Weather warms just in time for tournament

Weather warms just in time for tournament

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

The spring weather has finally warmed up, just in time for high school post-season tournaments.

It seems to work out that way each year.

Here’s an around-the-horn look at the Fab Five area baseball teams that have the best shot of staying hot and making a playoff run. (Note: stats are from games entering this week.)

Wooster (19-4, 11-1 OCC)

The Generals were outright Ohio Cardinal Conference champs for the second year in a row, giving the school back-to-back baseball league titles for the first time since 1984-85.

Wooster is seeded eighth and playing in the Div. I Strongsville District.

Coach Steve Young has been impressed with his team’s resiliency all season.

“We are a pretty young group going through a lot of things for the first time, and they just adapt and do whatever is needed for the team to win,” Young said. “We've lost some key players to injury for a significant amount of time, and these guys haven't blinked.

“They arrive to the field every day ready to go and do whatever is asked of them to win a game that day. The work ethic and drive to get better has been a ton of fun to be around. I think we're seeing it pay dividