a (2-1) win over Sandusky in Northern Ohio League action on Monday night.

          Veteran coach Wes Douglas says they were able dig down and make some big plays when the pressure was on.  “It good to get out of there with a “W.”  Sandusky is probably as good as they have been since I have been here,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win Monday night, “We saw their number one pitcher down 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh and we got a line drive single from Ian Keefer, a great bunt from Jake Roth, another great bunt from Chandler Baker and a walk off winner from Bryson Harvey and got out of there with a 2-1 win.  We are 4-0 at home and looking to get back to .500 in the league (Tuesday) at Ontario.”

          Norwalk lost a couple of tough games in the league last week to Bellevue (2-0) and Shelby (4-1) and Douglas says they need to battle to keep themselves in the league race.  “We started out with Bellevue and Shelby is league and we dropped both of those games, so for us to keep our best chances alive we need to win these other games until we get back to the top the league there.  This is the second game we have had a walk off in our last three.  We keep talking about competing and fighting like all coaches do.  They have done that for us this last week,” he said.

          Norwalk (5-3,1-2) plays at Ontario (6-3,0-3) on Tuesday and then they are home for Tiffin Columbian (3-3,2-1,) who just beat Bellevue (5-3) on Monday night.

          Douglas says they have to approach they rest of the season with confidence.  “Confidence comes with success and hard work.  I told the kids before the game (Monday) night if you ask anybody if they like to win and they say yeah.  I think the difference is how much you hate to lose.  That is kind of what we are trying to get them to do is to just fight, fight, fight and try not to lose and we will take our results if we do that,” said Douglas.

 

Published 4/11/17

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Crestview Gets Important Win

  

          Crestview got into the win column for the first time in Firelands Conference play on Monday when they beat Mapleton (11-5) to settle things down a little bit.

          They had lost a pair of one run games to defending champion New London (3-2 and 5-4) last week and coach Don Keener says Monday night was a game they really had to have.  “It was very important, it was huge.  Our guys came out and hit probably the best we have hit all year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night after the win, “It was good to see them bounce back from those tough losses to New London, both one run games.  We played well we just didn’t have enough to pull one of those out.  It was definitely a big game (Monday) night.”

          The temperature was about 40 degrees warmer on Monday than it was last Friday and Keener says the hitters were more in their zone.  “It was nice to have good baseball weather.  You know how the spring goes.  One day it is three to five inches of snow and two or three days later it is 75 and the kids are enjoying a little comfortable conditions to play in,” he said.

          Crestview (2-5,1-2) plays at Mapleton (0-3,0-3) on Tuesday in the re-match and Keener says they have to sort of forget what happened Monday results wise and go after another win.  “That’s what told the kids (Monday) night.  It was important to get one and it was good to see them play well.  You can enjoy it, but you have to be ready to go (Tuesday) because each night we play every game we play is important.  So, hopefully they will bring that attitude to the field and be ready to go,” said Keener.

 

Published 4/11/17

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Madison Focused on Getting Better

  

          Madison is a good, young softball team and they learned some things this week and hopefully will learn a little more next week too.

          They lost back to back games to a very good Mt. Vernon squad this week (3-0 and 13-1) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Coach Tim Niswander says they just made some mistakes against a very good team and that cost them.  “We played at Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night and it was a 0-0 game after five innings.  It was a tournament type game.  It was really good for our kids to be in that atmosphere and be in that type of game.  I think they learned a lot.  I told them when the game was over this was like a final four game or a regional final game where nobody is really doing a lot and the pitching is controlling the hitting and the first team that makes a mistake is going to be the one that loses and unfortunately that was us.  We went down 3-0.  We had an opportunity when we had a couple of kids on and we couldn’t score.  We made a big error and ended up opening the door up for them.  We didn’t give up an earned run to them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “The next night it was the same thing as far as the pitching was concerned.  They really didn’t hit the ball hard on us, but we had a couple of kids that didn’t play very well and made some mistakes and had some errors and it kind of snowballed on us.  In two games they only had three earned runs.  Our pitching played well.  Our defense didn’t play so well in the second game.  We had six freshmen out there.  Five of them started and another one went into the game.  We are going to have some growing pains and that is a tough draw the second week of the season because I think we are going to be much better as the season goes on and I think Mt. Vernon is kind of a finished product and they are a very, very good team.  If they continue to win and we continue to win and we get some help in the conference or maybe we see them somewhere down the road in the tournament.  Our kids are excited for that.”

          Niswander says it is clear his players are dedicated to improving as a team and that is a good sign.  “The thing that gets me about my group of kids is after that game was over we had a heart to heart talk for maybe 30 minutes and I went to lock up the facility and as I came back out my kids had started their own practice.  They practiced for 45 minutes after the game was over and I just stood and watched them do it.  They were phenomenal in practice, unfortunately they were not phenomenal at five o’clock.  It is just the fact that they would do something like that without me asking them to or without me saying anything.  That thought never entered my head and they got out and they got after it after the game was over because they were so disappointed in how they played.  Practice Thursday night was much more crisp and I think we are getting better,” said Niswander.

          Next week, the Lady Rams will be in South Carolina during spring break and Niswander says it is a chance to get better at playing softball and getting closer as a team.  “It is not snowing in South Carolina right now and that is a plus.  We have six games scheduled down there and we have packed the schedule pretty full.  It is a softball trip and the kids are excited to get to go to Myrtle Beach.  We have a couple kids that have never been to the beach even at Lake Erie or Pleasant Hill before, so they are really excited.  The biggest thing is we are going to get down there and we are going to spend a week doing everything together.  We are going to have practices together.  We are going to have six games.  We have a day in the middle of the week when we don’t have anything scheduled other than a practice and it will be in the morning and then we are going to go do things as a team in and around the beach and the boardwalk.  I think the team bonding part of that is a big thing.  With a group of kids that are as young as we are I think it is going to be important to basically spend six days away from any distractions and it is just going to be them.  Everything we do is going to be centered around them and I think there is going to be some growing up while we are gone.  Looking at the weather for the next week we are going to get a chance to play and we are going to get a chance to practice and do it all outside.  It will be fun and I hope it is something that brings us together, not that we are not together now.  We are hoping to get a lot of good things out of it over and above softball, but obviously the softball is what we are going for,” said Niswander.

 

Published 4/07/17

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Galion Needs to Relax

  

          Galion is a baseball team that can do a lot of things this season.  What they need more than anything right now is for some of their younger kids to relax a little bit.

          They lost a couple of tight games in the red division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference this week to Marion Harding (7-3) on Monday and Marion Pleasant (2-1) on Wednesday.

          Coach Phil Jackson says some mistakes really hurt them in those games.  “You want to forget about some of the past maybe mental mistakes and get the kids out there and relax and perform and get this season under way and get some kind of rhythm,” he said.

          Galion (3-2,1-2) brings some guys back that advanced to the district tournament a year ago, but Jackson says they also have some kids that are trying to get used to varsity baseball.  “Looking back I like our talent verses the talent we are matching up against.  I think we lost two games this past week that are very winnable for us and I like where we stand with them the next time we play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “What seems to be happening with us is we have some young kids that are maybe a little nervous at the plate and trying to do a little too much instead of relaxing and putting the ball in play.  We had that discussion (Thursday.)  If they relax I think our seniors and our leaders are performing very well we just need a little more production down near the bottom.”

          Galion is supposed to play Ontario is a doubleheader on Saturday if the weather allows.  They return to play in the red division on Monday at talented Jonathan Alder, the division leader.

          Jackson says they need to take what they have been doing in practice and do the same things in game.  “We have some great talented kids and our non game swings are beautiful so you know it is there.  That transition from the cage to the field is all about confidence and relaxing and just simplifying things.  It is about seeing the ball and hitting the ball,” he said.

 

Published 4/07/17

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Lexington Hammers Mansfield Senior

  

          Lexington got on the playing field for the first time since Saturday and they overwhelmed a young Mansfield Senior team (26-0) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Wednesday.

          With their game against the Tygers postponed on Tuesday, the Minutemen (5-1,2-1) were eager to get back on the diamond.  Coach Kevin Morrow says with Ohio weather you can’t turn down chances to play games if at all possible.  “You have to get out as much as possible with this crazy weather.  It is very limiting and keeps throwing you off.  So, if you can get outside whether it is a scrimmage of a practice and (Wednesday) with Mansfield get out in the sunshine against live pitching.  You have to get out there it is the only way you are going to get used to this regular season.  Whenever you can you have to grab those days.  When your field is remotely close to playable you have to get outside,” said Morrow.

          Lexington has some offensive weapons and Morrow says they were able to get in some good swings on Wednesday.  “We put up 11 runs on Highland and that is a quality program and 11 runs on Norwalk, so we can do it.  Madison pitched us really well.  We couldn’t do much there that was kind of disappointing.  We got some good at bats (Wednesday) and we got plenty of at bats the way that game went against Mansfield,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “We have to get ready if the weather allows us to play Sandusky on Friday.  I think there might be some snow on the ground.  We might be staring at Wooster next week.  We definitely want to get the bats going if we want to compete against Wooster.”

          The Minutemen are due to play at Arlin Field on Thursday in the makeup from Tuesday, but that doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

          Morrow says likely their next game in “OCC” might be Tuesday against defending league champ Wooster, who blasted Clear Fork handily the last two nights.

          Morrow says they were able to get some of their younger kids into the lineup on Wednesday and were able to see what they can do.  “You look for opportunities whenever you can.  We have some question marks still on who we are as a team.  We do have a core group we know are probably going to start.  We are still looking for some pieces in the lineup.  We are also thinking about next year.  We are carrying three, four sophomores and a couple of juniors.  When you get games like this you are fortunate they go the way they do you can get some kids some at bats.  Maybe a kid just needs and opportunity to swing it a little bit to show you he has some confidence and can do some things.  You might find some of those key players down the road,” said Morrow.

 

Published 4/06/17

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Seneca East Beats Buckeye Central

  

          Seneca East ran its Northern 10 Athletic Conference record to (3-0) as they outscored Buckeye Central (13-5) on Wednesday at their place outside of Attica.

          They share first place in the conference with defending champion Wynford, who beat Ridgedale (3-1) on Wednesday.  Mohawk downed Colonel Crawford (9-7) and Upper Sandusky beat Carey (11-9) in the other league games.

          Zach Aichholtz earned the victory on the mound for the Tigers with seven strikeouts over five innings and added two hits and four RBI from the batter’s box as well.

          Overall the Tigers had 18 hits and coach Rick Bowerman says they had a good approach at the plate.   “We came out and hit the ball very well (Wednesday) night.  We banged out 18 hits.  We had three players with three hits a piece.  It was good.  We put the ball in play quite a bit and good things happened,” said Bowerman.

          Seneca East (4-1,3-0) hitters only struck out four times on the day, so they were putting the ball in play.  Bowerman says when you do that some good things will happen.  “Buckeye played some good defense.  They only had two errors, but the wind made it tough,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win, “We had a couple of infield singles and a couple balls we just hit in the right spots and they dropped in.  It gives you scoring opportunities.”

          Adam Krebs had three hits for Buckeye Central (3-4,1-3) on Wednesday.

          Seneca East travels to South Central for a non-conference game on Thursday and to Bucyrus for an “N10” game on Friday, if Mother Nature has that in her plans.

          Right now, Bowerman says the Tigers are a pretty confident baseball team and that is what he wants to see.  “I think we are a pretty confident baseball team.  Each game we are getting better and the kids are getting confident.  As we go into games they are expecting to win.  I like the attitude we have right now,” he said.

 

Published 4/06/17

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Hillsdale Does it Again

  

          Hillsdale swept its second straight Wayne County Athletic League series in as many tries this year.

          This time the Rittman Indians were the victims.  Hillsdale (6-0,4-0) beat them (4-1) on Tuesday and (8-3) on Wednesday to remain in first place in the league.

          Coach Mike Wolf knew at the beginning of the season they could be pretty good, but so far it has been better and than anticipated.  “We are pretty excited with our start.  They are actually exceeding our expectations at this point,” he said.

          So far the pitching has been very good and the Falcons have hit the ball hard too, but Wolf says the best thing he has seen this spring is the improved defense.  “I think the biggest thing we have improved on from last year is our defense.  In the six games we have only committed four errors and last year we weren’t a very good defensive team.  Now a lot of our pitchers are holding down their pitch counts and that is pretty cool too see,” said Wolf.

          Hillsdale is supposed to play Lucas (1-5) in a non-conference game on Friday, if the weather allows, which maybe it won’t unless the players are like polar bears.  Then they head for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for some games next week during the district’s spring break.

          Wolf says they are going to see some good teams down south that are going to test them.  “We did a little homework on the teams we are playing down there and there are three D-one teams,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “A team from New York, a team from Virginia and a team from North Carolina.  So, we are definitely going to be tested down there.  We are looking forward to the opportunity to go down there and see some good competition.”

 

Published 4/06/17

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Lady Colts Shutout Wooster; Share “OCC” Lead

  

          Darian Gottfried fired a two-hitter and Clear Fork blanked Wooster (6-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference softball game on Tuesday night in the valley.

          The Lady Colts defense backed her up with no errors on the day.

          With a strong wind blowing in all game long, the Lady Colts power game was limited a little bit.

          Coach Jeff Gottfried says they had more success when they started using the entire field and that led to a big three run double by Caitlynn Hilverding in the third inning and a (3-0) Clear Fork lead.  “We will take it.  We tell the kids every game starts with pitching and defense.  Some nights you are going to struggle to score some runs.  With the wind blowing in (Tuesday) night we hit two balls that on a normal days they would have been in left field of the baseball field, but the wind just beat it up and we had to adjust and start hitting the ball backside a little bit,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We got a clutch hit in the third inning.  A three run double to put us up and that kind of got things rolling for us.  Definitely pitching and defense was solid all night long.”

          Gottfried added he believes this is one of the better defensive teams he has had at Clear Fork and there have been some good ones.

          Clear Fork (5-0,3-0) scored three more times in the sixth.

          They ended up with nine hits and Gottfried says they did a pretty good job of adjusting to how they were being pitched.  “She was trying to pitch us inside and all we were doing was hitting foul balls off the third base dugout, so I told our hitters the second time through the order let’s back off the plate a little bit and make that pitch be down the middle and outside because that is where you have to hit it with this wind.  If you try and pull it into the wind it is just not going to go anywhere.  A couple of hits that drove in some runs were up the middle and to right field,” said Gottfried.

          Macy Wade had three hits for the Lady Colts on Tuesday.  Emma Keene and Gottfried added two more.

          Clear Fork shares the “OCC” lead with Mt. Vernon, a (3-0) winner of Madison on Tuesday.

          They play at Wooster on Wednesday and Gottfried says that game is just as important, if not more so.  “It is still early.  We are only three games into it and I told the girls the same thing in the circle.  This game doesn’t mean anything if we go over there and stub our toe.  The second league day is always a chance for a let down, especially with the weather.  It is going to be cold again (Wednesday) and you just have to kind of play as it is.  We tell our girls every game it is sunny and 70 in our dugout,” he said.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Wooster Drills Clear Fork

  

          Wooster scored five runs over the first two innings and broke it open with four in the fourth and went on to hammer Clear Fork (16-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday.

          Leadoff hitter John Nebesky had four hits, three runs scored and three RBI and second place hitter Calvin Blair added four hits and a run scored for the Generals.

          They totaled 15 hits on the day and first year Wooster coach Scott Young says they have been talking a lot about approach at the plate and the Generals has a good one on Tuesday.  “We have been emphasizing approach at the plate.  I think we are kind of learning as we go with a pretty inexperienced team.  We talk about that after and before every game and (Tuesday) night I think we got ourselves in good hitter’s counts and when we got our pitch to hot we didn’t miss it.  We were still aggressive on the bases, but we were smart,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “I think again that is growing pains.  (Tuesday) night it kind of all got put together.  It all starts with a good approach at the plate and knowing what we are looking for is certain counts.”

          Designated hitter Michael Cicolani had the biggest hit of the day for the Generals.  He unloaded a three run homer onto the softball field in the first inning and the Generals never looked back.

          Clear Fork (3-3,2-1) couldn’t get many clutch hits and their pitchers issued 14 free passes to the Generals.  Colts coach Rusty Staab says it was a game he would like to forget.  “It was every aspect of the game.  We couldn’t throw strikes, we couldn’t hit the ball, but we made up for it by not fielding.  It was one of those days,” he said.

          Luke Clark had two hits for the Colts.  The highlight of the day for Clear Fork was Gavin Bailey’s solo homer in the sixth.’

          Drew Friedoff made his first varsity start and went six strong innings allowing seven hits, walking four and striking out five.  “That was his first varsity start.  It was his first varsity innings.  He knew we needed a good outing from him (Tuesday) night and he came out from the very first pitch and was pounding strikes.  I will be interested to see his percentage of strikes.  When I checked in the fifth inning he was about 80 percent strikes.  If we can do that we are going to have a lot of success.  We tell our guys we have to be 65 percent strikes and first pitch strikes we want to be around 90 percent.  All in all it was a good first outing for him.  Now the challenge is to try and come back (Wednesday) and try and do the same thing.  Against good teams you have to do it two days in a row, not one,” said Young.

          Wooster (3-2,2-1) is the defending “OCC” champion, but they are much younger this year.  Young is confident his team is going to get better as the season goes on.  “That is what we have been telling these guys since we started in February,  We are not going to be the same team in March and early April as we are in mid-May.  I think was we get more experience and we grow together as a team and we get live looks against other good ball clubs I think we are only going to get better.  We have to play to get better.  We are doing a good job right now of taking an approach and applying it to the game and hopefully we are starting to see some results,” he said.

          The two teams meet again Wednesday this time at Wooster.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Mt. Vernon Takes Sole Possession of “OCC” Lead

  

          Mt. Vernon beat Madison (5-1) on Tuesday night and in the process took over first place to themselves in the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball standings.

          The Yellow Jackets (5-0,3-0) have been able to win all of their games overall this season and coach Rob Gross says they have gotten momentum on their side here in the first couple of weeks.  “I was a little worried with the weather forecast because we had started to get on a roll and play some good baseball and was a little worried that if we got a lot of games cancelled that would kind of kill that momentum.  I feel fortunate that the weather held out.  I really proud of how the guys are playing and we talked about that (Tuesday) night.  They are really good about, and I know it is an old cliché, about taking it one game at a time and kind of focus on that first conference game of the week first and then look at the next one after that,” said Gross.

          Mt. Vernon plays at Madison on Wednesday and Gross knows a sweep against a quality team like the Rams (1-3,1-2) would put them in pretty good position in the league.  “The first one obviously sets the tone, but you want to go ahead and get that second one and finish that sweep knowing that if the opportunity is there you definitely have to take it,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win Tuesday, “I look at the way this conference is probably going to shape up there are a lot of good teams in this conference and Madison is a good ball club as well.  They spilt with Lexington last week and we had a fairly close game with them (Tuesday) night.”

          Mt. Vernon got another masterful performance from their ace on Tuesday night and Gross says he had outstanding control of his pitches all night long.  “I am really proud of Tim Zeller.  He is our number one guy.  He had a really great outing against Ashland last week and matched that and was even better against Madison (Tuesday) night.  Talk about setting the tone he was just pin point accurate and kept them off balance.  When you have pitching like that you don’t need a whole lot of runs to win the game,” he said.

          They scored 18 runs in a game last week against Ashland.  The Yellow Jackets didn’t have that kind of output against Madison starter Layne Berrier on Tuesday, but Gross says they got enough done.  “The kid they threw (Tuesday) night lost 1-0 to Lexington last week and I knew he was a good pitcher and we were lucky enough in a couple of innings and scrounge out some of those runs.  Once we get two or three runs with Tim pitching I felt like we were going to win that game,” he said.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Bellevue’s Snyder No Hits Norwalk

  

          Bellevue’s Cody Snyder was dominating on Tuesday.

          He threw a no-hitter at Norwalk striking out 16 and leading the Redmen to a (2-0) victory over the rival Norwalk Truckers in the Northern Ohio League opener for both.

          Coach Andy Dennings says Snyder had control of all of his pitches and was able to spot them very well.  “He had great command of his pitches and he really was dominate.  He was down in the zone.  He was able to move pitches in and out and up and down.  All of his pitches were very good,” said Dennings.

          There was some excitement in the top of the seventh inning at Bellevue, but Dennings says Snyder was able to throw the big pitch when he needed it.  “He was in total control (Tuesday) night.  All of his emotions where in check.  He was totally focused.  I have to give Norwalk credit.  The (Blake) Obringer kid threw really well for them.  We had 20-25 MPH wins coming straight in at us.  We knew we weren’t going to score a whole lot of runs either team, so we kind of expected that kind of game.  I felt we had two good teams going at it.  We made it interesting in the seventh.  We walked the lead off.  We strike a kid out with a curve ball and throw the ball away at first and they have guys at second and third with no outs and we were able to get out of it.  I think Cody stuck out the side,” he said.

          Bellevue (5-1,1-0) plays at Ontario (3-2,0-2,) a (3-1) loser to Shelby on Tuesday in a league game, on Wednesday.  Dennings says the win over Norwalk is going to give them confidence for what they have coming up the rest of the week and all season for that matter.  “Anytime you beat Norwalk you know it is going to be a good win.  They are always competitive and have a lot of scrappy kids and they play the game hard.  For us to start out that way in the league with a “W” over them it is a real confidence boost,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Tuesday, “We played Vermilion, who we feel in very good, (Monday) night and got beat 1-0 and to come the next day and find a way to get a 2-0 win over Norwalk against their ace we feel pretty good about that, but we are right back at it (Wednesday) we are at Ontario then go to Sandusky on Thursday and turn around and go to Toledo and play Bryan on Friday.  So, we are definitely being challenged, but it is fun playing these competitive games, that is what we want to do is get a chance to play these quality programs to prepare us for our league play.  Our league is very good this year and to start off with a big win over Norwalk is very exciting.”

 

Published 4/05/17

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Ashland Rallies to Dump West Holmes

  

          Ashland fell behind 5-0 early, but would rally and beat West Holmes (8-7) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says his Arrows (2-3,1-2) really showed some heart on their field on Tuesday night to get win that they really needed.  “It was definitely an important win and it was a good win for a lot of different reasons.  One, we wanted to bounce back and get a win after losing our last three games.  We also wanted to get our first conference win after losing last week to Mt. Vernon twice.  Also we went down 5-0 in the second inning because they had a kid that hit a grand slam.  To come back from down 5-0 and then we took a lead 7-5 and then we lost the lead to where it is 7-7.  It was just a back and forth game and I give our kids a lot of credit for battling for seven innings and coming up with a one win with a run in the bottom of the seventh.  It was an exciting game and it was really a good win for us,” said Lavengood.

          After falling being (5-0) after an inning and a half, the Arrows scored four times in their half of the second inning to get back into it and Lavengood thought that was pretty big.  “I think the key to the game (Tuesday) night we after they put up five runs in the second inning we came right back and put up four runs in the bottom of the second inning.  If we would have gone without scoring and the momentum would have stayed on their side I think it would have been pretty difficult for us to come back and win,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “I thought that was an extremely important inning where we answered their five with four of our own and got us right back into the game.  There is no question our kids battled.  I thought Hunter Krebs, who started for us, really pitched pretty well.  He had two bad pitches where the same kid hit home runs off of him, but he settled in and gave us just about six innings and I thought at was key for him.”

          Scoring right away is big and Lavengood says if you are the team that lost a lot of your lead that can really be deflating as well and that is king of what happened Tuesday.  “On the flip side if you are a team that scores five runs you want your pitcher to go right back out there and pound the strike zone and get you back in the dugout as fast as you can to hit again.  Again I thought that was a key their guy struggled a little bit in that next inning and we were able to take advantage of it.  Baseball is such a mental game and such a game of momentum swings and that really swayed the momentum back on our side to get us back in the game.  Basically it was a close game the rest of the way from then on out,” he said.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Plymouth Sweeps Mapleton

  

          Plymouth started out Firelands Conference play with a sweep of its two game series with the Mapleton Mounties this week.

          They won (9-1) at Mapleton on Monday and (9-5) at Plymouth on Tuesday.

          Coach Jason Higgins is pleased and added they might have gotten Mapleton at the right time of the season.  “We are really excited to be 2-0 in our conference so far.  It was fortunate for us that Mapleton, who has some experience and can hit the ball a little bit, didn’t get a scrimmage or a game in before they played us.  They are going to beat some teams.  They are going to surprise some people in the league.  They are going to compete.  Lucky for us we got them early in the year,” he said.

          The Big Red (4-0,2-0) has scored at least nine runs in each of the four games this year and Higgins says they continue to take a good approach to the plate and that is a plus.  “There are some things we still need to work on with our approach, but we are lucky to get into this grove a little early and hopefully it sticks around.  We have three home runs on the season so far and I think that is more than we had last year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “So, we are hitting for a little bit of power.  Like I said last week we are really preaching hitting gap to gap and the guys are responding pretty well right now.”

          There were cloudy skies and 40 MPH wind gusts to deal with on Tuesday, but Higgins says they wanted to do all they can to get on the field because they have some momentum right now.  “I went down this morning and our field had a bunch of water on it.  We got the water off and the wind helped dry it out a little bit.  We knew we needed to play (Tuesday) regardless of what the elements were because we have been playing well.  We have to get these guys to continue to get better everyday because we are going to run into days where we are going to have to play in weather like this.  I would rather get that out of the way early in the season so they are used to it,” said Higgins.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Shelby Downs Tiffin; Ready for two more “NOL” Games

  

          Shelby got the first one as they begin defense of their Northern Ohio League title Monday with a (7-5) win at Tiffin Columbian in a game that was originally scheduled for last Friday.

          The Whippets (4-1,1-0) now have three straight league games, weather permitting, this week with Ontario on Tuesday and Norwalk on Wednesday.

          Shelby coach Jon Amicone says you kind of have to roll with the punches when it comes to the weather and the schedule.  “It is kind of the way the cookie crumbles.  We thought we had two league games last week and both of the them got postponed until this week and we have three league game right in a row.  It is tough, but that is the way it falls.  We don’t make excuses we have to come mentally ready to play everyday,” he said.

          Amicone says they faced a tough decision on Monday night on whether it not to use Brennan Armstrong, but he thought they made the right one.  “Winning in this league is at a premium, so every time you have a chance to win you have to take advantage of it.  We didn’t want to throw Brennan Armstrong (Monday) night, but we were up two runs in the seventh and Tiffin had 13 hits through six innings and we needed to get this win, so we threw Brennan out there for the save,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win Monday, “Luckily he threw 13 pitches for us and we still have him for the next two games against Ontario and Norwalk.  Winning is too hard in this league to not go for it when you have the chance.  We felt pretty confident with Brennan to go out there are give us a one innings save.”

          Now with two more quality teams to play in Ontario and Norwalk, Amicone says they are going to need to be able have some of their other pitchers step up.  “We used two guys Monday night.  Jacob Holloway went four innings for us and did a nice job, but lost it a little bit at the end and Hunter Hoffman came in a sophomore and got the hold for us and we were able to turn it over to Brennan for the seventh.  The next two nights we are going to have to have guys step up because you have two quality teams that are coached extremely well with good players.  You have to win when you have the opportunity and that is what we did Monday and we will be ready to go (Tuesday,”) said Amicone.

          Ontario (1-1,0-1) has a new coach this season in Jeff Fisher and he has told us about the youth they are dealing with this season, but Amicone is certain he will have his guys ready to go.   “It is a great rivalry.  My first year out of college I was lucky to get the JV job there under Chris Smith.  My first year coaching was in Ontario and it is a great baseball town and “Fish” is a tremendous coach.  It might be his first year as head coach at Ontario, but that guy is one of the premier coaches not only in the area, but in the state.  I have a deep respect for Jeff Fisher and he will have that team ready youth or not.  We will have our work cut out for us and we better be ready to play,” said Amicone.

 

Published 4/04/17

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Lady Eagles Handle Mohawk

  

          Colonel Crawford earned a big win Monday night when they blasted Mohawk (12-2) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference girls’ softball game at Mohawk.
          Sydney Studer pitched a one hitter for the Lady Eagles (3-0,1-0) and she had four hits and six RBI, not a bad game.

          Veteran coach Chuck Huggins says they worked hard with the week they had off and he really thought they were ready to play on Monday night.  ”I was really pleased with how the girls were totally, totally focused (Monday) night on what was needed.  As a coach you are always a little concerned.  We had been off a whole week.  The last time we played was last Monday night when we beat Plymouth (6-1) up at Plymouth.  We had a whole week of rain outs and weather outs and some misfortune with Carey.  It had literally been a whole week since we had played,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “I was pleased with how everything came together.  I told the girls after the game about the rewards that they reap from a week of hard work in the gym.  We really got after it in the gym and worked on getting the swings down.  I was pleased how we were able to put everything together here against a very good Mohawk team.”

          Another key Monday night, according to Huggins, is they were able to get a lot kids involved in what they were doing on offense.  “The nice thing is as look at the scorebook again we had seven different kids score those 12 runs and that is key because the deeper you can go into your lineup and the more varsity hitters that can prepare for varsity ballgames the more you know it can help your team,” he said.

          There is a lot more scoring these days, but you still must have a quality pitcher.  Plus, Huggins says Studer is just an outstanding overall player out there on the diamond.  “Our ace Sydney Studer has had three consecutive one hitters with double digit strikeouts every game.  She just came out on fire this young season and is really just focused in on what needs to be done.  It is not only her pitching right now, but she as 4-for-4 (Monday) night with a home run, two doubles, and 6 RBI.  She has such a tremendous work ethic and I just admire the time that she puts into the game.  It is not something I have to tell her.  It is not something my assistant Carl Diebler, her grandpa, has to tell her. It is something that comes from inside of her.  When you have an opportunity you just feel so good when you see them achieve like she has.”

 

Published 4/04/17

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Norwalk Beat Edison; Prepares for “NOL”

  

          Norwalk is going to one of the contenders for the Northern Ohio League baseball crown this spring and they face two big games over the next couple of days, weather permitting.

          They play at Bellevue on Tuesday and at Shelby on Wednesday.

          They beat Edison (6-1) in a non-league game on Monday and coach Wes Douglas says he thinks they are going to be set up pretty well for the next two days.  “We weren’t front end loaded last week like some teams were.  We got a game in Monday.  We beat Crestview down there (12-4.)  We ended up playing over at the new Force Sports complex on Saturday.  We squeezed in one game with Lex and they put it on us pretty good 11-2.  Trying to get in that rhythm is important,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “(Monday) night turned out to be a nice night and we got up early on Edison 6-0 and hung on and won against a pretty solid team.  We kick of the league (Tuesday) with Bellevue and follow that up with Shelby.  Those are some pretty serious games these next two days.”

          Douglas says they were able to beat a pretty good Edison team without having to use their top of the line pitchers.  He thinks they have built a pretty good foundation for the week.  “We played solid (Monday) night.  They are going to win some games.  We have a lot of guys doing some things well.  We threw probably our number four and five pitchers.  Mitchell Perry and Brison Harvey got the job done for us.  We saw some good things out of them.  We have the top of our rotation set up for the next couple of days.  We will see if we are good enough to compete in the league right off the bat,” said Douglas.

          It is a deep “NOL” again this year, but Douglas believes his team along with Bellevue and Shelby are the three best teams.  He says they are going to find out a lot about themselves.  “I could be wrong, but I think that is the top teams in the league on paper.  We could go 2-0, we could go 0-2, we could come out 1-1.  I think we are going to compete.  The team that makes the least errors is probably going to come out on top.  We are looking forward to some good, competitive baseball.  I think we are in good position to compete,” he said.

 

Published 4/04/17

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Northmor Rallies to Beat Elgin

  

          Northmor scored three times over the last two innings and they came from behind to beat Marion Elgin (5-4) in a blue division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Monday.

          Coach Buck Workman says his kids are developing the ability to win these kinds of games and that is good to see.  “It was a back and fourth game.  We went up early and had a little lapse and went down 4-2 going into the sixth.  What I will say about this team is they just continue to do the little things to give us an opportunity to be there in the end,” he said.

          Workman says they are not a team that is going to be flashy and put a lot of runs on the board on most nights, but they have been good at executing the fundamental elements of the game.  “(Monday) night we had no errors.  We had four walks, but not errors so we didn’t have a lot of extra base runners.  We just gave ourselves a chance and that is what I have been preaching to these kids this whole time is hang around, hang around and we’ll see what happens,” said Workman.

          Rain has been a big part of the last week and looks like it will be a factor the rest of this week as well.  Workman says he told his kids that good teams are the ones that handle this kind of adversity.  “After we played last Wednesday I said look we aren’t going to play probably for a while here and you guys have to stay mentally tough.  It is a grind and some teams after a couple of weeks they are ready to pack it in because it becomes too much,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win over Elgin, “You are in the gym, you are out of the gym, and back in the gym for a week.  It’s a pain in the butt, but at the end of the day the teams that can stay mentally tough are the ones that can be there in the end.”

          If we are able to play some baseball the rest of the week Northmor (4-1,2-0) is scheduled to play Fredericktown on Wednesday and Highland on Friday.  Those two schools have shared the last three blue division titles.  Workman says they had better be at their best.  “I don’t know who I upset that does the schedules, but for years now we have faced those two back to back twice a year.  It is not really kind to do that to people.  They are pretty good teams and we are going to have to bring our best to compete with those two,” said Workman.

 

Published 4/04/17

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New London Edges Crestview

  

          New London began defense of its Firelands Conference baseball title with a (3-2) win at home on Monday over the Crestview Cougars.

          Coach Tony Hamilton says the first thing is they got outstanding pitching from Dane Matthews and backed him up with some pretty good defense.  “We had a complete game out of Dane Matthews.  He pitched a good game and we got good defense out there,” he told Swankonsport.com on Monday night, “We ended up with nine hits.  The base running was a little bit sloppy.  That’s why we didn’t score as much as we should have.  Overall it was a pretty good win for us.”

          New London had not played a game in a week and Hamilton says it was an exercise in mental discipline for especially the younger kids they have on their roster.  “Especially with guys that don’t have much varsity experience to get to that level where things become natural for them and have instincts for baseball.  They have to be focused before that happens,” said Hamilton.

          Now New London (3-1,1-0) plays at Crestview (1-3,0-1) on Tuesday if the weather permits, which it looks like it might not.  If it does, New London will have Kent State commit Ryan Layne on the hill and Hamilton says that makes them pretty confident.  “We feel pretty good we have Ryan Layne starting (Tuesday) so we feel pretty good about our chances.  Like I said before the guys hit the ball pretty good so I feel comfortable the guys will score some runs for Ryan,” he said.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Mohawk Gets Past Colonel Crawford

  

          Mohawk scored on a passed ball in the bottom half of the eighth inning and they edged Colonel Crawford (4-3) in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference baseball game on Monday.

          After losing last week to Buckeye Central, Mohawk coach Eric Hoover says Monday night was pretty big for them.  “You have to get off to a good start in the league.  They played a good game.  Studer pitched for them.  He was pretty tough to handle for us in the first four or five innings.  They made a lot of good plays.  I think they are going to have a good season,” he said.

          Hoover says you have to keep plugging away and if you do that you can win games like Monday.  “I told the guys after the game they make it seven innings for a reason.  We got behind against Buckeye last week and I thought we got tight a little bit and we did a better job of staying relaxed and finding ways to get some runs and get back in it and tie it up and find a way to win it at the end,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win on Monday, “You just have to stay with it.  It doesn’t matter maybe if you stuck out your first two at bats.  Hitting the baseball is a hard thing to do and you just have to get up there and stay confident and give it your best.”

          Hoover says they did a good job of adjusting to what they were seeing from the Colonel Crawford pitcher on Monday and that was a pretty big key.  “He was doing a good job of spotting his curveball in good counts that were in his favor and we weren’t being very disciplined and finally we adjusted to that and let a few go.  Not only did we get a couple of walks out of it, but we got some extra bases with passed balls too.  We had less strikeouts and more walks as we adjusted to him,” he said.

          Mohawk has league games at Buckeye Central on Tuesday and Colonel Crawford on Wednesday and home with Carey on Friday, plus a non-conference game against Kansas Lakota on Thursday. 

          Hoover hopes they get those in, but if they don’t they have to keep their focus.  “You plan on playing nearly everyday.  We have games on the schedule everyday this week.  We only got two in last week and we had three postponed, so that is frustrating.  You try not to get too upset.  We have a pretty good facility to practice in inside so we can get some productive things done at least inside.  Games are a lot more fun, so you are looking forward to them, so it can get frustrating at times,” said Hoover.

 

Published 4/04/17

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Swankonsports.com All-Star Basketball Teams

 

Boys’ Large School Team (Divisions I & II)

 

First Team

 

Tyrell Ajian, Mansfield Madison

Peyton Bennington, Wooster

Griffin Gerwig, Ashland

Wes Vent, Upper Sandusky

Hayden Wallace, River Valley

Jayreese Williams, Sandusky

 

Second Team

 

Jason Ellis, Marion Harding

Davey Hipp, Shelby

Trey Jordan, Ontario

Conner Roesch, Sandusky Perkins

Trevor Smith, Wooster

Cade Stover, Lexington

 

Third Team

 

Ro Durham, Tiffin Columbian

George Friend, Norwalk

B.J. Patrick, Mansfield Senior

Jackson Todd, Ontario

Keith Williams, Sandusky

John Wolfe, Ashland

 

Player of the Year – Jayreese Williams, Sandusky

Coach of the Year – Jeff Winslow, Upper Sandusky

 

 

Boys’ Small School Team (Divisions III & IV)

 

First Team

 

Mason Campbell, Mansfield St. Peter’s

Hootie Cleveland, Old Fort

Jared Jakubick, Mansfield St. Peter’s

Derek Koch, West Salem Northwestern

Ryan Lane, New London

Parker Smith, West Salem Northwestern

 

Second Team

 

Tyson Kent, Mansfield St. Peter’s

Cody Luzader, Carey

David Miller, Sandusky St. Mary’s

Bryce Ostheimer, Edison

Ronnie Rayburn, North Union

Jacob Shade, Buckeye Central

 

Third Team

 

Jacob Booth, Fredericktown

Demetrius Johnson, Northmor

Brandon McCall, Norwalk St. Paul

Cameron McCreary, Colonel Crawford

Jack Reed, Wynford

Heath Starkey, Colonel Crawford

 

Player of the Year – Derek Koch, Northwestern

Coach of the Year – Zach Ruth, Northmor

 

 

Girls’ Large School Team (Divisions I & II)

 

First Team

 

Abigail Fogle, Upper Sandusky

Taylor Gregory, Mt. Vernon

Kennadie Goth, Shelby

Erica Johnson, Mansfield Senior

Casey Santoro, Bellevue

Jiselle Thomas, Norwalk

 

Second Team

 

Ny Brown, Wooster

Sam Hall, West Holmes

Morgan Lott, River Valley

Heidi Marshall, Clyde

Kylie Redenbaugh, Ashland

Jenna Strayer, Bellevue

 

Third Team

 

Sierra Carey, Upper Sandusky

Jackie Garrett, Shelby

Kacie Leppla, West Holmes

Sierra King, Shelby

NaShall Shelby, Ontario

Emily Yeager, Ontario

 

Player of the Year – Jiselle Thomas, Norwalk

Coach of the Year – Natalie Lantz, Shelby

 

 

Girls’ Small School Team (Divisions III & IV)

 

First Team

 

Allie Adelsperger, Old Fort

Jordan Elliott, Danville

Sydney Holderman, Riverdale

Autumn Hudson, North Union

Jenna Karl, Buckeye Central

Taylor Richards, Chippewa

 

Second Team

 

Summer Blevens, Marion Pleasant

Brianna Gillig, New Riegel

Sydney Kin, Carey

Andrea Robson, Western Reserve

Megan Siesel, Seneca East

Adrienne Wehring, Fremont St. Joe

 

Third Team

 

Alexis Burkhart, Colonel Crawford

Cassidy Crawford, Willard

Gretchen Harris, Wynford

Talia Miller, Kidron CC

Ashley Painley, Norwalk St. Paul

Nikki Weber, Loudonville

 

Player of the Year – Taylor Richards, Chippewa

Coach of the Year – Greg Moore, Buckeye Central

 
     
 

Lexington Edges Madison

   

          It was a standoff on the first week of the season as Lexington and Madison each won at the other’s field on the first week of Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Lexington’s Austin Eifrid and Madison’s Layne Berrier locked horns in an old fashion pitcher’s dual at Ram Field on Thursday with the Minutemen scoring on unearned run in the top of first inning and winning (1-0) in a game that took less than 90 minutes to play.

          Eifrid struck out nine.  He fanned Chase Jessie with Rams on first and second to end the bottom of the sixth and struck out Doug Shenberger to end the game.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says he had command of all of his pitches on Thursday.  “He did an excellent job.  He had a great scrimmage down a Delaware Hayes.  He took on a division one school and pretty much held them hitless, maybe one hit.  (Thursday) he was super efficient and had a few plays behind him.  It was like one of the fastest games I have been apart of.  I know coach Rickert said the same thing.  Both pitchers just looked great.  It is early and the bats aren’t quite getting there yet.  To win a game with pitching and defense you have got to here in the early season,” said Morrow.

          Madison’s best chance to score came in the fourth inning when Jaycob Stone walked and advanced to second on a ground ball by Cal Rickert.  Stone tried score from second when Jessie layed down a good bunt and was thrown out at first, but Stone was tagged out at home.  “That is a fast kid in Stone.  I like that play too.  Stuff like that in a 1-0 game you have got to do it.  You have to try and manufacture a run.  It was close.  We had a good relay to Odson and he got the tag in there, thank God,” said Morrow.

          Lexington’s run came in the first when Jacob Odson and Jared Strickler singled and that put runners at first and second.  Ian Moore hit a ball to Stone at short and he threw it high to second and the umpire said Cal Rickert pulled is foot in what would have been the third out.  Odson scored on the play.

          “You have to know where you are going with the ball before it is hit.  We made a little mistake there.  It ends up being a big one.  Even with the mistake I thought we got him at second base.  For the most part we made some nice plays.  We made a nice double play and made some nice catches in the outfield.  We only gave up one run, so we are not going to hang our heads,” said Madison coach Doug Rickert.  The Madison coach came out of his dugout to argue the call, but to no avail.

          Madison (1-2,1-1) has less than 10 hits total in three games this week, but coach Rickert believes they will start to hit.  “I told the kids it’s tough to hit early.  You don’t ever get out of box just ripping the baseball.  The conditions the wind has been blowing in every game that we played.  It’s a little chilly.  The umpire had a little bigger strike zone (Thursday) night and it makes it a little tougher sometimes.  It will come around.  I told them we haven’t hit the ball real well yet and we have had some loud outs at times.  When you look at the other team they aren’t hitting the ball much either,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “They had one hit against us (Wednesday) night and three or for (Thursday).  I saw Clear Fork against River Valley the other night went 10 innings and only had three hits.  It will all come once guys get to see more curveballs and change ups.  You can’t simulate that very well in practice.  We didn’t get outside until last week.  Usually we are outside a little more than that.  It will get better.”

          Fundamentals are big in baseball and Morrow says they were able to execute them on Thursday.  “Both teams are well coached on the defensive end.  We spend a ton of time handling all of the situations.  I give them credit we didn’t have any mistakes or any meltdown innings.  We played good defense for Austin and they played great defense for their pitcher.  It was a crazy win and we will take 1-0,” he said.

 

Published 3/31/17

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Mt. Vernon Shows Its Strength

  

          Mt. Vernon has looked outstanding over the first week of the baseball season.

          They share first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with Clear Fork after the first series of the “OCC” season after wins over Ashland (18-3) on Wednesday and (6-1) on Thursday.  They also swept a doubleheader from a very good Fredericktown team on the opening weekend of the season last Saturday.

          Ross Gross, the former Crestview coach, is the head coach at Mt. Vernon and he says the Yellow Jackets have good depth on the mound and the batting order.  “Our pitching staff is pretty deep and I expect them to do a pretty good job.  As long as our pitching holds them down I know eventually we are going to score some runs,” he said.

          Mt. Vernon certainly has the potential to be a very good baseball team this season, but Gross knows every game is not going be like Wednesday and they have to continue to be able to win games like they did on Thursday.  “As a baseball fan or a player or a coach you would love to win like we did the other night 18-3, but obviously to me that is not reality at the varsity level.  It is nice to because you are not always going to have those hitting night where everything falls for you,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “You are going have more like (Thursday) that is a closer game.  Jeret Gomer really pitched well and gave us the opportunity to add some insurance runs as they game went on.”

          Gross has a lot of familiarity with the “OCC” and with traditional powers like Madison, Lexington and Wooster and Clear Fork coming off a tremendous year last season he knows it going to be a battle to win the “OCC” this year.  “With the commodity of coaches we talk a lot in the off season and it is exciting.  We came from obviously a good conference down in the Columbus area, but I am just as excited to play in this conference not only because I know it, but also because there are some quality teams.  It is going to be a battle every week in my option because there are so many good teams,” said Gross.

 

Published 3/31/17

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Hillsdale off to Solid Start

  

          Hillsdale has jumped right into competition in the always competitive Wayne County Athletic League and they have earned two wins here on the first week of the high school baseball season.

          They beat Smithville (10-0) on Wednesday and rallied to beat the Smithies (7-3) in eight innings on Thursday.

          Coach Mike Wolf says it was a good boost of confidence for his players.  “(Wednesday) night we had a 10-0, five inning victory over Smithville.  Our pitcher pitched a one hitter and then (Thursday) we found ourselves down early 3-0 a battled back to tie it and scored four in the top of the eighth to win the game.  That is definitely a boost in confidence for our younger kids,” said Wolf.

          Coaches can tell kids how varsity baseball is going to be, but Wolf agrees that they only way to learn is to go through it.  “They are finding confidence though osmosis and experience and our kids and continuing to grow every time out so to speak,” he said.

          If the weather allows the Falcons (2-0) will pay a visit to Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary on Friday for a single game and then host Crestview of the Firelands Conference for a doubleheader on Saturday.

          Wolf says they will continue to find out how good this team can be with that kind of competition.  “Obviously getting an opportunity to play a storied program like Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary and an always tough Crestview team would be a good barometer for our young team this early in the season,” he said.

          With wins against Smithville behind them, the Falcons play Rittman next Tuesday and Wednesday in league play.  Wolf says the “WCAL” is going to be a real war this spring.  “I think we look at the first week of league play and you look around and holy cow everybody has a good number one and it is going to come down to who has pitching depth for that second game and take advantage of the opportunities as we move forward,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “Our league is going to be a meat grinder this year, no doubt about it.”

 

Published 3/31/17

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Plymouth Hitting the Ball Hard

  

          Plymouth has won both its games so far and they have hit the ball well both times.

          They beat Mansfield Christian (21-0) in five innings on Thursday.  Monday they outscored Colonel Crawford (13-10) in their first game of the season.

          Coach Jason Higgins says they have worked hard this preseason in developing a solid approach to hitting.  “I will give a shout out to my assistant coach Jack Bault.  He does a great job with our hitters and gets them prepared.  We have taken a little bit of a different approach and really talked about the mental side of being in good counts and what kind of hacks you should be taking in those counts and trying to drive the ball gap to gap,” said Higgins.

          When you work yourself into good counts like 2-1, 3-1, or 3-0 Higgins says you have to be selective in what pitches to take and which ones to try and drive somewhere.  “We tell the kids in good counts if they throw a good pitch that is on the corner that you are not going to be able to drive somewhere it is a good pitch to take.  When we are in good counts we are looking for balls we can drive into the gap and try and knock somebody over with it,” he said.

          Plymouth (2-0) plays Bucyrus in a doubleheader on Saturday, weather permitting.

          They begin Firelands Conference play next Monday and Tuesday against the Mapleton Mounties.

          Higgins says there are number of good teams in the Firelands Conference this season and he feels like they are going to be in the mix this spring.  “I think we will compete with about everybody in the conference.  New London has some good pitching and that is going to keep them in games,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night after the win over Christian, “They are the team to beat right now because of their past success.  I think St. Paul is doing well right now.  Mapleton is always a team that swings it pretty well.  Crestview has a lot of numbers and you don’t know what is coming up from year to year.  Western Reserve is off to a really good start.  It is going to take a little time to see what is going to happen with the conference.  I think it is going to be really competitive this year.”

 

Published 3/31/17

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Clear Fork Shuts Down Tygers

  

          Jalen Sheriff fired a five inning perfect game on Wednesday as the Clear Fork downed Mansfield Senior (11-0) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference played at American Legion Field.

          Sheriff struck out six of the 15 batters he faced, including the last two.  He allowed only three balls to be hit to the outfield.  Centerfielder Thomas Staab made a tremendous diving catch of line drive hit by Bryce Hudson in the first inning, that would be the closest the Tygers would come to getting a hit.

          “He was in command.  I told the boys the last time we had a game like that was in 2000 in the regional semis against St. Thomas Aquinas Robbie Thrush threw a perfect game and we won 10-0.  It has been a while.  He had a lot of 3-0 or 3-1 pitches and he came back and slammed the door.  That is the Jalen Sheriff we all know, so it was great to see,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.

          Sheriff had two thee ball counts in the fifth, including going 3-0 on Breyon Mills, the final hitter he would face, but he came back to strike out Mills and end the game.

          Clear Fork (2-2,1-0) scored three times in the first inning on a RBI double by catcher Luke Clark and two runners scoring on wild pitches.  They then exploded for eight runs in the bottom fourth on when they got four hits and were aided by six Mansfield Senior errors.

          Staab says their goal Wednesday was to take care of business early and they sort of did that after some extra encouragement.  “They are down a little bit this year and they have some young players and we didn’t want to play seven innings.  We wanted to try and get the pitch count down, but we kept popping up.  That lefty kept us out on our front foot and finally I had to say anytime there is a pop up we are doing 150 pointers and somehow that changed all of the sudden.  We have been playing well enough to lose the last couple of games and now we finally came out of a little bit of a hitting slump and did a good job,” he said.

          If the weather permits the Colts and Mansfield Senior (0-4,0-1) will get together again on Thursday at Arlin Field. 

          The other scores in the “OCC” on Wednesday include Madison beating Lexington (3-1), Mt. Vernon trouncing Ashland (18-3) and Wooster downing West Holmes (11-1) in five innings.

          Staab says this has the making of a good team they just have to continue to get better.  “Our two losses came having a lead going into the seventh.  We are going to be a good team we are just not there yet.  We are not doing the little things and we are not making plays that we have been practicing in the gym all winter and it shows.  This is a game where we kind of felt a little bit of confidence and felt loose and just came out and hit the ball.  We got a great outing by Jalen obviously and Gage (Belcher) gets the ball (Thursday) and we have Worthington on Saturday and hopefully we kind of turn this thing around,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork caught fire at the end of last season and advanced all of the way to the division three state semi finals.  Staab says other teams haven’t forgotten that, but they the Colts need too.  “We were here when it was dark (on Monday.)  We did a lot of work on the field, we did a lot of running, we did a lot of screaming.  River Valley came out and just kicked our butts on our field.  I told them it reminded me a lot of the ’96 team.  In ’95 we were in the regionals and we had everybody back.  I am not saying they went through the motions, but they just expected everything,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on Wednesday, “People are playing a team that went to state last year.  That is all over with for us.  We can’t live on that.  Other teams are saying, hey, this is a team that went to state last year and this is a great opportunity for us to play well and beat them.  So far, Marion Harding and River Valley beat us.”

 

Published 3/30/17

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Madison Takes Step Forward; Gets Big Win over Lex

  

          Madison landed the first big punch in the race for the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title on Wednesday with a (3-1) win at Lexington against the rival Minutemen.

          The Rams scored two in the second and another in fifth and made it stand up in game between two of the contenders for the league flag.

          Coach Doug Rickert says it was a big one for his ball club in a lot of ways.  “I told our kids it was pretty special to bounce back after Monday night where we didn’t get a hit and we didn’t play our best ball.  We were playing the team that a lot people consider the favorite to win the league this year after their regional run last year.  They have a lot of kids back.  It has been about five years or so since we have won a game at Lex, so this was a big one for us,” he said.

          Lexington (2-1,0-1) has a lot of their line-up back from the last year when they advanced to the regional tournament.  Rickert says their pitching did a tremendous job, especially in the clutch.  “Chase Jessie came here last year and had to set out half of the season.  He is a Madison kid who had moved and come back, so he didn’t get to pitch a whole lot for us last year.  He pitched some in the summer and some in the fall.  He has some really good tools.  He is a low 80’s guy.  He is only going to get better.  I don’t think he was perfect (Wednesday) night.  I think he had six walks, but he only allowed the one infield single,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win, “Then Chris Morakis, who came into close it, is a kid that we have come to count on.  He did it last year and he struck out three and only walked one and didn’t give up a hit over the last three.  So, the pitching was fantastic.”

          Madison got some clutch hits too.  A two run single from Trent Mortimer in the second and another big hit from Carter Hayes in the fifth.  Rickert says this is a club that is going to have to hit as a team.  “The bottom of the order made something happen.  We had a hit and we had a guy get hit by a pitch, then a balk, then Trent Mortimer, our nine hole hitter, our catcher, had a fantastic game, came up with a big, clutch base hit.  Then later in the game we got another big, clutch hit from Carter Hayes to get that third run across.  That’s what we have to continue to do.  We have to trust each other.  We can’t have one or two guys expected to hit all of the time.  We have to trust each other that we will come through,” said Rickert.

          Already rained out on Tuesday, the two teams are scheduled to play on Thursday.  Rickert says they have to be ready no matter when that first pitch comes.  “We told the kids that it could be a thing where we don’t play them again until the end of the year.  The weather doesn’t look good for (Thursday) and it doesn’t look good Friday.  We said we would play them Saturday, but the forecast doesn’t look good for drying up by Saturday.  So, it could very well be a situation where we don’t play them until later.  We just have to take care of business and this team has a lot of work to do.  We just have to keep getting better.  We aren’t focusing on wins so much right now as we are just improving,” said Rickert.

 

Published 3/30/17

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Galion Edges Buckeye Valley in 9

  

          Mac Spears two out double in the top of the ninth scored Garrett Kuns from first base and the Galion Tigers made it hold up and beat Buckeye Valley (5-4) in red division game in the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Wednesday.

          Galion scored three in the first and led (4-1) after four, but the Barons scored once in the fifth and twice in the sixth to tie the score.

          Coach Phil Jackson says his kids showed a lot of perseverance to come up with the win in the opener for both teams in red division play.  “It was a classic game to be a part of.  To come out on top in that not only is great for our confidence, but it was just a great game to be part of.  Our kids just refused to lose.  I couldn’t be anymore proud.  That long bus ride goes a whole lot quicker when you come out on top.  We are very tickled,” he said.

          Spears had three hits on the day for the Tigers.  Ryan Talbott, Mitch Dyer, Kuns, and Will Donahue all had two hits and Galion totaled 13 on the day.

          Spears also got the starting nod and went six innings giving uo four runs on five hits.  Kuns threw the final three to get the win, allowing two hits and striking out two.

          Galion (2-0,1-0) beat Buckeye Central (10-0) on Monday. In a non-conference game.  Jackson says they have done some good things pitching and kin the batter’s box too here on the first week.  “We had some ups and downs in the preseason and to get out and get a couple of big wins here early has given some of our young kids confidence and jell,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “I think our pitching is there and the hitting is coming around, so I’m happy where we stand.  We hope to get some games in.  We have a game Friday at River Valley, a tough team over there, and then Saturday go up to Willard and see what we can do.”

          There is a 50/50 chance we will get wet on Thursday and the NWS says 80 percent on Friday.  That means maybe no baseball either day.  Jackson says if you play in Ohio you have to have mental discipline.  “I think the team that handles bouncing back and forth between the gym and outside practice and games.  To handle that it takes good leadership and focus.  If you handle that well you are going to come out on top.  When you play a spring sport in Ohio you better be mentally tough.  Maybe a game is going to happen that you thought was going to be rained out or you are not going to be able to play today so you have to get some work done in the gym,” said Jackson.

 

Published 3/30/17

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Highland Gets Past Fredericktown

  

          Mack Anglin gave up just one hit over six innings and Highland beat Fredericktown (3-0) in a battle between contenders in the blue division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Wednesday.

          Highland won the blue division in 2016 and 2014.  Fredericktown won it in 2015.

          Highland coach Donnie Kline says it was the way you want to start the conference season against an outstanding opponent.  “It is a great way to start the season.  We start out the season with one of the better teams in our conference and one of the better teams in Central Ohio.  They are a great team and threw a great pitcher at us in Trace Hatfield, a senior, returning player of the year.  It was a very fun game to be part of.  The boys were up to the challenge,” he said.

          RBI hits by Bryce Geiger and Sam Lipiccolo in the second inning staked the Scots to a (2-0) lead.  They added another tally in the fifth on a double by Drew Duncan.

          Kline says their pitchers made it stand up.  “It starts and stops with pitching.  We have a sophomore that has been pretty tough in Mack Anglin.  He is a Clemson commit.  He works very hard and he had a nice performance (Wednesday) night.  He went six innings and held a very talented Fredericktown team to one hit over six innings.  Senior Colton Liszkai came in and closed to door.  He did a real nice job,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “They got a little rally going and we had a nice double play to end the baseball game.  It was a fun, old school, baseball game.  Our boys capitalized on a couple of mistakes and end up on top.”

          Highland (2-2,1-0) plays Mt. Gilead (0-2,0-1) on Friday in a blue division game.  The Indians lost (11-1) to Elgin on Wednesday.  Northmor beat Centerburg (5-4) and Cardington got past East Knox (1-0) in the other division games.

          Ending the game with a double play emphasizes again the importance of defense.  Kline says they just need to make the regular plays.  “They are not always the ESPN plays.  When your pitcher does a good job and gets a ground ball we are happy to get one and to get two is icing on the cake.  We have practiced those situations and we did not want to turn the lineup over because they are very talented.  It was a great pitch by Colton Liszkai, it was a nice stop by the shortstop Max Schreiber to second basemen Matty Reid and a nice stretch by Sam Lipiccolo.  It was an exciting way to end the game for sure,” said Kline.

 

 

Published 3/30/17

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Buckeye Central Holds off Mohawk

 

 

          Buckeye Central got past Mohawk (6-4) on the opening day of league play in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference on Wednesday.

          Josh Dentinger stuck out eight over five innings for the Bucks (3-1,1-0) and Trent Craft added three more K’s over his two innings.

          Plus, coach Chad Jensen says although they only had seven hits they were able to get them at key times.  “There is no question it was a big win for us and for our young players.  Mohawk is a great team.  They have excellent players.  They have the best returning player in the league in Austin Harper.  Our kids really did well.  We got excellent starting pitching from Josh Dentinger and excellent relief from Trent Craft,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “We got some big clutch hits.  Trent hit a couple of doubles for us and Josh had a double and Peyton Phenicie had a double for us.  We just did the little things.  We played good defense and threw strikes and just got some clutch hits and put the bat on the ball and really improved.  We have been stressing with our guys to improve each day and we did a lot of good things (Wednesday) to improve and did a good job.”

          Jensen says you have to be good situational hitters and that is something they were able to do on Wednesday.  “You have to put the ball in play.  We were able to take advantage of things.  Their pitcher Harper had a little trouble and was behind a lot.  We were able to get some good fastball counts where he had to throw us strikes.  Our kids did a really good job of setting on fastballs and we put the bat on the ball.  We put the ball in play and that was one of the things that I was really pleased with that when we need to put the ball in play we did.  When you do that you put pressure on the defense and that is what we want to do put pressure on the defense and make them make plays and that is what we were able to do,” said Jensen.

          Colonel Crawford beat Carey (13-7) and Seneca East shut out Ridgedale (4-0) in other “N10” games on Wednesday.  A game between Wynford and Bucyrus was suspended due to darkness with the Royals leading (6-3) in the sixth inning. 

          Buckeye Central is supposed to play Mohawk (1-1,0-1) again on Friday, but it looks like rain.  Jensen says they have plenty to work on if they are not able to play.  “That is one thing about this sport compared to others.  When you have a game scheduled you may not play or you want to practice outside and you can’t now you have to go in the gym.  We have a lot of things we have to work on and we know that.  We are a young team and we are still inexperienced.  We get game experience each game we play, but there are things to work on.  If we are in the gym for a couple of days we just want to work on things we need to work on.  The kids understand that and they have been working hard.  We just have to get better and work to improve and get ready to Mohawk again,” he said.

 

Published 3/30/17

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Lexington Plays Madison This Week

  

          Lexington and Madison are two of the favorites to claim the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title and they will clash twice on the opening week of conference play.

          After being rained out at Madison on Tuesday they meet at Lexington on Wednesday and then at Madison on Thursday.  If one of them could sweep the series it would put them in command early in the conference race.

          The Minutemen (2-0) beat Buckeye Valley (2-0) and Highland (11-1) in a doubleheader on Saturday to start the season.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says the wins gave them some confidence.  “It was exactly how you want to get in started because we didn’t get very many scrimmages in and you are always wondering where you really stand against in the real deal.  We had two quality opponents coming in and we pulled off two wins.  It never hurts to go 2-0.  It gives you some confidence that in the early part of the season that you are already a competitive team.  Now we are going to start getting into the “OCC” and it is going to be pretty brutal this year in the “OCC.”  At least you know from Saturday’s performance that we have a lot of positive things, especially on the defensive end,” said Morrow.

          Lexington and Madison (0-1) have developed a rivalry in a lot of sports, especially in baseball.   A Lexington win over Madison last year cost the Rams a share of the “OCC” title with Wooster. 

          Morrow says it’s a rivalry built on respect.  “Since I have taken over I have tried to get through the kids about the rivalry there.  It is not out of disrespect it is out total respect.  I have a lot respect of coach (Doug) Rickert and his staff and their tradition and their culture over there and the years of winning.  You kind of get it up a little more when you get into these rivalry games.  A lot of it has to do with just how good that program has been for years,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “When you can play well against Madison that is always a good deal because you know especially over the last few years the “OCC” is probably going to go through them.  It can go through any school, but Madison is going to have a say in it.  We have to be ready to go for sure this week.”

          There could be a blowout this week, but probably not.  It is likely going to come down to a run or two.  Morrow says you have to make the fundamental plays.  “Cutting down on walks.  Saturday we hardly walked anybody.  Pitchers threw strikes.  Making sure you don’t give them the extra outs and make the routine plays.  Don’t let them take and easy base or an extra base.  On the offensive end you want to be doing those things.  You want to be the aggressor.  You want to capitalize on a mistake because you know just how fast the table can be turned on you.  We have take advantage of our opportunities and just not let a big inning get away from us.  Do the little things and I think we will be in good shape,” he said.

 

Published 3/29/17

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Seneca East Picks up First Win

  

          Seneca East shut out a solid Edison team (7-0) in a non-conference baseball game played on Tuesday outside of Milan in southern Erie County.

          Zach Aichholz got the call as the starting pitcher for the Tigers and coach Rick Bowerman says he was very efficient in his performance on Tuesday against the Chargers.  “We had a great outing by our starting pitcher Zach Aichholz.  He only gave up four hits and walked one.  Our defense was very good.  We turned four inning ending double plays and that always helps a pitcher,” he said.

          The Tigers (1-1) put up three in the top of the first inning and Bowerman says they mad some good swings throughout the lineup off of the Edison pitchers.  “We banged out 12 hits.  That is always a good thing to see, especially this early.  Kesey Johnson, our leadoff hitter, hit the ball hard all night,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game on Tuesday evening, “His one out was a shot to the gap that their centerfielder made a great play on.  He had two doubles besides that.  Everybody one through nine, I thought we had quality at bats (Tuesday) night.”

          Seneca East lost their opener to long time rival New Riegel (4-3) on Saturday.

          They finished in second place in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference last season behind Wynford.

          They begin league play on Wednesday, weather permitting, at Ridgedale and then play the Rockets again on Friday at their place.

          Bowerman says wins in these first two games are going to be important when it comes to the league race.  “Those games are big.  Ridgedale in past years has not been an outstanding team, but they have been very competitive.  It is definitely not a team we can overlook.  We want to get off on the right foot in the “N10,” he said.

 

Published 3/29/17

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Ontario Winning, but Still Cautious

  

          Ontario pitchers Nolan Hatfield, Andrew Cacchip and Avery Fisher held Madison hitters at bay on Monday and the Warriors downed the Rams (4-2) in a non-conference baseball game played at Ontario.

          It had been originally scheduled for Madison, but had to be moved to Ontario due to field conditions.

          Over the first three games of the season, including two wins over Mansfield Senior on Saturday, Ontario has allowed only two runs.

          Coach Jeff Fisher says that is a good start for a young pitching staff.  “That has been our focus in the preseason to make sure our guys are varsity ready because in the recent past we haven’t been.  We have been very inconsistent throwing strikes.  Even in our off season there have been some question marks with accuracy.  So far, so good over our first three tests over two days that our guys we have thrown out there have put us in great position to win,” he said.

          Fisher says they knew Madison had two Ohio Cardinal Conference games against Lexington set for Tuesday and Wednesday and that would affect their pitching rotation, but anytime you can beat the Rams that is a quality win.  “Considering their tradition of success and considering where we are at in our program, we are pretty youthful and just trying to get our feet on the ground from a varsity prospective.  This was a big night for us.  I don’t care if it was their number five or six starter or there number one anytime you beat Madison that is a feather in your cap and then you move on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “We have a lot of respect for that program because we know how many innings and days that those kids put in and invest in the game of baseball.  We were fortunate enough to battle in a rivalry kind of environment (Monday) night.  It was just good to come out on top.”

          Ontario (3-0) opens Northern Ohio League play with home games against Sandusky and Bellevue on Thursday and Friday.  However, Fisher doesn’t want to look ahead.  He says a non-league game with Marion Harding on Tuesday is very important in terms of building their foundation.  “I don’t want to get too much into the “NOL” yet, our goal is to get this pitching staff developed.  It is collectively that we are trying to get these guys going.  We are too young to look ahead like that.  We have to make sure we come out of (Tuesday) night healthy and guys get good experience and do it with the competitive spirit that was expect out of them and then we will move on.  (Tuesday) night is important we gave guys that haven’t pitched yet that need to.  We have a couple of guys that threw on Saturday that need to get more work in.  It is way too early from the “NOL” perspective.  We just need to continue to improve as a group,” said Fisher.

 

Published 3/28/17

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Shelby Downs Clyde

  

          Garrett Caudill went the distance striking our seven and allowing only five hits as the Shelby Whippets beat Clyde (2-1) in non-conference baseball game on Monday.

          The Whippets (2-1) beat Oberlin Firelands (5-1) and lost to Vermilion (3-0) on Saturday in their opening games, so they have gotten good pitching so far.

          Coach Jon Amicone says Caudill was in control of all of his pitches on Monday.  “We are very pleased with what we have been able to get from the top of our rotation.  Garrett Caudill, another senior, went (Monday) and he threw a very strong game for us.  It was probably the best game he has had in his whole career.  He is a senior and he needs to do those things as a senior.  He carried this team (Monday) night.  It was a site to see.  He was able to throw three pitches for strikes.  He works his change up really well and can throw any pitch in any count and he was really good,” said Amicone.

          Shelby took a (2-0) lead to seventh inning and Clyde was able to push a run across.  Amicone says Caudill’s ability to throw his breaking stuff for strikes was a key, but what he likes the most that he is a bulldog.  “He can throw that change up with late movement to it.  He is curveball had some really good life and tilt to it (Monday) night.  He carried the team on his back.  It was plain and simple we won because Garrett Caudill wouldn’t let us lose.  As a coach those are the games you just appreciate.  You really respect your seniors when they come to play like that,” he said.

          The Whippets return to action on Tuesday against Sandusky Perkins, another team that will be in their division of the Sandusky Bay Conference next season, weather permitting.

          Shelby is the defending Northern Ohio League champion and they play Norwalk on Thursday and Tiffin Columbian on Friday in league games.

          Amicone says in the “NOL” you must come ready to play and he knows repeating is not going to be easy.  “The “NOL” again this year is going to be tough and we start with two great teams in the “NOL.”  Norwalk won 20 games last year and brings back the majority of their lineup and the top of their rotation.  That’s what we have to put up with and that is just how the “NOL” goes,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “There is just no game where you can relax.  You think you are going to win and it happens you lose.  That is the fun part of playing in a league like this.  You have to bring your “A” game every time.”

 

Published 3/28/17

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Bellevue Off to 3-0 Start

  

          Bellevue, the preseason favorite to win the Northern Ohio League baseball title, has done nothing to disprove that theory so far in non-league competition.

          They beat Port Clinton (10-1) Monday and coach Andy Dennings says they have looked good, but there is work to do.  “We have done some nice things.  We are still seeing a lot of things that we have to work on.  We have had some really nice pitching performances.  We have been able to do some great things at the plate so far, but we definitely have some things we have to work on.  It has been a nice start overall,” he said.

          If Mother Nature allows they play at Maragretta in a non-conference game on Tuesday and then have two league games on the road on Thursday and Friday with Willard and Ontario.

          Dennings is stressing improvement with his ball club.  “That is something we talked about (Monday) after the game.  We had a couple of little things that we just can’t do and we have to improve on and we made the kids aware of those things.  Even in a 10-1 win there are always things to work on.  That is something we addressed (Monday) and hopefully we can shore some things up (Tuesday) against Margaretta and show some improvement in those areas,” said Dennings.

          Bellevue opened the season with a (10-0) win over Upper Sandusky and a (5-4) win over a well respected Edison team on Saturday.  Dennings things especially the win over Edison we prepare them for what they are going to see.  “We had a nice little tri with Upper and Edison Saturday.  Upper is a young team and the same thing with Port Clinton. They are a little bit younger, so they are still getting their feet wet.  The Edison win was a really good win, that was a regional level team there, they return a lot of kids.  Our schedule that we have put together this year and what we are seeing this week jumping right into the league you have to be ready to go as much as you can prepare with this weird weather that we have had again this year.  It seems like two years in a row that we have gotten out early and then get crammed inside here for a week and half or two weeks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “It is kind of hard to replicate getting outside, but you have to make everything as game like as possible.  You don’t have a whole lot of time.  We have two league games the first full week of the season.  We jump into two or three more next week.  We are doing some good things and hopefully we are where we need to be to get those two wins here at the end of the week.”

 

Published 3/28/17

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Northmor Crushes Mansfield Christian; looks forward

  

          Northmor pounded Mansfield Christian (23-3) in a non-conference baseball game on Monday now they are getting ready for play in the blue division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference.

          The Golden Knights (2-1) scored four times in the first and six more times in the second to take command.

          Coach Buck Workman says Mansfield Christian is a team that is rebuilding.  He says they were able to get some of their lesser experienced kids into the lineup early in the game.  “Mansfield Christian lost 12 seniors and they are down a little bit they only have 10 kids, 11 kids on the team,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game Monday, “We only played our seniors for an inning and half and I was able to get all of our subs in, so that was good for them to get their feet wet in varsity baseball.  It is hard to keep your focus and that is something you have to keep your eye on.”

          Northmor split games with Crestline on Saturday.  Workman says there is a lot of room for improvement, especially on the mound and on defense and they are working on it.  “We are still walking too many guys and giving up too many extra base runners with the errors.  I mean each time out I think we are getting a little bit sharper.  It is just a matter of us putting it all together for seven innings,” he said.

          It is Centerburg (1-1) on Wednesday and East Knox (2-1) on Friday in blue division games.

          Workman says they must continue to get better in all cases if they are going to be able to compete in conference games.  “Both of the teams we have this week in the league are very good baseball teams, so if we are going to come away with a win Wednesday and Friday we are definitely going to have to play good baseball and do all of the little things if we expect to come out with a win against those two,” said Workman.

 

Published 3/28/17

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Girls Basketball Players to Showcase Skills Sunday

  

          The fourth annual Shelby Rotary NCO Girls All-Star Basketball Classic will be Sunday, March 26 at Shelby High School.

          Over 80 girls were nominated and 44 will participate in two games, one for underclassmen and the other for seniors.

          Buckeye Central coach Greg Moore will coach the white team in the senior game.  He told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday that all they want is to have some fun and give the girls a chance to show off their skills.  “We told them the other day, we’ve had one practice, it is geared for them.  It is for them to have fun and showcase their talent.  There are going to be some college coaches there.  We sort of joked around, but we are serious, if you pass over a couple of times you might be setting beside me.  People aren’t coming there to watch them pass.  They want to watch them show their skills and have a good time,” said Moore.

          The white team is made up of Sydney Holderman of Riverdale, Emily Yeager of Ontario, Erin Sherman of Sandusky, Shelby’s Jackie Garrett, Bellevue’s Jenna Stayer, Buckeye Central’s Isabelle Biglin, Chelsey Trusty of Mohawk, Carolyn Blunk of Mansfield St. Peter’s, Shelby’s Maddi Fidler, Colonel Crawford’s Ashley Gwirtz and Haley Green of Buckeye Central.

         Moore says this game is a chance to allow players to showcase some different skills they have.  “We run an up tempo style anyway.  We have two players playing for our team in Isabelle Biglin and Haley Green.  When they come to practice they really like that they can freelance.  A lot of them come from such a structured offense and now it is time to let your hair down and see what you can do.  There is an opportunity out there and maybe somebody will be a late bloomer and catch it at the college level,” he said.

          On the black team for the senior game are Jiselle Thomas of Norwalk, Kennadie Goth of Shelby, Seneca East’s Megan Siesel, Norwalk St. Paul’s Lauren Luhasko, Wynford’s Gretchen Harris, Ashley Painley of Norwalk St. Paul, Allie Mayer of Mansfield Christian, Alexis Burkhart of Colonel Crawford, Adrienne Rodriguez of Norwalk, Mansfield St. Peter’s Autumn Scodova and Katie Kennedy of Ashland.  The black team is coached by J.R. Wilson of Mansfield Christian.

          Moore says you want to win the game, but really that is not what it is all about.  “I have been in the assistant part of it and we want give everybody equal time and make sure they have memorable moments because for some of these girls it will be last time they ever put a uniform on.  I told them, yeah, we want to win, everybody is competitive, that is the reason we play high school sports.  What we want more than anything is to have a good time, so when you leave the high school ranks you have a good time with it,” said Moore.

          In the underclass game the black team is coached by Amy Taylor-Sheldon of Wynford and the players on the team include Sydney Kin of Carey, Miranda Wammes of Fremont St. Joseph, Courtney Pifher of Buckeye Central, Tiffin Columbian’s Maddie Brisendine, Willard’s Cassidy Crawford, New Riegel’s Brianna Gillig, Cora Wyers of Western Reserve, Riverdale’s Lexie Wright, Olivia Howard of Perkins, Norwalk’s Kaelyn Harkness and Bailey Walter of Shelby.

          For the white team it will be Abigail Fogle of Upper Sandusky, Adreinne Wehring of Fremont St. Joe, Ontario’s NaShail Shelby, Sydney Cavanaugh of Mansfield St. Peter’s, Western Reserve’s Andrea Robson, Talayzha Cathing of Mansfield Senior, Megan Hensel of Upper Sandusky, Marina Adachi of Seneca East, Crestview’s Jaqueline Baith of Crestview, and Bellevue’s Casey Santoro.  They are coached by Brock Manlet of Norwalk.

          The underclass game will start at 4 PM and the senior game about 6.  Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.  There will be $2 off to anyone who donates a gently used book to the Rotary’s “Big Red Book Shelf.”

 

Published 3/23/17

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Crestview with a Young Baseball Team

  

          Crestview was a challenger in the Firelands Conference last season, finishing second behind New London.  This spring they are going to have a lot more inexperience.

          There might be a little rebuilding to be done, but coach Don Keener believes they will field a pretty good team again here in 2017.  “I think we can have a pretty solid season.  It is going to be a year of transition I guess you could say.  We did lose a really good, core group of guys from last year.  We graduated eight seniors.  I do only have probably two guys coming back with experience starting, but the younger guys did have some really good success at the lower levels the last few years.  So, as long as those guys can transition I think we can have a pretty solid season,” said Keener.

          With youth on the roster you want to get out on the field as much as you can and that has been a concern for the Cougars, but Keener says really everybody is in the same boat.  “It is extremely challenging for everybody.  We are a group that is kind of inexperienced you would like to see them get out on the field a little bit more so you can kind of have a better picture of where guys can plug in.  Unfortunately it is a disadvantage for everybody, but we are all in the same situation.  It would definitely be a little better if we could get out on the field a little bit,” he said.

          Crestview, weather permitting, begins the season Saturday at Black River.  They play Norwalk on Monday.  Their first league games come against defending champion New London on April 3 and 4. 

          Keener says with Ryan Lane back New London is going to be really good again and he says watch out for the Norwalk St. Paul.  “New London obviously has Lane coming back.  He is a special player.  He is going to Kent State on a full ride for baseball, so he is impressive.  They have some other pretty decent kids coming back, so New London is going to be good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think St. Paul is going to be your team that is going to kind of be one of those other teams you have to worry about.  Those are the teams everybody has to gear for.  I think it is going to be a really balanced league this year, but those are the two at the top before we start anything.”

 

Published 3/23/17

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Hillsdale Can do Some Good Things

  

          Hillsdale had a solid year last season and they might be even better this year.

          Coach Mike Wolf thinks they have had a good off season and they will be ready to go when the regular season gets started.  “We are super excited about our team.  We were very fortunate the booster club built us an indoor hitting facility that we have utilized all winter,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We have been able to get three scrimmages in already.  We have been out on our field for probably seven, eight times.  We have been able to get a lot of work in in the preseason.”

          Pitching depth will be a key for the Falcons this year, plus Wolf says they are going to be a team that is going to be able to use speed as a weapon.  “I think our top level pitching is really good, one through four, all veterans from last year.  We only graduated one senior.  We have two lefties and two righties in our top four.  So, I feel pitching can be one of our strengths.  One through nine I think we have a lot of team speed.  Hopefully, defensively we are going to be much improved,” he said.

          Hillsdale is due to open the season next Tuesday at Smithville in a Wayne County Athletic League game and then host the Smithies the next day.

          Wolf says there will be a lot of good teams in the league this year, but he feels like they can be right there.  “For us our goals are never any different.  First and foremost we want to challenge for a league title and hopefully make a decent postseason run.  As far as the league goes though almost everybody has a legitimate number one that is capable on any given day of beating anybody else.  I think once you get into everybody’s twos and threes and so on and so forth that will be what separates the top teams from maybe the rest,” said Wolf.

 

Published 3/23/17

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Clear Fork Wants to Leave “OCC” With a Bang

  

          Clear Fork’s baseball team advanced to the division three state semi finals lat year before losing and they are bringing a lot of that talent back this spring.

          They have some pretty big goals in their final year as a member of the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          Veteran coach Rusty Staab says they are harboring thoughts of leaving the league with the trophy in their hands.  “We are having a blast.  Our expectations are really high this year.  It is going to be our last year in the “OCC” and we are looking to leave the “OCC” on good note.  We know that has been a whole big saga and everything, but unfortunately we are leaving.  For us to leave on a high note with us possibly winning it I know those are high expectations, but that’s what we have this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have a lot of optimism.  The kids are working hard.  Our secret weapon Joe Staab has really been working with the hitters.  Our conditioning has been top notch.  We are ready to go I just wish Mother Nature was.”

          Pitching is key to baseball at any level and Staab says they have a number of guys that can get the ball over the plate with good stuff and that is going to be the backbone of their club this year.  “Mitch Dulan is looking great.  Jalen Sheriff, Davin Bailey, you through in a Gage Belcher, a Dillon Wade, and Jared Smith.  We have the potential to do some serious things.  This winter they all play on travel teams.  They have been getting some individual instruction from some pitching coaches, ex professionals.  So, their mechanics are looking really good.  Their velocity has gone up and I really think that is going to be our strength,” he said.

          The Colts had two scrimmages this past weekend cancelled.  They are supposed to open the season with a doubleheader at home against Marion Harding on Saturday.  They being “OCC” play with a back to back date with Mansfield Senior on Tuesday and Wednesday.

          Rusty’s son Joe, who led Wynford to an “N10” title last year, is now an assistant for his dad and Rusty says that is already paying dividends for the team, especially at the plate.  “I think last year we all kind of knew it was Thomas (Staab,) Luke (Clark,) and Hunter (Auk) and that was it, but that is where Joe has come in.  Joe has really worked with the hitters.  Their common sense at the plate and going up with a purpose instead of just trying not to strike out.  They are working their butts off and we are seeing a lot of progress,” said Staab,

 

Published 3/22/17

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New London Under Development

  

          New London is the defending Firelands Conference baseball champion and they return one of the best players in the area regardless of division in Kent State recruit Ryan Lane.

          However, they don’t have a much else returning from a team that won the district title a year ago. In division three.

          Coach Tony Hamilton says they have shown a good attitude during the preseason.  “The kids have worked really hard.  We only have a few guys that are around from the last few years.  They have really been working with the young guys as well as us.  They seem to have a good attitude.  The guys are putting the time in and doing the work and hopefully we will be able to get some results from all of that work,” said Hamilton.

          Lane had a microscopic ERA last spring and Hamilton says he is going to give them a chance to win anytime he takes the mound, plus he has been a big help to the other pitchers they have.  “With him on the mound we are going to be pretty good.  We have a freshman catcher that just came into the program that is pretty good.  He got some experience playing travel ball.  I think they will work well together.  Ryan has been working with our pitchers and showing them what he knows.  It is like having an extra coach when we are at practice,” said Hamilton.

          New London will open the season on Saturday, weather permitting, with a doubleheader against Mansfield Christian.  Their first Firelands Conference series will be an important one April 3 and 4 against Crestview.

          Can New London be in the Firelands Conference mix as it seems they are every year on the baseball field?  Hamilton emphasizes their youth again and says only time will tell.  “It is hard to tell.  It is going to be a little bit of an uphill climb.  We have guys that work hard.  Our biggest issue is going to be experience.  We only have three or four guys back, starters back, from last year.  We will see how they are able to adjust to things.  Only time will tell how they do under pressure,” he said.

 

Published 3/22/17

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Northmor Putting Things Together

 

          Northmor has developed a pretty good baseball tradition and they are going to field another pretty solid team this year.  It looks that way anyway.

          Coach Buck Workman says they are still getting all of their players together after a strong winter sports season and that has led to some inconsistency so far, but he thinks that will kind of straighten itself our as they go forward.  “Well, so far we have been inconsistent throwing strikes and making little mistakes here and there.  Our defense has not been as good as I like it to be.  We have shown sings,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We haven’t had all of kids on the field at one time.  We had two wrestlers that were at the state tournament.  The basketball players just got in last week full time after making it to the districts.  It has been an opportunity for other kids to get playing time and see what they can do, so it has been good in that sense.”

          Defense has been a liability so far for the Golden Knights, including the scrimmage Tuesday night against Danville.  However, Workman says he thinks they will settle down into being a pretty good defensive unit was they get going in the season.  “It is for us right now I can promise you that.  We had some ground balls that were routine balls in these three scrimmages we have got in.  We normally make those plays.  I think we are going to be fine when we settle down here.  People are kind of pressing here early on and fighting for position and things like that.  I think once we settle down we will be alright,” he said.

          Workman hopes they can be towards the top of the blue division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference this spring.  He thinks they will be able to compete with the big boys in the division.  “I think we are going to compete.  I think we have the ability to play with the teams in our league.  Highland has two D-one pitchers.  Fredericktown in loaded.  They hit top to bottom.  They have the Hatfield boy going to Toledo.  He is a real good pitcher as well as being a third team all Ohio shortstop type kid.  So, they are going to be a bear.  I think we can compete if we just do the things that we can take care of.  I think we will be alright,” said Workman,

 

Published 3/22/17

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Lexington Looking for Really Good Season

  

          Lexington advanced to the regional tournament last year and they return a good number of players from that baseball team and expect some good results this spring.

          Coach Kevin Morrow says they have a solid group back, plus they have some kids that are new to varsity baseball that have looked pretty good so far.  “Going into this season we have a lot to look forward too.  I think we have most of the offensive weapons back and we definitely have the majority of our solid pitchers back and we also have a group of incoming sophomores that looked really promising on the JV that should have an impact on the varsity this year.  So, all things on paper look pretty good.  We just need some good weather and get some kids out there against live competition and try to get some scrimmages in and go from there,” he said.

          Lexington is due to start the season Saturday, weather permitting, against both Highland and Buckeye Valley, and then has a very important Ohio Cardinal Conference series next week against arch rival Madison.

          Morrow says they would like to get some innings in against other teams before the season starts.  “You have to put them in those competitive situations.  We tried to do that with the good weather we had in February we did a lot of inter squads outside.  We are fortunate enough to have some full length cages within our fieldhouse, so we can throw live against each other.  We would like to see some other schools, someone other than ourselves, and get into some competitive situations, especially against some live pitching,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I know most of the kids play down at “Hitsville” when they can, down at Bellville, to see some live pitching.  The other aspect of it is you have to get outside and play competitively on the defensive end too to see the ball off the bat and make plays.”

          Lexington is supposed to scrimmage Delaware Hayes on Tuesday and Galion on Thursday.

          There has been good competition in camp for the Minutemen and Morrow says that is going to help them get better this year and in the future too.   “These sophomores are definitely looking to be the future, but I see them making an impact this year and they are going to push those older kids, but we have a great group of seniors returning.  Some of the more decorated kids we have had go through the program are all back.  We have a small group of juniors on the varsity, but these sophomores and looking to push these older kids and having an impact this year and we are looking forward to it,” he said.

 

Published 3/21/17

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More Consistency for Ontario

  

          Ontario has a new head baseball coach and they are looking for consistency from what is pretty much an inexperienced team as we hopefully get ready to start the season in less than a week.

          Jeff Fisher is now the manager, if that is what we call them at the high school level, of the Ontario Warriors.  He says they have a limited number of players that have much varsity playing experience.  “We are going through a honeymoon period here of sorts with a new head coach and there is a lot of optimism.  There are a lot of positions that are open.  We really only have three guys that played significant innings as far as hitting and defense last year.  We only had a couple of other guys that lettered, but their time was split.  It has the makings of a JV group in transition,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “On one hand we see a lot of baseball talent, we see kids working hard, but will that transition into the schedule we have before us in the “NOL” and non-conference in Richland County, well the jury is still out there.”

          It has been cold and sometimes snowy in North Central Ohio, but Fisher says they were fortunate to be able to get some innings in over the weekend and hopefully that helped them a little bit.  “We were fortunate enough to be in Portsmouth, in southern Ohio, this past weekend, and we did play a doubleheader on Saturday.  So, we a least got to play 14 innings and get our feet wet that way and that is important because we both witnessed a significant amount of success in areas and we have got a lot of areas for improvement.  We didn’t walk out of there as fat cats and we didn’t walk out of there thinking we are going to be a push over either, so that for sure was advantageous for us,” he said.

          In the preseason, Fisher says they have been trying to find out who can pitch and how much because that is going to be important, especially considering there may be some issues regarding games being postponed and then moved to later in the season.  “I think baseball is a game that benefits those that have an established routine that they can adopt and gain confidence from, but when you are as inconsistent as we are right now it is not easy as a coach to establish that.  The pitch count I don’t know if you call it a dilemma or an opportunity is factor as we lose games and it starts to compact the schedule even more and bring to the light which teams have more pitching depth.  That is something that has been an area of concern for us because we have more than two guys that can throw strikes, so that is a big part of our preseason,” said Fisher.

 

Published 3/21/17

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Villa Angela-St. Joseph Runs Past Northwestern

  

          Trailing by one with 6:43 to play in the first quarter, Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph went on a (14-0) run over the next three minutes to take control and they went on  to beat Northwestern (70-51) in the division three regional final Saturday night at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.

          The Vikings will play Fairland in next week’s state semi-finals.

          Villa-Angela St. Joe had two more (5-0) runs and a (6-0) run to close the half to take a (42-22) lead into halftime.

          “They made some big plays and we turned it over and that was the key to the game.  If you give up that may transition points you are not going to win against those guys.  Those guys are too talented, too athletic, to give them that many chances at the basket,” said Northwestern coach Mark Alberts Jr.

          The Vikings (21-6) pressed full court for about three and a half quarters of the game and were able to force a number of turnovers.  However, Alberts says in his opinion their problem was more poor decision making.  “To be honest with you I don’t think it was the pressure it was us not making the right basketball play.  Their pressure was good, but we did things we normally don’t do.  Some of our guys were a little bit nervous unfortunately.  It showed in the second half when we battled the whole time.  When we didn’t back down.  They made some good plays too.  We did some things like just losing the ball out of bounds or throwing it to the wrong spot that we normally don’t do.  It could have just been the level of the game.  When you give them that many buckets it is tough to respond to,” he said.

          The second half was more competitive with the Huskies actually outscoring St. Joe (29-28) in the third and fourth quarters.

          Bowling Green recruit Derek Koch led the Huskies (22-6) with 20 points, before fouling out with 3:45 to play in the game.  He finishes his career as the state’s all time leading rebounder.

          Alonzo Gaffney had 24 for the Vikings, including at least five dunks, and point guard Jerry Higgins added 20.

          Northwestern wins 18 of its last 19 games, wins its first outright Wayne County Athletic League title since 2011 and made its first regional appearance since 2006.

          Alberts says he is nothing but proud of what his kids did this year.  “I am very proud of our guys and I told them that in the locker room.  I told them how much I appreciated their effort and their attitude and everything for the year.  It is a special group of kids, their chemistry, their attitudes.  I love being around the guys.  That is why you don’t want something like this to end.  You don’t want to lose ever, but I don’t want to stop being around these guys,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “These are some great kids that I love working with.  Obviously our five seniors we don’t get them any more and that is a great class of guys.  There are some tears, there are some people upset.  You have to be proud of all the things they have accomplished.  That is the part with these guys that is really tough.”

 

Published 3/18/17

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St. Peter’s in Regionals Again

 

          Mansfield St. Peter’s is playing in the division four regional finals for the second straight year and a win Friday night will advance the Spartans to their first final four since 1990.

          They play Delphos St. John’s (20-4) Friday night at the University of Toledo.

          After tailing (10-4) early on Tuesday night, the Spartans went on a 17 point run and never looked back in beating North Baltimore (72-45) in a semi-final game.

          Coach Joe Jakubick has consistently said that once a game is over they move on to whoever is next.  “We talk about that going forward.”

          Not that they can’t play the half court game, but St. Peter’s is very good at filling lanes and getting down the floor for layups or open three point looks in transition.  “We have been able to get the games more in our tempo,” said the coach.

          Delphos St. John’s beat Holgate (40-25) in their semi-final Tuesday night at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University. Their defensive average in the tournament is just over 30 points a game. “Our guys trust in the scouting report and understanding the other team’s strengths and weaknesses and has been as good as any team we have ever had in doing that,” St. John’s coach Aaron Elwer told the Lima News after their semi final win.

          They have allowed more than 50 points only three times this season.  The Spartans have scored at least 70 points 19 times this year, 80 six times, 90 once, and a high water mark of 106 against Danville in the regular season finale.  So, tempo is going to be a real key in this game.

          Tim Kreeger, a 6’9” center for the Blue Jays had 14 points and six blocked shots on Tuesday night.

          St. Peter’s has handled height before.  An (84-67) win over Ashland, which featured four starters over 6’4” is a good example of that.  The Spartans have also played and excellent schedule, including division one Mansfield Senior and division two Ontario and Columbus Watterson.

          St. John’s in part of the loaded Midwest Athletic Conference, which includes the likes of Versailles, Minster, Coldwater, St. Henry and Marion Local.  They have only one loss since the new year and that came (55-47) to Marion Local on February 10.  They beat Elida (48-45,) who plays for a division two regional title Saturday against Wauseon, early in the season.

          St. Peter’s features four all district performers in Mason Campbell, Jared Jakubick, the son of the coach, Tyson Kent, and Elijah Cobb, all of whom average double figures.  They have had a short bench all season, normally only subbing two players during the course of the game.

          The Spartans (24-2) obviously have great talent, but coach Jakubick told Swankonsports.com earlier in the season that is not the main reason for their success.  He says they have “showed some good character on the part of our young men.”

          Our basketball analysis Roy Shoulders, a former head coach at St. Peter’s, and a teacher at the school, says he believes this year’s players are very focused.  “They are very driven in what they want to do.  They have t-shirts on that say “Unfinished Business” and they don’t mean that in a cocky way, but they really feel with this year with the experiences they had last year they feel they have a real good shot at being regional champions,” said Shoulders.

 

Published 3/17/17

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Lady Colts Looking For Players

  

          Clear Fork is one the true dynasties of high school softball in North Central Ohio and they are working hard this preseason to maintain that reputation.

         It has been an interesting preseason in terms of workouts and things that can be accomplished.

          Veteran coach Jeff Gottfried says it takes a lot of mental discipline from the players.  “This preseason ranks right up there with some of the worst ones.  You kind of get that little carrot early on when you really don’t want to be outside yet because you have so many things you really need to focus on, the fundamental stuff, but you feel if you don’t go outside you have wasted a golden opportunity.  When it is all said and done that was about three, four weeks ago it seems like and it is like what good does it do now?  It’s 22 degrees with snow on the ground.  You work on the discipline side of things,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “You can reference it to games and situations where there are certain things that are out of your control and other things that are in your control.  You control what you can and that is your own play and get yourself ready for the season.”

          The Lady Colts won another Ohio Cardinal Conference title last season, but Gottfried says they really have a lot of holes to fill this season.  “Every time we have a new year it is a new bunch coming in.  You always miss those ones that left you from the previous year.  This year is a huge year.  We lost six seniors from a year ago and they all had some sort of role for our team and our program.  There are lots of question marks, lots of holes to fill.  I hope we get some scrimmages is because quite frankly I don’t know until we have seen the kids in action how they are going to perform and fill in those holes.  The upper classmen are doing a great job of passing along to other ones on how they act and what they do putting on that Lady Colts softball uniform,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork has four scrimmages scheduled for next week and Gottfried says it will be important for them to get in as many of those as possible.  “You would like to get 28 innings in before you get started.  Four scrimmages and seven innings at least or maybe even more because we go for the maximum time we are allowed.  I still tell everybody give me 20 games because it is going to take more 20 games to figure our team out.  What kid needs to be where and we will have it figured out and headed in the right direction.  Certainly when you can get some innings in that don’t count to teach and correct and at least get those kids headed down the right path to start the season will be nice,” he said.

 

Published 3/17/17

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Norwalk Ready to Compete

  

          Norwalk ended last season by winning 12 of its last 13 games and they hope they can take some of that momentum to this baseball season, which begins in just over a week.

          Veteran coach Wes Douglas says his kids believe they are going to have success and that is half of the battle.  “We ended up with 12 straight wins down the stretch until Lexington knocked us out in the districts in a 3-2 ball game.  As far as momentum those kids might believe and trust in what you are trying to accomplish as a team, a coaching staff, and a program by that success,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I think that part carries over.  We have a good nucleus back with four or five starters and three three year starters.  We have some young kids ready to take a step up to fill those spots and the team is coming together.”

          It can be hard to predict before the first pitch is thrown in a real game, but Douglas thinks they have a chance to be pretty good.  He says they will have some good pitching and defense up the middle.  “My line when people ask me right now about how good we will be, I say we will be good, I don’t know how great we will be, but my take right now is you are going to have to play pretty well to beat us.  I think we have some good top end pitching, solid up the middle.  These kids have played a lot of baseball.  I have a handful of kids that is all they play.  I have been wrong before, but I like what I see so far,” he said.

          As far as the league goes there are going to be a lot of good teams in the “NOL.”  Douglas says the Bellevue is likely the preseason favorite this year.  “I think everybody would agree Bellevue is bringing back a really talented team that was very successful last year and only graduated I think two seniors.  I think everything is going to have to go through them.  The rest of the league is well coached.  I think Sandusky has some talented kids that played a lot of baseball and the rest of the league you always have to play well to come out of there with a “W,” said Douglas.

 

Published 3/17/17

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Northwestern Advances to Elite Eight

  

          Northwestern outscored Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (44-36) in the second half and went on to beat the Knights (75-67) in the division three regional semi-finals Wednesday night at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.

          They play Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph for a state tournament berth on Saturday night in Canton.

          In a first half of runs, St. Thomas Aquinas led (21-19) after the first quarter and the game was tied (31-31) at the half. 

          In the third quarter, the Huskies took the lead (42-40) on a 30 footer by point guard Parker Smith with 2:45 left in the quarter and went on to outscore the Knights (10-5) to close the quarter with a four point (49-45) advantage.

          They then began the final stanza with another run (10-6) run over the first 4:06 of the quarter to take a (59-51) lead and force a St. Thomas timeout.

          Coach Mark Alberts Jr. believes it was defense that turned the tide for the Huskies.  “I thought our defense the second half was much more active.  We went to a zone right at the end of the first half and I thought it looked good.  The second half I thought guys we much more engaged and we got to their shooters a little bit better.  They didn’t have Summers in the game and that definitely helped.  We only had to worry about a couple of guys on the floor instead of three.  I thought our guys did a better job rebounding the ball in the second half.  We made some really big hustle plays, which translated into some easy baskets for us,” said Alberts.

          Mason Wilhelmy converted a layup and two three pointers during a two minute span of the late third and early fourth quarter to give his team a spurt.  Alberts says once they were able to get some stops and some easier looks and then they started to relax a little more.  “I thought getting a few easy shots helped open up our perimeter and helped open up some things that maybe we weren’t doing early on.  I think the guys were more relaxed as the game went on,” he said.

          The Huskies built a nine point lead at (63-54) with 2:08 left on a hoop by Bowling Green recruit Derek Koch, but the Knights fought back and cut it just two (65-63) two free throws by Jaret Knox with 57 seconds remaining.

          Alberts says they made some mistakes, but they were able to make seven of eight free throws down stretch and get some big stops too.  “You know what?  We did some uncharacteristic things,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We had a couple of bad shots.  We had a couple of dumb fouls.  We had a turnover in there.  The pressure was definitely immense.  I think our guys made a couple of mistakes there.  Fortunately we were able to hit a couple of free throws and then we got a stop and a rebound and we were able to get a couple of easy buckets to kind of push the lead back to six.  We got it up to eight and they knew that we would have to miss and they would have to make a couple of easy baskets.  Our guys stayed mentally tough and that is a tribute to them.”

          Smith paced Northwestern (22-5) with 26 points on the night, Koch added 22, and Wilhelmy finished with 10.  Knox had 18 for the Knights.

          The Huskies winners of their last 18 in a row play Villa-Angela St. Joseph (20-6,) a (87-47) winner over Garfield on Wednesday night at the Fieldhouse, in the regional final.

          Alberts says they will be playing a very athletic team that plays very hard.  “Cleveland St. Joe’s is an outstanding team.  They play a great schedule.  They get great athletes there.  They play really hard and I think their defense makes their offense go.  They have a 6’8” sophomore named Alonzo Gaffney that you will see some day on TV with someone big, he is that good.  He still has a lot of things to polish and get better at his game. They had Carlton Bragg a few years ago and all of those great players and he is right in that.  I think you will see him do some special things.  They have some quick athletes and good players.  They play hard and I think their schedule benefits them.  So, we are going to have to handle some pressure and do some things like that to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Alberts.

 

 

Published 3/16/17

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Sandusky and Wauseon Different Teams

 

          Northern Ohio League champion Sandusky faces Wauseon in the division two regional semi-finals at Savage Hall on the campus of the University of Toledo on Thursday night.

          The Blue Streaks (21-4) advanced with a (44-32) win over Lexington in the district final at Mansfield Senior High School on Saturday.  It is the Streaks second trip to the regionals in the last three years.  That corresponds to the play of senior guard Jayreese Williams.

          He is a two time Northwest District player of the year and averages over 23 points a game this year.  “Reese has done some great things for four years for us.  He gets his shots and he is unselfish,” said Sandusky coach Colin Irish.

          Jayreese scored 16 of his team’s last 18 points on Saturday after some early foul trouble that forced him to the bench for about six minutes in the first half.

         Junior Keith Williams and senior Cavon Croom, headed to Ball State on a football scholarship, are both capable scorers for the Blue Streaks.  They were honorable mention all district picks.  Croom lit up Ontario for 26 in an “NOL” game in January.  Both Jamonte Alexander and Brent Hanson have played solid defense and rebounded well for the Streaks.

          “We are more than just Jayreese.  Everybody knows their role.  We have other scorers and we have kids that do other things to help us win,” said Irish.

          While, the Blue Streaks get most of their scoring from the perimeter, Wauseon likes to pound the ball inside.  42 of their 57 points in a (57-45) district final win over Toledo Woodward came from the paint.

          The Indians (24-1) are paced by the play of 6’9” center Austin Rotroff, a first team all district selection.  He had 19 points and 10 rebounds versus Woodward on Saturday.  He averages 12 points per contest.  Carter Bzovi, a second team selection, has also been an explosive scorer for Wauseon this season.

          This is Wauseon’s first regional appearance since 1994.  Sandusky lost two years ago (65-57) to Parma Holy Name.

          As much as Sandusky has done on offense this season, Irish says they are a team that is built on their defense in both the half and full court.  He says they are going to need to do Thursday night what they have been doing all season long.  “It has been about our defense.  That is the key for us.  Coming out of huddles on Saturday all the kids were saying is it is about getting stops,” he said.

          The winner faces either Elida, who beat Northern 10 champ Upper Sandusky (58-53) on Saturday, or Holy Name for the regional title on Saturday afternoon at Savage Hall.

 

Published 3/16/17

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Northwestern Wants to Throw it Inside

  

          Northwestern, the outright Wayne County Athletic League champion, plays Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in the division three regional semi-final on Wednesday night at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.

          It is the Huskies first trip to the regional tournament since 2006.

          Northwestern (21-5) has won its last 17 games and coach Mark Alberts Jr. says they have tried to keep everything as normal this week as they possibly can.  “We are trying to make everything just like we have each week this year, especially during this winning streak that we are on regardless if we are in the district semi-final, district final, regional semi-final, whatever we are in we want it to be the same.  I am hoping our guys stay grounded.  They definitely know what’s at stake.  We are not traveling anywhere to practice. We are just practicing in our gym.  We want everything to be similar to at times within the past two months,” he said.

          St. Thomas Aquinas (15-11) was only a .500 team during the regular season, but Alberts says they play a very tough regular season schedule, including Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph, who plays, Garfield in the other semi final.  Alberts says they have very good guard play.  “They play an excellent schedule.  They played St. Joe a couple of times this year, Cleveland Central Catholic, and they have played Massillon, teams of that caliber.  So, we are definitely going to have our hands full.  I am very confident that we can do well against them and beat them.  They have a point guard named Michael Summers, 5’8”, quick point guard.  He has played well here as of late.  He had 26 in the district final, he had only averaged eight or 10,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have a shooting guard that I think Heidelberg is recruiting.  I know some of the other D-3’s at that level Otterbein and some others have probably talked to this boy that averages 17.  They have another perimeter guy named Drew Duplin who can shoot and averages about 10 a game.  They have athletes and kind of play an open gym type offense.  A lot of ball sceening and like to play fast.  They play fast like Oberlin.”

          Of course, Northwestern has 6’9” Derek Koch, Ohio’s all-time leading rebounder, in the middle.  Koch is also a very consistent scorer and Alberts says they want to force the Knights to guard him in the paint.  “They don’t have any post players like Oberlin had and that is going to be our advantage.  They have a big guy that is going to Eastern Michigan for football off the bench.  He is about 6’6” and 250, 270.  He is obviously a strong kid, but he doesn’t play much.  If they play him they play zone.  I think they are going to have a rough time matching up with Derek. I think we have to use that to our advantage, especially on the offensive end of the floor.  I know they can shoot and (Wednesday) I’m am debating on we may play box and one on the one shooter just to mess them up because they haven’t seen anything like that.  It is just something to screw them up and find a way to catch them off guard,” said Alberts.

 

Published 3/15/17

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Edison in Regionals For Second Straight Year

  

          Edison plays Marion Local in the division three regional semi-finals on Wednesday night at Bowling Green State University. 

          Athletes at Edison are getting used to playing games at a high level.

          Edison (16-9) beat Western Reserve (44-35) in a district final on Saturday.  Coach Kyle Hammond feels like they are at the top of their game right now.  “I feel like the second half of the season our kids started to come together a little bit more.  You kind of figured they would with the late start.  I really like we are playing on defense right now and just the way our team is playing together on the offensive end,” he said.

          Edison qualified for the regional tournament last season, their football team has been the final four the last two years, and their wrestling squad won the team duals state title this winter.  Hammond says they have a really good thing going at Edison.  “Right now, we have a great group of kids that really believe in what they are doing and work incredibly hard.  They just have a great support system around them with their families and just the community in general.  We have a really good thing going right now.  It is fun to be part of it and we have had success in multiple sports and not just boys, but the girls have had a lot of success.  It is just a really good time to be a Changer,” said Hammond.

          Marion Local (17-8) upset highly regarded Wayne Trace (66-65) in their district final.  The Flyers are known much more for their success on the football field over the years and Hammond says you can see how physical they are on the basketball floor too.  “They are a lot like us.  They look to try and play inside out.  They have some tough, physically strong kids,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We expect it to be a tough match up for us because they are going to be a sound, physically tough basketball team, but we do like the match-up.  We will see how we play on Wednesday, but I like where we are at right now.”

          Edison beat “SBC” rival Maragretta (38-32) in the district semis last week and it was a similar kind of game to the district final against Western Reserve.  However, on Saturday they were able to make some outside shots and Hammond thinks that will be a key on Wednesday too.  “We have a lot of kids that can penetrate and two posts that we like to get the ball inside too, but when we make outside shots in can make it a lot more difficult for the defense.  The better we shoot the tougher team we are to defend,” he said.

 

Published 3/15/17

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Madison Knows it will be Tough

  

          Almost every year Madison fields a solid baseball team and this year will be no different for the Rams, but veteran coach Doug Rickert knows it will be a challenging season too.

          This preseason the Rams have not been outside that much, but Rickert says he likes the work they have gotten done and he likes even more the attitude he has seen from his team.  “Honestly we haven’t been outside much.  It was beautiful before we had official practice.  We have actually only been able to be on our baseball diamond once and the football field a couple of times.  We have done a lot of indoor stuff.  Our kids have been extremely hard working and I think that is what I like the most.  We have a bunch of really good kids, really smart kids.  I think I looked the other day and our GPA for the varsity baseball team is 3.75.  To be honest I have never had that before, so we have a just a bunch of good kids and kids that are really willing to work on the things we have asked them to do so far,” said Rickert.

          Doug likes to have a smart team, but he doesn’t want one that over thinks the game either and he knows that is a fine line.  “We still have a lot of work to do in that area.  We have some kids battling for some spots and I think sometimes the pressure might get to them and do the wrong thing or over think sometimes in situations.  It is funny we do want to be an intelligent team and do the right thing, but also there is a fine line between over thinking and over analyzing on some situations and some pitches and what’s next.  We kind of have a theory here a lot of times when we are playing when you think, you stink.  We want them to be comfortable, we want them to be confident and that is our job as coaches to get them to that point where they’re not over thinking or over analyzing the choices,” he said.

          Madison finished second in the Ohio Cardinal Conference last year behind Wooster and they are going to be a factor again this season.  However, Rickert knows a championship will not come easy.  “I think the expectations are always there.  We thought we had a nice team last year.  We went 12-2 in the league and nine times out of ten that is going to win a league championship.  We were really trying to win that thing three years in a row, that was our goal.  As good as we did 12-2 wasn’t good enough.  We were the only team good enough to beat Wooster and unfortunately they got us once and Lex got us once.  We told the kids the league is going to be tough this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesaday, “You look at Clear Fork went to the state and is bringing about their whole team back, Lexington went to regionals and brought their whole team back, and then you add a very good Mt. Vernon team to what is already a very, very good league and it is a very brutal “OCC.”

 

Published 3/15/17

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Buckeye Central Counting on Pitching, Speed

  

          Buckeye Central is going to be a young baseball team this year that is going to need to get better to compete in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference this spring.

          Coach Chad Jensen says he likes the work ethic that his players have shown so far this year.  “Our kids have really worked hard.  It started last summer.  The kids really worked hard in the summer.  They worked really hard in the preseason.  Our non-basketball guys go it going in the winter and they really worked hard with great attendance.  The kids have really done well.  We have had our basketball players about a week now.  They are working hard, they are doing what we ask them to do.  We just need to get outside and try to put it all together,” he said.

          At this point, Jensen says this is a team that is going to rely on its pitching and it speed on the bases to be able to win games.  “A lot of things are in development right now.  We have four returning letter winners and three starters, so we are going to be a little inexperienced.  What I have seen so far I like.  I think we have three starting pitchers that I am confident that we can throw out there and have a chance to win.  I like our team speed.  I think we can run the bases hopefully pretty well.  Our kids are really coachable and they do what is asked of them.  So, that is what I have seen so far.  When you go live those things can change.  What I have seen so far those couple of things could be a strength for us,” said Jensen.

         Buckeye is going to have to get better fast in a regular season that only last about seven weeks.  Jensen says there are really four teams that are favorites going into the season.  “We play one game at a time and see where we are at at the end of the year.  I think there are some very quality teams in our league.  Our league is so tough in baseball.  When I look at the top four I think you have defending champ Wynford, you have Seneca East, you have Mohawk, who returns the best player in the league, and you have Upper Sandusky, who has double the boys of the rest of us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It depends how fast we get used to the varsity game.  We have a lot of newcomers.  They have worked hard, but it might be a little bit of a shock to them early on.  Hopefully, if we take a loss we get better and improve and play our best baseball at the end of the year.  As always we try to win every game and our kids are going to compete and I hope when it is all said and done we get good opportunity to compete.”

 

Published 3/15/17

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Shoulders Says St. Peter’s All Around Team

  

          Former coach Roy Shoulders, a member of the Swankonsports.com team, says Mansfield St. Peter’s is a team that has a lot of skill and is driven to succeed.

          They are scheduled to play North Baltimore (16-10) out of the Blanchard Valley Conference, in the division four regional semi-finals at the Stroth Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University of Tuesday night, weather permitting.

          After trialing by one at the half they went on to beat Colonel Crawford (59-42) in the district final last Friday night at Willard.

          Shoulders says right now the Spartans (24-2) are playing excellent basketball.  “I am telling you right now just matching first five versus first five I am going to be hard pressed to say that there is going to be somebody in the regional that will be able to put five players on the floor that are better.  What might hurt St. Pete’s is if they have to get down to the bench because they are not a very deep squad.  St. Pete’s is a very good defensive team with very quick hands.  They don’t get in foul trouble.  You keep your fingers crossed that those are not things that come bite them in the butt.  They are very unselfish.  They pass the ball well, move the ball well,” he said.

          All year long they have gone pretty much with their starting five in Mason Campbell, Jared Jakubick, Tyson Kent, Elijah Cobb and Jake Gurski.  Shoulders says they aren’t well deep, but they have done a good job staying out of foul trouble.  “That is a thing they have done well all year is to be able to play aggressive defense and not get in foul trouble.  Some teams don’t do that well.  It almost seems like every game there is someone in foul trouble, but not St. Pete’s.  They have been able to play very physical defense, not just on ball, but off ball, bumping cuts, getting out in passing lanes, making sure catches are pressured, doing a very good job of defending the dribble, physical block outs to get rebounds and get fast breaks started.  Friday night they played five guys until the last minute, 1:20, when both teams emptied the bench.  Literally it was five guys and no one else,” said Shoulders

          The other side of regional bracket has Holgate (21-4) against Delphos St. John’s (19-4).

          Shoulders believes the Spartans are a team with clear goals and they are not going to be taken up in the moment when it comes to the regional tournament.  “This is a very focused group of young men that are happy to be district champion, but that is not the ultimate goal.  Being a regional champion is the goal.  Not just getting to the state and being happy to be there.  They are very driven in what they want to do.  They have t-shirts on that say “Unfinished Business” and they don’t mean that in a cocky way, but they really feel with this year with the experiences they had last year they feel they have a real good shot at being regional champions,” he said.

          Shoulders sums it up by saying that St. Peter’s is a very focused team that is very well coached by Joe Jakubick and his staff.  “St. Peter’s is a very sound, fundamental basketball team and that just goes to show all of the hours being put in coaching and teaching with these young men.  They are a very well coached basketball team.  They are very good in the half court.  A lot teams may be very good in transition and they score out of transition, but if you get them into a half court game they struggle.  Some teams they want to play a half court game and if you can speed up the tempo that is not their style and they struggle.  St. Peter’s is comfortable playing anyway you want to play.  They are tough to press because four guys on the floor handle the ball extremely well.  If they face zone they have guys that can penetrate the zone and kick out.  You have guys that can catch and shoot.  You have guys that can catch and put the ball on the floor and clear space.  Joe does a very good job of coaching these guys.  As much as we have made point of the talent of these guys let’s not forget too that this is a very well coached basketball team,” said Shoulders.

 

Published 3/14/17

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Ashland Ready to Compete

  

          It’s going to be another loaded year in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball, but the Ashland Arrows believe they can compete.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they have a lot of experience and talent back and his cautiously optimistic about what the Arrows can do this year.  “I am excited.  We have nine, 10 seniors coming back this year that got a lot of experience on varsity last year.  I am cautiously optimistic about the season as we get ready to get rolling pretty soon,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “The kids have been working hard and we have really been able to get a lot done the first few weeks.  We have been able to practice on our field about nine times.  I think last year we might have had nine total practices on our field the entire season.  So, we are a lot farther ahead this year then what we have been able to do the last couple of years.  I think we are going to be ready to go.  Unfortunately the weather right now isn’t cooperating, but hopefully things will clear up by next week and we will have good weather this spring.  I think our guys are going to ready to roll.”

          Early in the baseball preseason the weather was tremendous and teams were able to get outside.  Now, there is snow on the ground now, but Lavengood says they are still way ahead in terms of preparation.  “You can certainly get some hitting done in a cage and some other things inside, but there is nothing we can do in a gym that can simulate what you can do on a baseball field with outfield cuts and relays, just ground balls on a regular baseball field as opposed to a basketball court.  There are just so many game situation type things that we have been able to do already with some inter squad scrimmaging with our guys that I think we are so much more prepared to start the season this year than we have ever been really the last five, six years.  We are excited, but things are different when you go between the lines and you start playing other teams.  We are looking forward to season getting started,” said Lavenood.

          The “OCC” has almost always been a good baseball league and with the inclusion of Mt. Vernon this year Lavengood says it will be even better.  “It is always a good league for baseball and this year is not going to be anything different with the addition of Mt. Vernon to replace Orrville.  Not to say that Orrville hasn’t had some good teams the last few years, but Mt. Vernon has good baseball every year.  We have played them non-league the last few seasons and coach Gross is going to have them ready to go.  That is going to make the league for baseball even stronger with their addition.  Clear Fork went to the final four last year, Madison is always good, Wooster is always good, Lexington is always good, and West Holmes had a pretty solid team last year and I think they will be okay this year too.  So, baseball wise this is always a tough league and you better be ready to play every night,” said Lavengood.

 

Published 3/14/17

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New Group of Shelby Baseball Players

  

          Shelby won the outright Northern Ohio League baseball title last spring and now it is almost time to start all over again with the season starting in a couple of weeks.

          The Whippets lost quite a bit to graduation last year, including an all-state pitcher, but coach Jon Amicone says they have some players that are emerging as leaders for them.  “We did lose a nice senior group led by Dillon Thornsberry, an All-Ohio pitcher.  There were about six guys in the line-up that knew there place.  It was a special class and a team last year that did some special things.  It was a special class, but we need to turn the page, we do have a nice group of seniors, four or five kids to lean on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Alex Pallo is going to be a three year starter here.  Cobb is another pitcher we lean on.  We are going to be really young and it is going to be hard to replace those great players in the senior class, but so far it has been working and they have been up to the challenge.”

          Competition is big in athletics no matter the level.  Amicone says they have a lot of kids that are trying to show the coaching staff what they have got.  “We have a lot of young kids hungry that want to put on the varsity uniform.  We are having really good competition in key areas for some infield and outfield spots.  I think competition breads success and our kids are really fighting and scratching for that starting spot.  They really want to be starters, that is obvious on the field and even in the gym, everything we are doing we are trying to compete.  The guy that competes the most is going to have that spot in the lineup,” he said.

          Of course, Shelby will also have the talents of Brennan Armstrong, who announced last month he intends to play football for the University of Minnesota in the Big Ten.  The junior is a talented baseball player too both as a pitcher and an everyday player.

          It has been an interesting last couple of weeks weather wise with temperatures in the 70’s in February and then snow in mid-March.  Amicome says they, like everybody else, are trying to work through it.  “It has been really odd.  We started practice in the last week of February outside and that is something I have never had in my six years of being a head coach and now last week and this week looks like we will be back inside the gym.  It is tough on all teams, coaches and players.  There are only so many times you can work on a bunt defense before you start to lose kid’s attention.  Our kids have done a nice job of keeping as focused as possible.  We have go to keep grinding everyone is in the same boat,” said Amicone.

 

Published 3/14/17

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Sandusky Wins Ticket to the Regional

   

          Northwest district player of the year Jayreese Williams scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and Sandusky rallied to beat Lexington (42-33) in the division two district final on Saturday afternoon at Mansfield Senior High School.

          There were some offensive highlights in the game, but Sandusky head coach Colin Irish says it came down to them getting stops.  “It wasn’t really about the offense to be honest with you.  What an effort we gave defensively.  Brent Hanson, I haven’t seen a young man dominate the paint at his size.  He did a great job with (Conner) Roesch the other day with Perkins and he did a great job with (Cade) Stover (Saturday.)  I am sure Stover had decent numbers, but he made him work so hard.  It was about the defense,” said Irish.

          Lexington (17-8) scored only 12 points in the third and four quarters.  Irish says the players knew what they had to do.  “It was defensive effort.  The kids kept saying it is about the defense.  In the huddle when we took a time out to just regroup defensively.  It was coming form the kids we have to get stops all of the way down to the bitter end and fortunately we managed to do that,” he said.

          Jayresse Williams went to the bench with 4:38 left in the first quarter with two fouls and Lexington led by four (12-8) after the first quarter.  Williams returned with less than five minutes to go in the half, but the Minutemen still led (21-18) at the break.

          Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says they were aggressive early and were able to get through the Sandusky pressure, but as they game went on they made more mistakes.  “We were executing a little, but we were being aggressive.  We were attacking their pressure.  With Jayreese being on the bench that gave us a little bit of a spark too.  They were right there with their best guy on the bench.  They were giving us everything they had.  I think we handled their pressure, but the second half was a totally different story,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Their pressure just kind of rattled us.  We didn’t handle it well.  We had a couple of turnovers.  Our body language really changed.  We started settling for some not so good shots.  I didn’t have guys crashing the boards.  It is one of those things you hope doesn’t happen at this point in the season.  When you only score 12 points in the second half you are not going to win too many games.”

          Cade Stover led Lexington with 16, 10 of those were in the first half, and they didn’t get much of anything from the perimeter.  Hamilton says they couldn’t get into a rhythm.  “It was one of those that just wasn’t meant to be I guess.  We could not find a rhythm.  We didn’t feel comfortable I guess.  It was because of their defense, I credit that.  We did get a couple of offensive boards, put backs.  We had a couple of sparks, we just couldn’t get two or three possessions.  It was just one possession and we were right back trying to catch up,” he said.

          Keith Williams, who finished with 10 points, gave Sandusky its first lead of the second half (24-23) on a layup with 4:32 left in the third.  Jayreese Williams’ field goal gave the Streaks a lead (27-25) they would never relinquish and he canned a three with 1:36 left in the quarter to stretch the lead to (30-25) to five.  “I knew we were going to get it somewhere.  “Reece” stepped up and hit some big shots.  We missed some layups as well.  I think we can play better, but at the end of the day we are moving on and that is what it is all about,” said Irish.

          Hamilton says they are well aware of the talents of Jayreese, but he is hard to contain.  Really he thought they did a good job overall on defense.  “We have seen him for four years now.  We knew that going in.  We knew we weren’t going to stop him.  We didn’t have that capability.  We thought we could contain him and we thought we could and shut down a couple of their other guys.  I thought we did a nice job, they only scored 42 points on us.  Our problem was we just couldn’t get into an offensive flow,” he said.

          Lexington would close it to one (30-29) on a Mason Kearns basket with 6:18 to play, but they only made one field goal there after. 

          Sandusky (20-4) and Lexington have met three straight years in the district tournament.  The Minutemen advanced to the regional last year (74-52) and the Streaks beat them in a semi final game (58-55) two years ago and went on to beat Ontario for the district title.

          Irish likes the experience they bring to the table and he says their pressure took the Minutemen out of the some of the things they wanted to do.  “I think it is a factor, but they have a lot of experience too.  This was a rubber match.  We played them the last couple of years.  I have much respect for coach Hamilton and what he does with those guys.  I think we managed to make them unconformable down the stretch.  I’m not sure if conditioning had something to do with it our kids are such good shape,” he said.

 

Published 3/11/17

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Puder at the Buzzer Gives Western Win Over Clear Fork

   

          Dale Smith fed Colton Puder on the left block and he laid it in at the buzzer and Western Reserve edged Clear Fork (36-34) in the division three district semi-finals on Thursday night at Norwalk High School.

          They play Edison (15-9) for a district title on Saturday afternoon back at Norwalk.

          “I thought they really over collapsed on baseline penetration.  That is something we picked up on film.  Every week we will highlight a couple of things we think will work.  I guess it was good to save that one for the end.  We said, hey Dale, you have two reads and Dale made the perfect read.  Puder did the easy part,” said Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon.

          Clear Fork (7-17) played its best basketball in the tournament with wins over Galion and New London.  Coach Steven Bechtel says his kids gave great effort.  “Both teams just battled.  They just made one more play at the end and it just happened to be at the buzzer.  I couldn’t be prouder of the kids with the way they came out and battled every single possession and throughout the tournament and the season too.  Just picking up after a rough year and getting that momentum and carrying us to this position,” said Bechtel.

          Western Reserve, a team that normally relies on the three point shot made only 1-18 threes on the night.  Sheldon says they kept shooting them because that is what they are about.  “It was just a gutsy performance.  We didn’t let it bother us.  I told them at halftime we are getting good looks, we are good shooters, we have to be ready to stroke it, and keep hoisting it.  That’s what we do,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “You don’t get to the district championship game by changing colors.  The zebra has stripes and so do we and our stripe is the three point line.  It was key for us to just keep battling.”

          Puter’s was the only field goal scored by either team in what was a physical fourth quarter.  Clear Fork tied the game at (34-34) at the 4:46 mark of the fourth quarter on two free throws by Justice Rebman.  There were some missed shots, but there was some pretty good defense too for both teams.

          Smith led Western with nine points.  Rebman was the only player in the game in double figures with 10.

          Sheldon says Clear Fork beat them to a lot of the 50/50 plays in the fourth quarter, but his kids gave it all they had.  “I really thought in the fourth quarter they got more than us.  We were just fortunate they couldn’t make a basket either because we gave them a lot of second shot opportunities.  If we don’t clean that up Saturday we won’t be near as fortunate as we were (Thursday) night.  I thought our kids sold out and gave every once of sweat they could and poured their hearts out and we are just fortunate to have the ball last and hit a big bucket,” said Sheldon

          Clear Fork held a five point lead (28-23) with 4:37 in the third quarter on Brennan South’s field goal and a four point lead with 1:49 left in the third after two free throws by Jay Swinehart, but they couldn’t hold on.

          It is the second year in a row for a Western Reserve (15-8) and Edison (14-9) showdown in the district final.  Edison won last year (55-38) and they won a regular season game this year (51-48) on February 18.

“They have some really good players.  It starts with Roberts and Ostheimer and they have some really nice role players.  We had a heck of a battle three weeks ago that came down to the wire.  I am sure me and Kyle (Hammond) are expecting the same thing come Saturday night.  Their kids and going to play well and our kids are going to play well.  We’ll throw the ball up and at the end of 32 hopefully its good news for the Riders,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Edison Gets Past Margaretta

   

           On a night when getting the ball in basket was about as easy as putting the ball through the clown’s nose on a miniature golf course, Edison hung on to beat “SBC” rival Maragretta (38-32) in a division three district semi-final on Thursday night at Norwalk School.

          The two teams combined to make just 26 of 87 field goals.

          Edison coach Kyle Hammond says when you play a third time, especially with the intensity of the tournament, it can be hard to score.  “You kind of expected it to be a grind it our kind of game when you play a team three times and you are as familiar as are these two teams are.  Who have to give Margaretta a ton of credit playing kind of short handed and the way they grinded and kept tempo the way it was.  I think coach Keller and his staff did a great job in getting them ready to play,” said Hammond.

          James Hill led Edison with 19 points and he gave the Chargers a nine point lead (36-27) with 2:58 to play in the game, but the Polar Bears closed to four (36-32) with 31 seconds left, but it was too late.

          Angelo Frias, a double figure scorer for the Polar Bears, did not play in the tournament game on Thursday night, due to a violation of the district’s athletic policy.

          Coach Steve Keller thought they played very sound defense, they just couldn’t make enough shots.  “I was really proud of our guys.  We had quite a bit of adversity this week and our guys came out and really battled.  Defensively we were good enough.  We had to play a lot of guys some big minutes and we struggled to put the ball in the basket in the second half.  Defensively we did good things,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Offensively we had good looks we just couldn’t score.  Hats off to Edison they have some very good length.  We will keep at it.  Fortunately these guys are all back, so we will keep working hard in the off season to get better.”

          Margaretta led (22-18) at the half, but Hammond says they got offensive rebounds and some hustle plays in the second two periods of the game and that was big for them.  “That was one the big emphasis in the second half.  We have to be the more aggressive team.  I thought in the first half they were beating us to those 50/50 balls and I think in the second half we got some big offensive rebounds and that made a big difference down the stretch,” said Hammond.

          Bailey Kimberlin had 12 points for Margaretta and Nick Leibacher finished with 11.

          Edison shot just 33 percent and Margaretta made only 27 percent of its shots.  Hammond says their kids did an outstanding job of following the game plan.  “I have to give to my assistants credit for the scouting report they put together and our kids stuck to it,” he said.

          Edison (15-9) returns to Norwalk to play Western Reserve (15-8) in the district final on Saturday afternoon.  They beat the Roughriders (55-38) last season to advance to the regional for the first time ever.  They beat them this year (51-48) on February 18. 

“I told our guys I thought they deserved to get to this point.  I know it has been up and down, but they way they have responded in some really tough times this year they are a great group of kids and I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” said Hammond.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Colonel Crawford Must Slow Down Spartans

  

          Colonel Crawford is the next team in line to try and slay Goliath as they face state ranked Mansfield St. Peter’s in the division four district final at Willard High School on Friday night.

          The Eagles (18-6) advanced to the final with a (57-49) win in overtime over Norwalk St. Paul on Tuesday night.

          Coach David Sheldon says they able to keep their composure in the tight moments of the game and they had offensive balance, which has been a key for them all season.  “Mike Smith is a heck of a basketball coach and I have the utmost respect for his program.  It was two good programs playing basketball as they should.  It was a grind.  A game of runs back and forth and we were fortunate enough to make enough plays at the end to come out on top.  I was proud of our kids sticking to the plan and playing one possession at a time.  We just never panicked.  Once again we put four players in double figures and had great balance throughout the night,” he said.

          St. Peter’s dominated a good South Central team (79-41) on Tuesday night.  Their only losses this year come to Ontario (67-60) in early December and Canton Central Catholic (51-43) on January 7.

          Sheldon says the Spartans have tremendous talent and really no one outside of North Robinson expects them to win this game.  “First of all the pressure is on them.  They are the number two ranked team in the state.  They were in the regional finals.  Three years ago when Joe left St. Vincent/St. Mary when his daughter went to state he came to St. Pete’s with Cobb and Campbell and his son and Kent and now they are juniors and seniors. We are looking forward to this opportunity.  All of the pressure is on them and our kids are excited to go,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I know our kids are going to go out and play hard and leave it all out of the floor.  We feel like we have a game plan ready to go.  They are a very good basketball team and they are very talented, but we are a very good basketball team too.  There are only 32 teams left of 200 in division four and Colonel Crawford is one of those.  So, I told our guys we are going to go over and play with confidence the way we have all season long.  We are looking forward to playing in another district championship game.”

          The Spartans (23-2) have burned people this year by beating them down the floor and getting good looks at the basket.  Sheldon says they must have good transition defense and force them into taking tough shots.  “You have heard that all year from numerous coaches they are a very good basketball team in transition.  They have skills in transition and do a lot with the basketball.  Their top four guns with Cobb, Jakubick, Kent and Campbell, so you have go to stop their transition game.  They want it to be a track meet and we have make sure they set in a half court offense throughout the entire night,” said Sheldon.

          Due to their good ball movement and the way they move without the ball, St. Peter’s has been able to get a lot of clean looks at the basket.  Sheldon says they can’t let that happen on Friday night.  “One thing you want to make sure is every possession they have to shoot contested shots, that is the big thing when you look at them with the multiple weapons they have you have to make sure they shoot contested shots and also limit them to one shot when they shot goes up,” he said.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Lexington and Sandusky Again

  

          Lexington has a vastly different lineup this season, but they face Sandusky for the second straight March in the division two district final on Saturday afternoon this time at Mansfield Senior High School.

          The Minutemen advanced with a (52-45) win over Ontario Wednesday night, meanwhile Sandusky downed Perkins (57-42) in the second game Wednesday.

          Anytime you play Sandusky you must deal with the enormous talents of Jayreese Williams, the district six coaches association player of the year.  Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says that has been keeping him up at night.  “It seems like he is a fifth or sixth year senior he has just make that kind of impact since his freshman year.  He is definitely one of those guys that as soon as he steps on the court he seems like he is in range.  Whether he is driving it to the hoop or whether he is pulling up for a long three you just figure it is going to go in, he is just that type of scorer.  He is definitely going to be a focal point with what we try to do on Saturday,” he said.

          A tough decision has to be made on how much extra attention to give Jayreese.  Hamilton says you can’t let him just light up the scoreboard, yet the Blue Streaks (20-4) also have other guys, such as Keith Williams and Cavon Croom, headed to Ball State on a football scholarship and the two time defending state champion in the long jump.  “There have been some games in his career up there at Sandusky when he has gotten 50 in a game, so we definitely don’t want to get in a situation where they score 52, he gets 50, and we score 48.  So, he definitely has got to be a focus for us to try and contain him might be the best way to put it because you are not going to shut him down.  We have got to contain him, but you can’t let other guys have career nights on you,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have multiple guys that can score, so we have to be aware that he is not a one man show that’s for sure.  We saw that (Thursday) night in the district semi when they had three guys in double figures.  It is one those things when he is going to get a lot of attention, but you can’t leave other guys wide open.”

          Lexington (17-7) has enjoyed some pretty good success in basketball the last several years and their kids are used to winning.  Hamilton says when the game is on the line he believes they are going to make the big plays.  “One of the things that we think with our guys is we have a certain level of confidence right now.  We went through some struggles late in the season and went through it with some different things.  We have a little bit of confidence if the game is tight or if it is close at the end we are in position where we can win we are never in that thought process that we are out of it.  Right now, we are playing a good team.  We aren’t playing anymore give mes.  We know good teams are going to make runs at any given time.  (Wednesday) night Ontario made a couple of runs and made some big shots, and crowd was really into it.  My guys didn’t get rattled and stuck with it.  That is one of the things that hopefully will help us.  They are team that turns one turnover into eight points really quick,” said Hamilton.

          These two schools also met in the football playoffs last fall with Lexington winning (30-19) in a mild upset.  Is there revenge involved Saturday?  Well, Hamilton thinks a bigger factor might be the (74-52) Lexington win a year ago in this very same district final game.  “That may factor into it and maybe on the minds of players, but even more so what I look at is they basically return, not exactly, but basically return a good portion of their roster from last year’s basketball team that we met in the district finals.  I think that may be weighing a little heavier on their minds we were all here last year with the same place, same team.  Where I have a different squad, I have a couple of guys that were involved in that game, but my big time contributors all moved on with graduation, so I have a new crew and we are trying to cut our own path.  That district final basketball game last year may weight a little bit heavier than that football game,” said Hamilton.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Northwestern Faces Oberlin in District Final

  

          It’s a rematch with Oberlin in the division three district final at Wooster High School Friday night for the Northwestern Huskies and this time they want a different result.

          Northwestern beat Orrville (62-43) on Tuesday in a semi-final game.  Coach Mark Alberts Jr. says they were not thinking ahead to Oberlin.  “We kind of kept our focus on Orrville.  Our guys knew they were waiting to have a rematch from last year.  Our guys just kept a focus on Orrville.  Our guys came out and held them to five points in the second and six points in the third.  It was 48-26 I think going into the fourth.  I was pretty proud of how they stayed focused and did a good job on the task at hand.  Now we have a chance to play Oberlin here on (Friday) night,” he said.

          Northwestern (20-5) has won its last 16 games in a row and they have been scoring a lot of points.  However, Alberts says this likely one the best defensive teams he has had in his nearly 20 years at Northwestern.  “I think it is the best points per game given up that we have ever had.  I think we are at 49.4 for the season, which is the lowest we have ever had.  Normally we would be in the 50’s somewhere, but this year we have lowered that.  We have had a lot of games where we have held teams under 45 points.  Definitely the most games where we have held teams under 50.  It is not just us wanting low possession games,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We are trying to score 80 or 90 every game.  We want to a high possession game.  Our guys are going a good enough job on defense to kind of hold teams down.  One shot sure makes a difference and when a guy like Derek Koch can hold teams to one shot and we are efficient on offense it is tough to score when you get one shot at the basket every time.”

         Koch is the State of Ohio’s all time leading rebounder, something he accomplished last month.

          Oberlin (19-5) is the top seed in the district, Northwestern is number two, and Oberlin beat Rittman (55-28) on Monday.  They also beat the Huskies in the district semis (74-69) on their way to a district title.

          Alberts says they have to limit their easy looks in transition.  “They have seven players that play and six of them played last year.  One of them is a junior, the other five are seniors.  They have 1,000 point scorer named Donald Johnson in the middle, he is about 6’4” and he played well against us last year.  Another guy Justin Smith, who is a junior, who started last year for them, is a good tournament scorer.  I think he is a 6’2” forward.  They have quick, athletic guards that shoot a little bit.  I think that is the way you want them to play though.  You don’t want to let them get to the basket, get steals, and get in transition.  You hope they miss a few threes.  I think we are going to do a good job limiting Johnson with Derek, but we can’t give them easy baskets, we can’t give them stuff in transition or we are in some trouble.  That is going to be the key (Friday) night,” said Alberts.

 

Published 3/10/17

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Lexington Gets Past Ontario

   

          After trailing the whole game Ontario tied the score with just over five minutes left on a Tre Jordan three pointer, but Lexington’s Ben Vore responded with a three of his own less than 10 seconds later to ignite a (7-0) run over the next three minutes.

          Lexington (17-7) beat Ontario (52-45) in a division two district semi-final at Mansfield Senior High School on Wednesday night.  The Minutemen return to play Sandusky (20-4) on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s district final.

          Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says Vore, a sophomore, isn’t shy when comes to putting it up.  “Well, Benny expects it all of the time.  He is one of those guys that has that mentality that he is open and he can score.  He is so confident as a shooter.  Honestly for me it was one of those deals where what the heck?  Oh, good job.  That happens quite a bit.  We have a couple of guys that really are very confident and ready to score,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “Mason Kearns is another one.  He started off the game really well and hit a couple of big shots for us.  Last year he was not shooting the ball at all.  He was scoring at them rim or he wasn’t scoring at all.  We have tried to tell him you have to be a threat no matter where you are on the floor.  A lot of it was confidence for him.  We has been very confident this year and done a nice job.  Benny has been one of those sophomores that has been big for us coming down this tournament run.”

          Ontario coach Joe Balogh thinks they missed some opportunities, but he credits the Lexington bench for having a big night.  “We missed some easy shots in transition at the rim.  They had some guys come off the bench and really step up.  You tell me we hold Stover to eight, I think he had four till the last couple of minutes and we had three guys in double figures I would probably like that.  You have to give them credit they had some young kids I mean Vore both of his threes were huge.  Johnson hits one in the first quarter that is big.  A lot times in the tournament that is what happens you have guys that aren’t so called star guys step up and make shots and they did that and you have to give them a lot of credit for that,” said Balogh.

          Lexington held the lead all night, but Hamilton says they knew Ontario wasn’t going to make it easy.  It was (31-21) Lex with 4:24 left in the third after a Dana Shoulders Jr. basket.  Then back game the Warriors to tie it at 38 with 5:22 left to play.  Hamilton says the players didn’t get rattled.  “They kids didn’t, but I did.  I have known Joe Balogh since I was in the seventh grade.  I know the guy and I respect him a ton.  So, I knew they were going to make a run.  I was reminding my kids at halftime and in every huddle that they were going to make a run this thing wasn’t over.  I think that helped them.  They didn’t get rattled they stayed with the game plan and we got the shots we wanted.  A couple of times they sped us up a little bit and we took a couple of poor shots.  They got a couple extra rebounds.  I was really unhappy with some of the rebounds that they were able to get off the free throw line.  I told the guys before the game started that this game is going to won on the boards.  Whoever wins the rebounds is going to win the game.  Lucky we won the boards 29-28,” said Hamilton.

          Ontario’s defense as able to stop Cade Stover, a 15 PPG scorer, from getting his hand on the ball and they kept him off the offensive glass.  Hamilton says they had some others step up.  “That is one of the things that we tried to tell the guys too.  Stover gets a little frustrated with it when he is drawing the double and triple team we have to make sure the other guys are capable of doing some things and scoring without him.  He is just one of those guys that is tickled to death that we are moving on to Saturday.  Obviously he would like to get his touches as well.  He is not a selfish kid in any way.  If it is not him that is up on the board and we get a “W” he is fine,” he said.

          Traevin Harrison led Lexington with 14.  Logan Jones had 15 and Tre Jordan 14 for the Warriors.

          Ontario was 6-23 from behind the three point arc.  Hamilton says they were able to get out and get some pressure on their shooters.  “They are good three point shooters.  We knew that with Quan (Jackson) and Jackson (Todd) an hit.  Logan Jones can step out.  Tre Jordan just picks up off the dribble.  We knew we had to be out there to contest those guys all night long.  We mixed it up a little bit with some zone.  We were trying to mix it up to throw them off a little bit.  We knew that if they got into a rhythm, especially with three seniors on the perimeter, they were going to be tough to stop,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Sandusky Pulls Away From Perkins

   

          Jayreese Williams scored 25 points and Sandusky outscored Perkins (32-20) in the second half and the Blue Streaks beat the Pirates (57-42) in a division two district semi-final on Wednesday night at Mansfield Senior High School.

          They play Lexington (17-7) for the district title on Saturday afternoon.  Lexington beat the Streaks last season in the district final.

          It was (34-32) Sandusky with 4:59 to play in the third quarter after Conner Roesh converted a field goal, but the Pirates would not score again from the field until a Jake Wagner three with 7:24 left and by that time the Streaks had grabbed 10 point lead (46-36) in the game.

          Coach Colin Irish says they were able to lock down on some things Perkins tries to like to do.  “It was one our better defensive performances of the season.  The kids executed it to a tee.  We worked on a couple of things over the course of the last couple of days and we came out and did a fantastic job on the inside and trying to get them to force a little bit on the outside and they missed a few.  I love the fact that we controlled the tempo,” said Irish.

          Sandusky (20-4) led (25-22) at the half when Jayreese connected on a three at the horn.  Irish says even when things felt like they were stacked against them they kept their heads.  “Even in the first half we didn’t get frustrated.  Free throw shooting was 14-2 at halftime and I felt maybe we were getting fouled.  I’m not saying we weren’t fouling too and I felt we did a good job of keeping our composure.  Jayreese hits a huge three at the end of the half to give us a boost going into halftime.  Then the third quarter came out and did a great job defensively,” he said.

          Perkins (19-6) wanted to be aggressive in going inside to their big guys, but coach Scott McVeigh says they stood around too much in the second half.  “Part of that was us being passive and not attacking.  We attacked in the first half and got to the line 13 times or so.  We stood around and I thought we got a little passive the second half,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We didn’t get the ball inside and a lot of that has to do with Sandusky too.  They are physical.  They have physical guards.  Their role players do a great job of at what they do.  They had a lot to do with that I believe.”

          Keith Williams chipped in with 15 and Jamonte Alexander added 12 for Sandusky.  Wagner led Perkins with 11.

          Irish says his role players, including Alexander, did a super job Wednesday night, especially on defense.  “It doesn’t surprise me when the other guys step up.  It was his turn (Wednesday) night.  If we can get 10-12 from Jamonte or Brett (Hanson.)  More importantly you have to give Brett, Ja’vez (Alexander) and Jamonte, even Bo (Roldan,) our bigger guys that came in and contained the middle credit.  They don’t get the credit because they aren’t scoring the points, but what they did defensively helped us relax on the offensive end,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Clear Fork tries to Keep it Going

  

          After not winning a game since mid-January, the Clear Fork Colts have responded with two of the better performances of the season in the division three tournament.

          They play Western Reserve in the district semi-finals at Norwalk High School on Thursday night.

          The Colts destroyed Galion (81-51) last Wednesday and then beat the top seed in New London (61-41) last Friday to earn a sectional title all in the face of playing for what amounts to a lame duck coach in Steven Bechtel, who was told February 17 he was not going to be rehired for next season.

          It was Clear Fork’s first sectional title since 2004.

          Bechtel says right now they are doing a lot of good things on both offense and defense.  “I feel we are playing pretty solid at both ends of the floor and we just have to continue to do that.  Talking care of the basketball and finding open guys and then continuing to box out and finish possessions defensively,” he said.

          Western Reserve (14-8) finished as runners-up to New London in the Firelands Conference this year.  They can put five guys on the floor at one time that can make threes including Colton Puder, Tyler Bartlett, Aiden Markley, Cody Palmer and Dale Smith. 

          Bechtel says that makes them extremely hard to guard.  “They have a lot of exceptional shooters out there.  They have a lot of size as well.  Their defensive intensity is very, very good.  We are going to have our hands full.  We just have to go out and make sure we are taking care of the basketball and getting out on their shooters as well,” said Bechtel.

          Western Reserve’s reputation is built on how they play defense.  Bechtel says they play with great intensity and with a number of guys.  “It is not what they do it is how they do it.  They are very, very intense.  They are just relentless,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They come after you whether you are in the half court or the full court and they do a great job of it.  They sub guys in and they continue to do that and bring the same effort and intensity.  That is going to be 32 minutes long.  We just have to a great job of waking care of the basketball and finding open guys.”

          Clear Fork (7-16) has had a problem with its consistency this year, likely related to its youth.  Bechtel says to win on Thursday night they have to be solid in everything they do.  “I think we have to get out on their shooters.  They gave four or five guys that can actually fill it up pretty good.  We have to take care of the basketball.  We have to play solid defense and finish each possession with a rebound,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Western Reserve Respects Clear Fork and its Coach

  

          Western Reserve, the runner up in the Firelands Conference, faces Clear Fork, of the Ohio Cardinal Conference, Thursday night in the division three district semi finals at Norwalk High School.

          The Colts (7-16) blasted Firelands Conference champion New London (61-41) in the sectional final last Friday night.

          Western coach Chris Sheldon says the Colts have a lot of things that their defense will be forced to contain, including a couple of pretty good guards.  “It would be hard to argue that they aren’t playing the best basketball they have played all year long.  It starts with their two lead guards in South and Barnett, both of them have their strengths.  They can both score the ball in a multitude of ways.  The thing that impresses me right now they can put four or five guys on the floor almost at all times that can all score the ball in some capacity whether it be three point line or off the bounce and some guys in the low post that can present some problems as well with their size and athleticism,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “When you are looking at playing teams you are looking for things that you can try to exploit when you are trying to guard them.  Right now, that is the biggest threat that they present to us is they can put five guys on the floor that can all doing something productively at the offensive end.  That is going to make our ability to guard them that much more difficult.  Not just to hold down South and Barnett, but also making sure we are getting in their shooters, keeping their bigs off the glass and really trying to limit their slashers as well.”

          Sheldon also took issue with the fact that Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel was informed last month that his contract as coach would not be renewed.  “I hear last month that the community and board of education doesn’t think coach Bechtel is good enough to be their coach.  It boggles my mind because I watched this same team a year ago and to see the growth in them as players that is all you can ask for from a basketball coach.  To drop a bombshell on that program is even more of a credit to coach Bechtel and their staff.  To be able to rally these kids for all of the right reasons I am just impressed.  If you are a Clear Fork board member or a community member I can say two things to you your team is good enough to win the district tournament and that is a credit to your coaching staff.  If you don’t think that is the case I would tell you there is a drug epidemic in this society right now so you might want to seek out rehabilitation because you may be high or there are psychiatric services in the Mansfield area and you should dial one up,” said Sheldon.

          Clear Fork plays a much tougher schedule then does Western Reserve (14-8) and Sheldon says they are used to playing against better athletes than the Roughriders have.  “The two things that stick out to me are number one when you are used to playing bigger, stronger more athletic teams like they do compared to what we do in a night to night basis it really makes you have to work on guarding on ball even that much more affectively.  They are probably at a disadvantage with their schedule being their size school most nights from an athletic standpoint.  I think it improves their ability to guard number one and number two we traditionally, and it has been no different this year, we like to guard people baseline to baseline, especially in our man to man.  I think our man to man full court is not going to have near the effectiveness or look as intimidating maybe as it has for most of the opponents that we play because they are used to getting picked up by Senior High and Wooster and Madison and all of these athletes that are way more intimidating then us country bumpkins that I think gives them an advantage from that standpoint with who they have played and how it could possibly impact the game come (Thusday) night,” Sheldon said.

          Western Reserve advanced to the district final a year ago, losing to Edison, and Sheldon admits they do have an experience advantage.   “We do have four, three year varsity letter winners that have played in a district championship game, that have been in quite a few tournament basketball games in their career and their kids haven’t.  I really think after three, four minutes go buy in a game that is sort of out of the window.  I think at that point the jitters have worn off.  I think where it gives us the advantage is we understand what the natural routine is for this week and it helps calm our nerves a little bit more because we have been in that situation,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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“SBC” Rivals Edison and Margaretta Meet in Districts

  

          Edison and Margaretta, two teams out of the bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, play in the division three district semi-finals Thursday night at Norwalk High School.

          They, of course, met twice in the regular season with the Polar Bears (13-10) winning both of the games.  Margaretta also beat Huron (57-43) in the December, the Tigers shared the division title, but they also lost four games in a row.

          Edison coach Kyle Hammond says his opponent can be very good.  “They have been up and down a little bit because they have the ability to play very well at times.  Some of that down part was just the difficulty of our league this year.  You have Perkins and Huron and Vermilion.  It was just a tough league to play in this year, but the Polar Bears have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent that can play inside or outside.  They are difficult to match up with,” said Hammond.

          Margaretta beat Edison (77-64) on January 17 and (54-46) in overtime on February 17.

          Hammond says they have to finish things a little better on Thursday night.  “We just have to execute a little bit better.  We had a chance at home, at our place, to finish that one out and we kind of let it slip a little bit.  Give them a little bit of credit there that they made some big plays down the stretch,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think it is going to be a back and forth game.  Both teams are talented, we just have to execute the little things a little bit better than they do and give ourselves a chance to win.”

          Edison (14-9) won the district title last year, but this a much different team.  Hammond thinks it going to be a battle and they have to be the ones that make the big plays late.  “Over the course of the game those kinds of plays are huge.  The second chance opportunities, those hustle plays.  Those little things add up.  We have preached that to our kids all week.  The bottom line both teams know each other so well it is going to boil down to somebody stepping up and making big plays when it counts,” said Hammond.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Buckeye Central Girls in Regional

  

          Buckeye Central has reached the girls’ regional tournament for the first time in a decade and they face Ottoville in the division four regional semi-finals on Thursday night at Elida High School.

          Buckeye Central (21-4) finished second behind Upper Sandusky in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference this season.

          Coach Greg Moore says they have had great chemistry and they work very hard at the game.  “I think number one is our senior leadership.  We have one starter that has started for four years and the other three seniors have started since their sophomore year and that is when Jenna (Kahl) came in, our junior.  We have great experience, we have great leadership.  They have great work ethic.  They love to play and their chemistry is so good.  They love each other on and off the court and sometimes that is hard to find.  Just their work ethic is unbelievable,” said Moore.

          It doesn’t hurt to have Kahl, who put together a near triple double in Buckeye’s (70-64) win over Norwalk St. Paul in the district final last Saturday night.

          Buckeye has played a pretty good schedule with Upper Sandusky and Rievrdale and Willard.  “You can add both Carey games in there and Cardington got beat by 11 by Africentric in the district championship last Saturday.  We upped the schedule, we upped the ante a little bit and the girls rose to the occasion.  Carey had a very good ball club, Upper everybody knows.  We toughened up the schedule and I think the kids just accepted the challenge.  I have to take my hat off to them they are just so fun to coach,” said Moore.

          Ottoville (21-3) has great talent too.  Moore says the Big Green is fact pretty big and they are going to be somewhat deliberate when they have the ball in their hands.  “They shoot the ball extremely well.  They have had a lot of success in the past.  They play up in that Putnam County League.  There is some good basketball played up there in Northwest part of Ohio.  They are very, very patient on offense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They get the looks that they want.  They move the ball well.  They have got a nice 6’1” girl that can go inside and out.  They also play very, very good defense.  They are going to run and jump you.  They are going to show you the diamond.  They are going to change defenses.”

          Moore says they have not going to change what has been successful for them.  He says they are going to up tempo and look to shoot it from deep.  “We just have to be strong with the ball and do the little things.  I told the girls you have to play Buckette basketball.  We aren’t going to change anything this time of year.  We are going to do what we do best.  We like to get up and down the court, there is no secret what we like to do.  We like to shoot the three.  I think it is going to be a fun game (Thursday) night,” he said.

 

Published 3/09/17

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Colonel Crawford Edges St. Paul in Overtime

   

          Colonel Crawford outlasted Norwalk St. Paul (57-49) in overtime on Tuesday night in the division four district semi-finals at Willard High School.

          They play state ranked Mansfield St. Peter’s (23-2) in the district final on Friday night.

          The Eagles (18-6) made six of seven free throws in the final 1:09 of overtime to provide the final margin, but the game was close the entire way with the lead never more than seven until the end.  There were six lead changes in the game.

          A Heath Starkey basket gave Colonel Crawford (38-31) lead with 6:00 minutes to play, but St. Paul railed to outscore the Eagles (12-5) down the stretch.  Dylan Furlong’s follow with :27 seconds left tied the game (43-43) after a St Paul steal and missed layup.

          “It was two very good basketball teams.  Norwalk St. Paul has 16 wins and is a senior dominated team.  We knew it was going to a grind.  We had to go 36 instead of 32 (Tuesday) night,” said Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon.

          Cameron McCreary scored with 3:27 left in overtime to give Crawford the lead (45-43) and Heath Starkey converted an old fashion three point play on the next possession to give the Eagles a (48-43) lead with 2:59 on the clock.  However, things weren’t over as the Flyers closed to (50-49) on Brandon McCall’s hoop with 1:11 left.  The Eagles free throws closed the game out.

          Sheldon says he told the players before the overtime started that they were going to being playing on Friday.  “We turned the ball over late in regulation and we take pride in that.  You get our teams in those situations and we are usually pretty good and we made some careless mistakes.  I told the guys between “OT,” I said hey let’s go, get your heads up, we are going to win this thing,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “McCreary hits a big one to start us off, Heath (Starkey) gets a post feed from Harley (Shaum) and a and one and we got some defensive stops.  I am proud of my guys.  We have talked all year trust the process with the schedule we play to get us ready for a district tournament.  You look at four freshmen and three juniors and one senior get to play for a district championship on Friday night.”

          St. Paul coach Mike Smith says he knows they had their chances, but he couldn’t be more proud of his kids.  “It was a heck of a high school basketball game.  People got their money’s worth.  Every possession matters.  For 36 minutes you look back and free throw there, a layup there, a check out missed.  I thought our kids were really dialed in to what we had to do.  I thought they were too.  They made plays and once they got the lead in overtime we had to foul and they were pretty good from the free throw line.  I can’t fault our effort.  The worst thing is I have seven kids that won’t be back at practice the next time we practice.  They are just a terrific group of seniors.  You won’t find any better as far as teammates and leaders, students, friends, basketball players.  We challenged our younger kids that it is a tough group to follow.  They have the whole package.  Every one of them, all seven, are going to be really good, successful people,” said Smith.

          Those seniors are Furlong, McCall, Will Ceccoli, Jimmy Adelman, Jacob Avendano, Noah Winslow, and Hayden Jaworski.

          During the overtime Colonel Crawford had four freshmen on the floor including McCreary, Reis Walker, Jordan Fenner and Gavin Feichtner.

          Sheldon says those kids have really matured as the season has gone on.  “It’s a special group and how about Reis Walker (Tuesday) night?  He steps off the bench and we knew going into tournament that Reis was going to play a lot because he gives us an offensive threat and he is long at the defensive end.  He got to hit some big shots.  Once again it comes back to the floor general though.  Cam (McCreary) created those off of his penetration.  McCreary is a special floor general and he created from other people all night and himself,” said Sheldon.

          McCreary paced Crawford with 14 points, followed by Starkey with 13, Walker with 11 and Jordan Fenner with 11.

          Furlong had a game high 17 for St. Paul.  McCall chipped in with 10.

          There was certainly a physical nature to the game, but Sheldon felt his kids handled it well.  “The more you get down the tournament line it turns physical and that is the way it should be.  The officials did a fantastic job and they let you play and that is the way it should be this time year.  Let the kids decide the outcome.  I thought our guys did a good job because I’ll tell you their two post players McCall and number 32 (Paul Pearce) they are physical specimens.  They are seniors and I thought we did a good job.  We got in foul trouble throughout the night, but other guys stepped up when we need them to step up,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/08/17

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St. Peter’s Routs South Central

   

          South Central’s Ben Lamoreaux hit a three pointer in the first 15 seconds of the game, but Mansfield St. Peter’s scored on back to back possessions and had the lead before a minute was gone and they never looked back never trailing again.

          The state ranked Spartans (23-2) went on to drill South Central (79-41) in a division four district semi-final on Tuesday night at Willard High School.  They return Friday night to face Colonel Crawford (18-6) for the district title.  The Eagles beat Norwalk St. Paul (57-49) in overtime.

          Coach Joe Jakubick feels they had good focus.  “You never know what’s going to happen in games, especially what you get into the tournament.  After what happened in the second half against Monroeville I just mentioned two things that we have to have better focus and if not South Central, who is an extremely talented and dangerous team, you will be going home, it will be over.  If you don’t come out ready to play this team is dangerous.  They have offensive weapons.  You saw what they did to Wynford.  I think they shot almost 80 percent from the field in that game.  They were 10-21 from the three point line and 22-27 inside the arc.  Those are numbers that are scary.  I don’t care who you are playing and Wynford is a solid team, a team that finished above .500 and a quality team.  We knew we had to be at our best (Tuesday) night and fortunately we came out on top,” said Jakubick. 

          The score grew to (27-11) after the first quarter and (48-16) at the half.

          South Central coach Bret Seidel says they really had no answer when it came to defending the Spartans.  “The first quarter hurt us.  We came out and hit the three out of our secondary break and it felt good.  It’s a good feeling and then they hit like six in a row, pull ups, to the rim, they did whatever they wanted through the first quarter.  We had no answer for driving lanes, we had no answer for their pull ups.  They made shot after shot in the first quarter.  To play from behind against a team like that with that talent and that caliper is tough.  I really appreciate my kids.  I am proud of them because they played with class to them end.  I am proud of that,” said Seidel.

          St. Peter’s, #1 in the final Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, scored repeatedly in transition.  Seidel says it is almost impossible to get ready from the things that St. Peter’s does.  “They leak out and we practiced that with two guys back every time, bit it is hard to replicate them getting out in transition.  We talked about it, reped it, but being able to replicate it is difficult to do,” he said.

          Elijah Cobb led the Spartans with 22 points, Jared Jakubick added 21, Tyson Kent had 18 and Mason Campbell added 14. 

          Campbell did not play last week against either Danbury Lakeside or Monroeville due to injury, but he played most of the first three quarters on Tuesday.  “Mason did really well.  He had be chomping at the bit… he had been chomping at the bit,” said Jakubick.

          With Campbell out last week, Jakubick says it allowed some other guys, particularly freshman Jonah Remy, to expand his game.  “I will say it was really good for Jonah Remy.  Jonah has really picked up some confidence and for him to play in a couple of tournament games and for us to win he had solid moments in those games.  Now given the situation when he is called in for what ever minutes hopefully he will be productive,” he said.

          South Central finished (15-10) and they were led Tuesday night by senior Jason Hale, who finished with 10.

 

Published 3/08/17

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Defending the Paint a Key for Ontario

  

          Ontario against Lexington is one of the best basketball rivalries in North Central Ohio and they face each other in the division two district semi finals on Wednesday night at Mansfield Senior High School.

          Lexington sophomore Cade Stover is first team all district and Ontario coach Joe Balogh says he gives them a lot of problems they have to solve.  “He is really a force on the glass.  Just his athleticism is something that is difficult to defend.  When he plays really well it seems other guys step up and play well also.  He has got to be a focus of what we do well defensively, which is we have to try and limit his touches inside and when he does get touches we are going to have to try and get it out of his hands.  The most important thing is you have to try and keep him off the offensive glass.  That is really where he has hurt us in the past,” said Balogh.

          A.J. Nickoli and Traevin Harrison had good games in Lexington’s section final win over Norwalk (49-41) and Balogh says because you have to help on Stover that gives those guys some open shots.  “You can’t have him play one on one.  You have got to get help.  You have got to have great rotation to get help to him and you have to have great rotation coming out of your help to get to those other players,” he said.

          Lexington is known for good defense and Balogh says they are solid in man to man or zone.  “Scott (Hamilton) does a good job.  They are a solid man to man team and they have been able to mix up some 2-3 zone that they play on baseline out of bounds.  They will play some of those possessions in the half court defense.  They have been very, very solid over the last couple of years and again a very solid team defensively this year,” he said.

          Ontario has an outstanding trio of guard in Tre Jordan, Quan Jackson and Jackson Todd.  Balogh hopes they have some stuff that can give the Minutemen some concerns too.  “We hope we can cause them a few problems.  That is kind of a cat-mouse game you play as coaches in your preparation.  What do you feel you do well against them and what do you need to do to kind of take away what they do well.  That is the preparation that you have.  You hope your kids can execute your game plan and that your game plan is a good one and that it is good enough that you can advance,” said Balogh.

          Lexington beat Ontario (54-49) back before Christmas and Balogh says they need to shoot better than they did that night and they have to defend the lane against both post ups and dribble penetration.  “In our first game we didn’t shoot the ball very well.  You have to be somewhat efficient offensively.  You have got to be able to make shots and if you are not making shots you have to get to the offensive glass to get some put backs.  We have to shoot it better than the first time we played them.  At the defensive end we have already talked about the presence of Stover inside and your ability to keep them off the offensive glass.  That is going to be key.  I think the other key is to keep Harrison out of the lane.  He has been really good when he has been able to get the ball into the lane, whether it is him finishing plays or he creates situations where you help and he shoots it and they go to the glass and get it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It is just going to come down to players making plays.  I don’t think there are going to be a lot of new wrinkles that the other team hasn’t seen.  It going to come down to little plays like getting an offensive rebound or diving on the floor for a loose ball or maybe taking a charge, something like that.  It will be a fun atmosphere for both teams to play in.”

 

Published 3/08/17

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Lexington Centering on Match-Ups

  

          Lexington tangles with Ontario in the division two district semi finals on Wednesday night at Pete Henry Gym at Mansfield Senior High School.

          It is one the best long standing basketball rivalries in North Central Ohio.

          Ontario (19-5) has one 17 of its last 18 games since Lexington beat them (54-49) on December 17.

          The Warriors have three senior guards in Tre Jordan, Quan Jackson and Jackson Todd and Lexington coach Scott Hamilton says they all do a lot good things.  “They are all three seniors.  That is kind of what you would expect out of your senior leadership and a couple of them have been playing varsity since their sophomore year.  There are tough match-ups there is no doubt about it both on the offensive and defensive end.  I think that has been their staple if you will the entire season.  Their guard play has been the consistent part of their game,” he said.

          The Ontario guards are scorers, but Hamilton says they are especially good on defense.  “You try to convince kids that you are going to have an off night shooting the ball.  There are going to be times when there is a little bit of a lid on the rim, if you will, but defensively, consistently, you can be out there giving that effort.  That is what wins games for you is consistency.  Those guys have definitely gone in knowing if they can put defensive pressure on their opponents no matter what their shooting percentages are.  We have seen it.  They have won games in the 40’s, 50’s and also been in the 70’s.  It is just one of those things where you try and convince the kids to buy in and they definitely have,” said Hamilton.

          Ontario’s post players Logan Jones and Owen Zeiter are different kinds of players and Hamilton says they complement each other well.  “Jones can really stretch the floor.  He is a capable three point shooter.  He will get it outside and he will put it on the floor when he gets maybe a little bit of a slower opponent.  The Zeiter kid just kind of runs around and you forget about him every now and then he will make you pay,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have a little bit difference styles, but they complement each other.  The when you have got the guard play they are smart enough to know to get in the right position for those dribble drives or get a quick bucket off a missed shot or they are going to get a quick dish if their man helps off on the dribble drive.  They have a few nice guys they bring off the bench as well that complement the posts and the guards.”

          Hamilton says both teams have a lot skill and this game is going to boil down to match-ups on both ends.  “When it gets into the tournament time you really focus on the games a little bit more because you have more time to focus.  If you are playing a double weekend you have to work on things that are key for you and your opponent.  At this point in the season we just focus on the opponent and that is about it.  Right now it is going to come down to match ups.  What can we take away from them?  What are their strengths that we can limit?  What are our strengths?  What weaknesses can we expose?  Things like that.  You really get a good solid look at you opponent.  Hopefully there are some areas that we can take advantage of and be in the game and at the end of the night walk away victorious,” said Hamilton.

 

Published 3/08/17

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Perkins Wants to Force Sandusky to Defend the Lane

  

          Sandusky Perkins and Sandusky, just about two miles apart, travel to Mansfield on Wednesday night to play in a division two district semi-final at Pete Henry Gym.

          Both have had very good seasons, the Pirates (19-5) shared the title in the bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference and Sandusky (19-4) was outright winner of the Northern Ohio League.

          Sandusky’s Jayreese Williams is the district player of the year and Perkins coach Scott McVeigh says he just a tremendous player, who is very versatile.  “I don’t think there is any stopping him, but I think limiting him is a good word.  Jayreese is just a solid high school basketball player.  He is very athletic and hurts you in a number of ways, off the dribble, off screens, attacking, rebounding, defensively, a little bit of everything.  Anytime I think anybody brings up Sandusky the last three years, four years, going back to his freshman year, that is the first person that is mentioned, Jayreese.  Give him credit because he has worked his tail off.  I remember that kid coming into our gym as a fifth grader going against our JVs.  He has put himself in great position and obviously made that team a heck of a lot better,” said McVeigh.

          Jayresse, Sandusky’s all time leading scorer, is not the Blue Streaks only player.  McVeigh says their other guards and playmakers too.  “You look at Keith Williams and he is a big difference maker on their team.  He had a nice sophomore year, but this year it seems like he is scoring more.  He is a high school kid that had a triple double against Bellevue earlier in the year.  They kind of go as he goes too.  He is a good penetrater, defender, very good athlete that hurts you in multiple ways,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Then you look at the Croom kid.  Here is a division one football athlete right now that is going to Ball State and he can hurt you in multiple ways.  Just the physicality and the athleticism that they bring.  There are three very good high school basketball players that you have to worry about there that can hurt you in a lot of different ways.”

          Perkins has only lost twice in the last seven weeks and one of those was at Sandusky (66-56) on February 4.

          McVeigh says they have to build on what they did well that night, most notably get the ball inside.  “We are playing at much higher level.  We are hitting our peak at the right time.  We beat very soundly a good Madison team and then we beat by 19 a very good Huron team.  We have some momentum going in.  We have a definite size advantage inside that we exploited them the first time we played them regular season.  I know they are going to make some adjustments there, but we have to continue to pound the ball inside and be able to handle their pressure.  When you talk about Sandusky through the years and when I played against them or when I have coached against them it is always boils down to handling their pressure and being able to rebound and take care of the basketball and those are three of the big keys we are looking at,” he said.

 

Published 3/08/17

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Half Court Execution Big For Upper

    

          Unbeaten Upper Sandusky takes on Wapakoneta in the division two district semis at Ohio Northern University on Wednesday night.

          The Rams (23-0) got past Kenton (68-67) last Friday, while Wapakoneta (21-2) edged Defiance (44-42) in overtime.

          Upper coach Jeff Winslow says the Redskins are a heck of a lot like them.  “When you win 21 games you are pretty darn good.  They are guard oriented.  They get up and pressure you.  They run and trap quite a bit, full court or half court.  They really like to create their offense with their defense.  They shoot a lot of threes.  I remember the very first time I saw them I felt like I was watching us play.  They do a lot of the same things we do, especially defensively and shooting the ball.  It will be two good basketball teams.  I think it should be a fun one.  A fast paced game with a lot of action.  I think all of the kids on the court can shoot it and take people off the dribble.  I should be a good for fans to watch anyway,” said Winslow.

          It might sound strange until you think about it, but Winslow says with both teams being so good in transition in might just come down to half court execution.  “Both of us are going to be comfortable with the style of play and it is going to come down to execution and who shoots a little bit better in their half court offense.  Both teams good in scoring in transition and both teams are good in taking that away, so we are going to have to execute in our half court offense.  It is going to be who gets the most stops in the half court.  We are both going to do our thing in the full court wise and in the half court who is going to buckle down during big times and get a stop and get the big rebounds.  It is kind of funny as full court as both teams are and it is going to come down to who does the right things in the half court,” he said.

          This could be another mail bitter for the Rams and Winslow is pleased he has Wes Vent on his team when it comes down to those final seconds when the game in on the line.  “They have won 21 games and a lot of them were close down the stretch, a couple of them overtime wins, so they know what they are doing late in games.  We got a taste of that last week and we are comfortable with that as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “The one thing that makes me comfortable in a close game late is I just believe we have the best player on the floor in Wes Vent.  When we need a bucket we give him the basketball and he is a pretty good option to go to.  I think that is one place we do have an advantage.”

 

Published 3/08/17

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Colonel Crawford Battles Norwalk St. Paul

  

          Colonel Crawford and Norwalk St. Paul, two of the marquee programs in North Central Ohio headed by veteran coaches, meet on Tuesday night in the division four district semi finals at Willard High School.

          The Eagles (17-6) beat Lucas (59-50) and St. Paul (16-7) rallied to knock off Buckeye Central (53-45) in sectional finals at Sandusky High School last Friday.

          Crawford coach David Sheldon has talked all season about playing a tough schedule and getting ready for a game like Tuesday night.  “We have talked all year about trusting the process.  We put together a schedule to hopefully get us ready for a district tournament.  We were fortunate enough last Friday to win a sectional championship.  Hopefully our kids have been battle tested because we have a very tall task at hand Tuesday night versus Norwalk St. Paul,” he said.

          The Flyers start a line-up that features one the tallest overall teams in Brandon McCall, Paul Pearce and Dylan Furlong and Sheldon says they have guards that handle the ball too.  “They are very long.  They have good post play and they have good guard play.  They are very balanced.  They remind me a lot of us when you look at personnel with posts and guards.  They are a very balanced basketball team,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are going to run the stuff that “Smity” does and they are going to run it well.  They are going to know our stuff.  It is going to come down to kids making plays and that’s what it comes down to at this time of year.”

          Colonel Crawford has some height too in 6’10” senior Heath Starkey and 6’4” junior Harley Shaum.

          According to Sheldon things like rebounding, and handling the ball, and just plain hustle are going to be big factors in this district semi-final match-up.  “You have to value the possessions when it comes tournament time and it comes down to grind out games.  It is going to be the team that doesn’t turn the basketball over, that rebounds the basketball, and 50/50 balls.  It is all of the little things when you look at a game when you get to this level and you play great opponents no matter who it is at the district tournament,” he said.

          Plying in these kinds of games is not new to the Eagles.  They have advanced to the district level the last six years in a row.  They beat St. Paul (70-65) in a semi final game in 2013.

          Sheldon these games are what their program is all about.  “It has become an expectation in the Colonel Crawford program.  It is our sixth straight district appearance and seventh in the last eight years.  That is what you want your program to be and we are fortunate that we have got it to that.  Our kids are excited for this opportunity and we are looking forward to going over in front of a great atmosphere Tuesday night.  There is no better time of the year than high school basketball tournament time, especially when you get to the district level,” said Sheldon.

 

Published 3/07/17

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Defense the Biggest Key For Flyers

  

          Norwalk St. Paul is enjoying one of its best years over the last decade and they take on Colonel Crawford Tuesday night in the division four district semi finals at Willard High School.

          The Flyers (16-7) beat Buckeye Central (53-45) with a fourth quarter rally in last Friday’s sectional final at Sandusky High School.

          Coach Mike Smith says he couldn’t be more proud of what his kids have accomplished this year so far.  “We talked about before the game having to earn everything in life and nothing comes for free and we had to go out and earn it.  That was kind of my approach before the game and if you want something bad enough you have to go out and work hard and get it.  I am really happy with the kids that we have.  They are a well deserving group of young men and I am glad they won a sectional championship.  Now we have to take it one game at a time and hopefully get a win Tuesday,” Smith said.

          Colonel Crawford (17-6) downed Lucas (59-50) in a sectional final at Sandusky last Friday.  Smith says the Eagles have consistently gotten better this year.  “They have grown a lot from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.  Their young kids have come across nicely.  Obviously coach (David) Sheldon and his staff do an excellent job of making their kids better and improving throughout the year and getting the most out of them.  They have done a very good job and have played very good basketball here in January and February and into March and I was very impressed with how they played Friday night,” said Smith.

          Being one of the overall biggest teams in the area, St. Paul has enjoyed an advantage in that regard most of the season, but Smith says Crawford has size too.  “Obviously Starkey and the Shaum kid have good size and play physical.  They have got good guard play.  They have shooters.  They have a nice package.  Like I said they will be prepared and ready to go.  They play good defense and they take care of the basketball.  It really should be a really good high school basketball game” he said.

          Smith says they have to execute when they have the ball, but the biggest key will be how they defend.  “We have to set the tone defensively.  We have to take away their first reads in their sets.  They run a lot of sets.  We want to take away the stuff they run to get their shooters shots and their post isolation.  We have to be able to take away their ball screens because they do set quite a few of those ball screens.  I think defensively we have got to set the tone.  I think our kids have a good feel for what their personnel can and can not do and hopefully we can apply that to a game plan,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Offensively we have to be able to execute and shoot the basketball, we have to be able to take care of the basketball.  We would like to be able to get stuff off of transition and if we can get some stops and get out and run and get some easy hoops.  Whether they play zone or man we have got to try to get the ball inside the best we can and maybe try to get them in foul trouble.”

 

Published 3/07/17

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Consistency the Key for Underdog South Central

  

          South Central is the next in line to have a shot at upsetting Mansfield St. Peter’s.

          They play the Spartans (22-2), #1 in our final Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division and number two in the statewide media poll in division four, in the D-4 district semi finals at Willard High School on Tuesday night.

          St. Peter’s has not lost to a division four school this year.  South Central coach Bret Seidel says the secret is our, the Spartans are really good.  “They definitely are not going to fly under the radar.  We are not going to underestimate these guys.  They are big, they are athletic.  They can shoot it.  They can score it multiple ways.  They are really good in transition.  They are really good with on ball defense.  Obviously it goes without saying it is a tall order,” he said.

          The Spartans are really good at getting down the floor and finishing shots.  Seidel says they need to stop that transition, but that is really difficult to do.  “I don’t know if there is any preparation you can do for it to be honest.  As much film as I have seen.  I remember from the last time we practiced, practiced and practiced before we played them and they still got out on us.  Preparing for it and talking about it still doesn’t do it justice.  They are just really good at it.  Hopefully we can eliminate half of those opportunities that they normally get.  They are obviously going to get out on us just trying to limit the number of times that that happens is important.  I think they do a lot of that off turnovers as well,” said Seidel.

          South Central (15-9) beat Wynford (84-59) last Friday in the tournament.  Seidel feels they pretty well in the second half of that game, especially on offense.  “I think our shot selection has really improved.  I still never felt everything was clicking at the same time and we still won nine of our last 12.  Coaches always have discontent.  I just feel the second half against Wynford, other than that one minute stretch of turning the basketball over and they went on a 7-0 run I felt like we were pretty good defensively, but we were are good as we can be offensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We shared the basketball and because of that our shot selection was really good and because of that our shot percentage was really good.  We played really well outscoring them 45-25 in the second half and Jason Hale didn’t even score.  I still feel there is some improvement we can work on.”

          Seidel says they need to play Tuesday night with the same kind of intensity and execution that they did in the second half against Wynford.  “For us to stay close we are going to have to play a consistent 32 minutes the way we played against Wynford in the second half just for us to be in the game and to have a chance going down the stretch.  I feel like we are going to have to shoot the basketball well.  We have had a couple of good practices.  I feel like the kids are ready to go.  We are going to give our best effort,” he said.

 

Published 3/07/17

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Northwestern More than Ready for Orrville

  

          Northwestern meets Orrville in a boys’ division three district semi final on Tuesday night at Wooster High School and they can’t wait to get on the floor.

          The Huskies (19-5) beat Orrville (71-56) on February 18, but they don’t think the Red Riders give them much respect.

          Coach Mark Alberts Jr. says they understood when the bracket was drawn that this game could be on the horizon.  “Plying them the last game of the regular season when we went to the tournament draw we knew there was a chance we could play them again.  We played them on a night when we played Norwayne the night before on a back to back and that is not always easy to do.  We were pretty fortunate that we played pretty well at times in the second and third quarters and come out with a win when we didn’t go into the fourth quarter and we were able to play a lot of guys that night.  We know that there aren’t going to be any secrets and it is going to be a whole different kind of game.  We are just happy it is a one game thing and we don’t have a game the night before we play them this time,” said Alberts.

          Orrville (11-13) beat Columbia (64-56) to reach the districts.  Alberts says they have a very good player in Marcus Conway and in their last game showed some more balance.  “Marcus Conway is an excellent player.  The other night when they beat Waynedale he had 22 of their 52.  One night against Triway he had 27 of 52.  He kind of makes him go.  Against Columbia Station they had four guys in double figures, which hasn’t happened much for them this year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Conway has 10, but Logan Domer, a sophomore, had 19 and Cayden McDaniels and R’mani Robinson each had 10.  They had some balanced scoring.  They scored 64 points, which is one of their higher games of the year.  I think they are gaining some confidence right now.  I think they feel they are going to play hard.  Coach Slaughter does a good job getting them to play hard.  We are excited about getting a chance to play them again.”

          Northwestern has not had much success against Orrville until this year.  Alberts says they certainly aren’t short on bulletin board material going into Tuesday night.  “There is a lot of trash talk out there.  They don’t have a lot of respect for us in some ways because we are a country school I think.  There is some, I don’t want to say bad blood, but there is some chippiness there.  You will see it out there on the floor.  I know our guys are motivated to a get a chance to play them again, especially with the stuff that has been said off the court about us winning the last time and things like that,” he said.

 

Published 3/07/17

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Northmor Takes on Columbus Academy

  

          Northmor, the co-champ of the blue division of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference, plays Columbus Academy at Westerville Central High School in a division three district semi-final on Tuesday night.

          Columbus Academy, the number two seed in the district, beat Mt. Gilead (69-54) last Saturday.

          Northmor coach Zach Ruth says they are well aware of Academy’s talents.  “It is kind of funny how things have played out with our non-league schedule we put Grandview Heights and Worthington Christian on the schedule and we scrimmaged Columbus Academy and this was the reason for putting those games and scrimmages on because Centerburg is in our league and they are playing Worthington Christian.  A couple of times we went down to scout Grandview or Worthington Christian we made sure we scouted those games when they played Columbus Academy.  They are all in the same league.  We are really familiar with them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have beaten two “MOAC” schools to get here, so we have film from that.  It is completely two different styles of teams going at it.  They want to press and use their athletes to get up and down the floor and we kind of want to use our height and pound it inside.  I believe the team that gives into the other one is probably going to be the loser.”

          It will be different styles on Tuesday night.  It is not that Northmor (19-5) is prodding, but Ruth says Academy will want to force them into playing a faster tempo.  “When we press our mentality it just to try and speed you up.  A lot of people think if you are not causing turnovers the press isn’t being affective, but if you are coming down and you are rushing your shots and you are taking one pass shots and you are not rubbing guys off screens the press is still being affective.  We thought in watching the Mt. Gilead film Mt. Gilead got caught up and trying to play fast with Columbus Academy.  They came down and forced a lot of one pass shots.  That is what Academy wants.  We have to be really patient.  We have to put points on the board and take good shots.  We have to try and make them play defense and they are going to try and make us run.  It is going to be a good one, it really is,” said Ruth.

          On Tuesday night, Ruth says they must play really good defense and rebound the basketball at both ends of the floor.  “We teach that a missed shot is still good offense.  You have a 50/50 chance of getting a missed shot and if you are a good offensive rebounding team like we are a missed shot is still good offense because we can catch it and put it back in.  We are on a nine game winning streak and we are crediting it to defense and rebounding because our shooting percentage has not been very pretty to look at.  It is just evidence of the old saying offense wins games and sells tickets, but defense wins championships.  We won our conference championship with defense and rebounding.  We have won our first two tournament games with defense and rebounding.  We will see if we can keep it going,” he said.

 

Published 3/07/16

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Old Fort Wants to Run

  

          Old Fort basketball this year has been about getting the ball down the floor in a hurry and getting some good looks and it is going to be no different on Wednesday night.

          The Stockaders (20-3,) the outright champion of the river division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, play Arlington in a division four district semi-final at Liberty-Benton High School.

          Old Fort downed Tiffin Calvert (53-35) with a big second half last Friday.

          Coach Eric Hoover says they were able to get things going in the third quarter with defense.  “We got off to a good start and we had a little slip up there in the second quarter.  We were only able to get two points on the board in the second quarter.  I think it was good to be challenged that way and face that adversity there and go in tied at halftime.  We came out and played well and the kids really responded in the second half and picked up the defensive intensity.  We got some offense going from the defense.  I was glad to see that in the second half and come out strong there,” said Hoover.

          Defensive intensity is big part of tournament basketball.  Hoover says you have to make the other guys feel uncomfortable.  “You have to be able to get stops when you need them, especially at times you might be struggling offensively throughout the game or more importantly in close game situations you have to get stops defensively.  Defensive intensity is really important for us in just the way we play we trying to get that full court intensity all of the time.  If going full court and don’t have the intensity you are going to give up some easy ones.  It has really worked for us,” he said.

          Arlington (13-10) beat Fremont St. Joe out of the river division (67-44) to get here and Hoover says they are a team that is getting a lot better and they have a very good post player.  “They really have been playing better here in the second half of year.  They are very athletic all around and have a really good post player.  Logan Speyer is 6’5” and maybe 225 or so.  He has a division one football scholarship as an offensive lineman.  He is going to be a load for us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think he is averaging 19 points a game.  He is certainly the focal point of their offense.  I have seen many films on him and seen him in person and he is going to be a tough on to stop.  It is going to take a full defensive effort to slow him down.”

          Tempo is going to be important in this game.  Hoover says they want to get the Red Devils playing faster than they want too.  “That is what we are going to try and do.  What we have been trying to do all year.  I think they will try and keep it at their pace and not let us get them out of control a little bit.  I am sure that is what they are talking about.  That will be a big key in the game who can get the pace of the game the way they want?  We are going to try and get them a little out of control and make it difficult to enter the ball just by making their guards have to make difficult decisions,” he said.

 

Published 3/07/17

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Ontario Has to Handle Pressure

  

          Ontario squares off with Vermilion in the division two sectional final on Friday night at Galion High School.

          Ontario was runner-up in the Northern Ohio League and Vermilion was co-champ of the bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

          The Warriors (18-5), #4 in the final Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Port Clinton (56-42) in a semi-final game on Tuesday night.

          The Redskins lead (27-24) at the half, but Ontario coach Joe Balogh says they were able to turn the tide with defense.  “Port Clinton I thought played really well.  I think when you get to the tournament I think you find that teams prepare very, very well because it is one and done.  We did not play poorly.  We didn’t play our best game either.  I thought our defense was kind of the big key, especially the second half.  We were able to really guard well and played man and just kind of wore them out a little bit.  It was a good win for us, but we have said every week we have to get a little bit better as we play on Friday night,” said Balogh.

          This is a match-up between the third seed, Vermilion (17-5,) and the fourth seed, Ontario, in a second round game.  Balogh says the Sailors are aggressive and they are good shooters from distance.  “They are a really good basketball team.  This is game that you would typically see in the district final.  They are a team that loves to press, loves to try and create havoc with their defense and turn that into offensive points.  For us we have to do a really good job of handling their pressure and not just handling it, but attacking it and looking to finish against their pressure,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “From a defensive standpoint we are going to have make sure we get back in defensive transition.  We are going to have to do a great job contesting their threes.  We have to rebound the basketball that is always a key especially when you get into tournament time.  Your ability at the defensive end to limit teams to one shot and the offensive end the ability to get second and third chance opportunities.”

          In a game like this there are likely going to be ebbs and flows and Balogh says they have to be able to move onto the next play no matter what happens.  “We talk about this a lot you have to be able to go to the next play whether you turn it over or you make a great play there is always a play that comes after it.  You have to have a focus on the next play.  You don’t want a turnovers to turn into three, four, five bad possessions in a row and allow them to make that run.  Composure is going to be really key, but I think we have a veteran team, some veteran guards that I think are really going to be composed and be good decision makers for us,” he said.

          Last year, Ontario beat Vermilion (64-56) in a tournament game.  Yes, it is a different year, but Balogh says they hope to be able to do some of the same things.  “It is a different team, but we have some of the same players that played in it.  I think are familiarity is better with each other since we played last year.  We are doing similar things and they are doing some similar things also, but it is not last year it is this year.  We looked at last year’s game a little bit as coaches and tried to pick out what we had done well.  I think maybe we can do some of those same things this year.  The players that are back are one year older and hopefully one year better.  It is going to be a great game come Friday night,” he said.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Norwalk Must Slow Down Lexington

  

          Norwalk rallied in the second half to beat Shelby on Tuesday night and they face another big challenge against second seeded Lexington in the division two sectional final Friday night at Galion High School.

          They railed from a (31-18) halftime deficit to beat the Whippets (61-53) on Tuesday night. 

          Coach Steve Gray says a lot people are giving him the credit, but the win Tuesday belonged to the kids.  “Here is what I told my kids (Wednesday) at practice.  Coaches get way too much credit when things are going well and take too grief when things aren’t going well.  It came down to this.  My kids made plays, Roth hit shots, Paul and Friend rebounded their fannies off in the second half.  I think that was the difference,” said Gray.

          Norwalk (8-15) has had an injury filled season, but they have won four of their last six.  Gray says they have been growing in confidence.  “We have played pretty well for three weeks now.  Unfortunately we played Sandusky and Ontario on a Tuesday-Friday.  We were in for the most part both of those games with a chance in the second half.  Then we beat Tiffin last week and Shelby on Tuesday.  I think we are as confident as we can be,” he said.

          When first asked about the Lexington (15-7) game, Gray quipped “I wish Stover played for us.”  He knows Cade Stover, first team all district and Lexington’s leading scorer is very good and he says the Minutemen are very good at pushing the pace.  “Stover inside and when they are playing well they are playing really fast and get up and down the floor and penetrate and pitch or dump it inside.  They are a good team and Scott (Hamilton) and Dr. (Jay) Guth have done a great job with them,” said Gray.

          Gray says that Stover is a big match-up problem for the Truckers due to his size and athleticism.  “Stover does a great job running the floor.  He seems like a great kid.  Obviously he is a pretty good athlete if Urban Meyer is looking at him and Notre Dame and schools like that.  Unfortunately for us we don’t have anybody over 6’1”, so we are going to have to commit maybe two, two and half guys on him every possession,” he said.

 

Published 3/03/17

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“OCC” Champ Opens Tournament Play

  

          Wooster won its first 19 games this season and finished as the undisputed champion of the Ohio Cardinal Conference and they start tournament play on Saturday night.

          They are part of one of the toughest division one districts in state and getting out of it is going to be really tough.

          The Generals (20-2), #1 in the final Swankonsports.com basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays host to Massillon in the opening round of the tournament on Saturday night.

          They have not played since an (86-53) loss to Copley on February 21.  Coach Michael Snowbarger says they have used the time to work on some fundamentals, but they are really ready to get back on the court.  “We have had a nice little bit of a rest.  It has been a week and half now,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It was good for us though because the kids got back into it and we got back into some of the basics, you know, closing out with the hand up, moving without the ball.  Just doing those little things that I think we got stagnate with towards the end of the season.  So far in practice it looks good, but going out and doing it in a game, sometimes that is different, but we will see.”

          Tournament games tend to be more half court, not always, but usually, and in those cases you need some perimeter shooting.  The Generals have that is Trevor Smith.  Snowbarger says they are going to need him on Saturday night.  “Having Trevor Smith does help us when we get into the half court.  Massillon is probably a team where we will have to get into a half court kind of game.  They are extremely quick and they have some great athletes.  I am not sure how much we want to get up and pressure them and give them wide open layups.  We need to make them work in the half court for everything,” he said.

          Wooster beat Massillon (73-66) in the opening game of the season, so the teams are familiar with each other.  Snowbarger says they need to play outstanding defense.  “We got to go over and watch them (Wednesday) night.  We are a little bit familiar.  We saw them last year and they have a couple of the same kids.  Massillon has some great athletes.  They have a great point guard and we have to make sure we stop his dribble penetration and keep him out of the paint,” said Snowbarger.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Underdog Clear Fork Looking for Upset of Top Seed

  

          Clear Fork is looking to pull the upset as they face New London, the top seed in the division three district, in the sectional finals on Friday night at Shelby High School.

          The Colts shot 60 percent from the field and five players finished in double figures are they buried Galion (81-51) in a semi-final game on Wednesday night.

          Coach Steven Bechtel says all of that offense came from how tenacious they were on defense.  “Our offense really came from our defense.  In the second quarter we really picked up the intensity.  We got deflections and we got run outs to easy baskets.  Obviously when you start putting layups in and making easy baskets the hoop gets a little bit bigger.  It really opened us up offensively to have a good night there,” he said.

          At (6-16) the Colts have played well in a lot of games this season.  Bechtel says they have to be able to take what they did on Wednesday night to Friday night.  “We feel pretty good if we show up and play like we are capable of we feel like we can play with just about anybody,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They are a very, very good team and they have the player of the year in Ryan Lane.  He is an exceptional athlete and an exceptional player and he has a lot guys around him that can shoot the basketball.  So, it is going to be a really tough challenge for us, but I think our regular season has got us prepared and we should be ready to go.”

          Lane is the district six coaches association player of the year and is headed to Kent State on a baseball scholarship.  Bechtel says he makes the players around him a lot better.  “I think the biggest thing about him is how well he makes everyone else around him play.  It is very unselfish.  He has probably averaged pretty close to a double double all year long.  Those other guys have stepped up and hit open shots.  We have to find them.  It is going to be tough, but I think our kids are going to be up to the challenge,” he said.

          Tournament pressure is different than regular season pressure, so both teams will be feeling that, maybe a little more for New London (17-5) because they are the number one seed.  Bechtel says it really boils down to which team executes better.  “There is a lot of pressure because we don’t want it to be our last game either.  I know they are the number one seed, so there is a little added pressure there. It is two teams that play hard and really rely on their defense, just taking care of the basketball and get open looks.  Whoever can take care of the ball best and executes offensively and defensively is going to come out on top,” said Bechtel.

 

Published 3/03/17

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New London Can Not Allow Clear Fork Confidence

  

          New London is the top seed in the division three district tournament, but they are a little wary.

          The Wildcats (17-5) play Clear Fork (6-16) in a sectional final on Friday night at Shelby High School.

          In what was a balanced Firelands Conference this year, the Wildcats had to battle to the end and need a win over Plymouth (62-47) to secure an outright title.

          Coach Tom Howell says having something on the line on the final week has kept them sharp.  “It went down to the last game of the season.  It was a good testament to the teams in our conference.  I am proud of our kids and the way their finished it.  We will just see what happens on Friday with Clear Fork,” he said.

          The Colts drilled Galion (81-51) in a semi-final game on Wednesday night.  They finished at the bottom on the Ohio Cardinal Conference this year, but Howell says they have a lot of skill.  “Clear Fork is pretty good.  They play in the “OCC” and they play a lot of bigger schools.  They have pretty athletic kids,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They have got some shooters.  They get up and down the floor, they guard pretty well, they are physical.  It is not going to be easy for us.  I am looking for a tough game on Friday.”

          New London has to be considered the favorite in this game, but Howell says they can not allow Clear Fork to hang around on Friday and gain confidence.  “They can score point in bunches.  They get up and down the floor.  On Wednesday it was a pretty close first quarter and the next thing you know they are up 20.  They have some shooters and if you let them get good looks and let them get a little confidence it could be a struggle,” said Howell.

 

Published 3/03/17

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South Central Must Contain Wynford Break

  

          South Central plays Wynford for a division four sectional title on Friday night at Lexington High School and a berth in next week’s district tournament.

          The Trojans (14-9) beat Crestline (71-51) in a semi-final game on Wednesday night to advance in the tournament.

          Coach Brett Seidel didn’t think they played particularly well, but he says they did make some adjustments at halftime that allowed them to pull away a little.  “We got lost on some assignments and you can’t do that in tournament basketball.  I feel like a couple of kids had the jitters.  We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well the entire game, especially in the first quarter and they are big.  They are big and athletic and present some problems.  The Clark kid got loose in the paint.  He had 17 in the first half.  We made a few adjustments and paid more attention to him in the second half.  We made a few more shots and got out in transition a little bit and loosed up,” said Seidel.

         Wynford (13-10) downed Mansfield Christian (47-33) in the other Wednesday night semi-final.  They finished fourth this year in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference.

          Seidel says there is no question they are a better team in March than they were to start the season.  “Well what I recognize from them is the last two years they have gotten progressively better as the season has gone on.  That is a testament to him and his program.  I thought they were playing their best basketball in February and March last year and I feel like they are playing their best basketball in February and March again this year..” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Jack Reed in a good player he is not just a shooter, he is not just a scorer, he is a player, he does everything on the floor at both ends.  He is a leader and he plays hard.  We are expecting a very tall task and big challenge for us on (Friday) night.”

          Wynford runs the fast break very well and Seidel says they have to control that if they are going to win on Friday night.  “We can’t allow them to get comfortable, especially in their transition.  I feel like we have to find some kids in transition.  We can’t allow any kind of second shots the entire night.  I feel like we are going to have to make some shots,” he said.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Wynford Looking to Repeat Last Year

  

          Wynford made a Cinderella run to the district tournament last year and they are looking to do the same thing this year.

          They face South Central in Friday night’s division four sectional final at Lexington High School.

          On Tuesday night they downed Mansfield Christian (47-33) in semi-final action.

          Coach Jason Engel says the Flames took them out of the some of the things they wanted to do, but they found a way to get it done.  “That is what we said that we found a way to win and we survived and advanced.  Your first tournament game is always your hardest.  The kids finding a way to win and defending the way they defended was pretty special for us.  They really sat down and guarded McPeak and helped out with him.  On the flip side Mansfield Christian missed some shots and we were able to get to the basket.  They really covered us up from the perimeter and were trying to defend us from shooting the three pointer,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “They did a good job of that, but we did a good job of making adjustments and getting to the basket.  We shot 33 free throws.  Jack Reed I think was 14 of 19 from the line.  Finding a way to win is a sign of a senior led team and an experienced team.”

          South Central (14-9) beat Crestline (71-51) on Wednesday night.  They finished fourth in what was a very balanced Firelands Conference this year.

          Engel says they want to get the ball moving and they have a lot of players that can score.  “They have scorers at all positions.  They really shoot the three ball.  I think they have taken almost 80 threes the last three games.  They are a good team.  They bring guys off the bench that will shoot it.  They present match-up problems and they are very well coached.  We are going to have to cut down our turnovers.  We had quite a few turnovers (Wednesday) night.  We have to take care of the ball.  We have to play better that we did (Wednesday) night or we will not beat South Central.  They are a good team,” said Engel.

          Wynford (13-10) has gotten better step by step this year and Engel says they have to do that again on Friday night.  “That is how it was last year for us.  That is in the past.  The good thing is these kids put themselves in position to get back to where they want to be and to repeat something that we did last year.  It is what Wynford basketball is about.  We have to play better (Friday) and we have to start better.  We have to be ready to play with a little more focus for the game and come out and play four quarters,” he said.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Buckeye Central Meets Norwalk St. Paul

  

          Buckeye Central faces Norwalk St. Paul Friday night in a division four sectional final at Sandusky Senior High School.

          The winner advances to play in the district tournament next week.

          Buckeye rallied to beat Plymouth (56-55) in a semi final game played on Tuesday night.

          The Bucks (10-13) trailed by as many as 11 in the third quarter, but coach Phil Loy says they never gave up.  “It was nice when we have lost so many games by one, two or three points.  It is nice to be on the other end of that.  Hopefully, all of that experience of losing close games really paid off.  I give our kids credit.  I am proud of them.  We were down 11 in the third quarter and things don’t seem to be going your way,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Plymouth is making shots and making plays.  We find a way to battle back and make some plays of our own to slowly stating to etch into that lead.  The fourth quarter we came up and made some big plays.  I am really proud of how we finished that game.  I thought Plymouth was playing really well.  For us to overcome some foul trouble and win that game was key for us.”

          Norwalk St. Paul (15-7) is one of the bigger teams in any division in North Central Ohio.  Loy says that height will make it difficult for them.  “They are really big.  We know we have to play really well for four quarters (Friday) night.  Their length is a concern of mine, it is a concern of anybody’s.  They have a couple 6’5”, 6’4”, 6’3” guys on the floor and their length can really hurt you,” he said.

          Tempo?  Is that a factor?  Loy says they want to be smart when they push the pace.  “Their bigs are pretty athletic.  I don’t know if we want a game in the 60’s.  They don’t appear to want a game in the 60’s.  We both are kind of low scoring.  It is not to say that we don’t want to push the ball up the floor every opportunity you can, but if it is not there then we need to make sure we do a good job of executing our offense,” he said.

          Anytime you are at a disadvantage when it comes to height you want to keep the ball out of the paint.  Loy says they have to have good ball pressure on the Flyers guards.  “Their bigs are so affective with the high, low action that if you don’t put good pressure on them on their guards out front or on the wings its just makes it easy for them to throw the ball in and it makes it a lot tougher on our bigs to defend.  So, ball pressure is just something that we have to take a lot pride in and work hard at just to not allow them to execute their offense,” said Loy.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Lucas Feels Comfortable

  

          Lucas the chance to win their first sectional title since 2010 as they meet Colonel Crawford in the division four sectional finals at Sandusky High School on Friday night.

          Crawford has won five straight sectional crowns.

          The Cubs (14-9) had to make an amazing comeback on Tuesday night beat Sandusky St. Mary’s (54-50) in their first sectional game.

          Coach Taylor Iceman says there was no yelling at halftime, just some discussion on what they needed to do better.  “I don’t know what the issue was.  I understand jitters and stuff like that.  Both teams took a couple of minutes to get the first bucket.  We missed layup after layup after layup.  I don’t think we hit a jump shot that whole first half and we only had nine points at halftime.  We were down 19-9 and I went in and told them we only scored nine points and we are only down 10, so we are definitely not out of it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Several people asked me what did you do what did you say?  We didn’t change anything up, I just told them we have to make layups and play a little harder and that I what they came out and did.  We scored nine the first half and 45 the second.  Better effort and better defense led to some offense and kind of got the lid off the bucket for us.”

          Colonel Crawford (16-6), #4 in the final Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the small school division, finished as the runner up in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference.

          Iceman says they have good post players and they have good guards too.  “They are very balanced.  They have the big kid Starkey and Shaum is a very good player as well.  I think he kind gets overshadowed because the Starkey kid is so big.  So, we have to worry about those two inside.  They have good guards as well.  They are young, but they have three or four of them that are capable.  The McCreary kid does a good job handling the ball and he has a good jump shot as well.  They are young at the guard position so we have to try and take advantage of that.  We have some big guys that can handle the ball, so we going to try and pull their big guys away from the basket and attack and just play our game.  If we play defense and make some jump shots we will be fine,” said Iceman.

          Iceman is hoping having already played at the “Big House” is going to be a plus for them.  “We have a lot of common opponents and we have looked at a lot of film.  We are prepared and hopefully we are thinking they will come out and have those jitters that we had first game and we are going to go back somewhere where we just played a couple of nights ago and hopefully not have those jitters as bad as we did.  I know there will be a crowd there.  Crawford has a great student section.  If we play hard we going to have an opportunity to win the game,” he said.

 

Published 3/03/17

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Lexington Has to be Ready For a lot

  

          Lexington won the division two district title last season and they embark on defense of that title on Friday night when they take on Norwalk in a sectional final game at Galion High School.

          The Minutemen (14-8) broke a four game losing streak with a (75-54) win over Clear Fork in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          Coach Scott Hamilton says it was good to get back on track.  “You really want to be going into the tournament under good conditions and feeling confident because if there is anything questionable about what you are doing and what you are trying to do it makes it tough in that first game.  Of course, we took the bye, so now we are facing a team that has already played on that floor.  So, we are really wanting to make sure that we ended our regular season on a good note,” he said.

          Norwalk (8-15) has had a season tortured by injuries, but they came up big in the second half on Tuesday night in erasing a 13 point deficit and beating Shelby (61-53) in their tournament opener.  Jacob Roth scored all 16 of his points in the third and fourth quarters to lead the charge.

          Hamilton says the injuries have really stacked up for the Truckers, but their coaching staff knows how to work them through that and keep them motivated.  “They have had a really tough season.  They lost a kid before the season even started.  They lost Haraway in football season.  Then George Friend, their scorer, he missed five or six games towards the middle of the season, and now they have lost a post player right at the end,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It has been kind of a roller coaster season for them as far as injuries, players, and roster, but they are well coached.  They have a veteran staff, coach Gray does a great job.”

          Lexington beat Norwalk (48-39) on December 28, so Hamilton says they have gotten a look at what the Truckers are about, but that was a game that point guard Brandon Haraway didn’t play.  “We played them during the regular season up at their place, so we are a little familiar with them.  The expectation might have been on Shelby in that first tournament game, but I tell you what you never count out a Steve Gray coached team in the tournament,” he said.

          Gray throws a lot of different looks at opponents defensively and they run a lot of sets on offense.  Hamilton says you must be very well prepared when you play them.  “He is one of those coaches that likes to know where the shot is coming from and who is taking it and where at on the floor.  To be able to switch up as many things as he does and work so hard every time out there on the floor is pretty impressive.  That’s what you get with a veteran coach like Steve,” he said.

 

Published 3/02/17

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Shelby and Norwalk Play for District Final Berth

  

          Shelby is back in the division two district tournament for the second straight year.  They lost in overtime in the district final last season to Bellevue.  This year they want that regional berth.

          They face Northern Ohio League rival Norwalk is a semi-final game at Willard High School on Thursday night.  Bellevue (19-4) plays Ontario (15-8) in the other.

          They reached this level with a (65-47) win over Sandusky Perkins on Saturday night. 

          Coach Natalie Lantz says they did a good job of finding the right combinations.  “I think we did a pretty good job.  We had a couple of meltdowns, but as soon as we switched up on “D” a little bit and picked up our intensity.  The score would fluctuate and we would go right back up.  Like I said Saturday, we really got off to a great start.  I really liked our defensive intensity.  We were focused and moving the ball offensively with great energy.  Those are all keys to success,” she said.

          Shelby (21-2), #1 in the final Swankonsports.com girls’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, returns about everybody from last year’s district final team.  Lantz likes that experience.  “I think experience does help.  I don’t know if it is to calm nerves or anything like that, but I would like to think they are going to go into the game (Thursday) night with confidence.  I just tell them it is another game, it just has a title on it.  You still have to play your game.  You have to come in focused.  Every loose ball has got to be theirs.  Norwalk is going to come in to win as well.  They want to play on.  If we execute our game plan and hustle and scrap like we do get the defensive stops that we need and control their players we will come out on top.  I think the leadership that we have is good.  The communication starts from the top down.  We will get that done,” said Lantz.

          Norwalk (19-5) downed Northern 10 Athletic Conference champion Upper Sandusky (60-44) last Saturday.  They are paced by Jiselle Thomas, the district player of the year, who is approachin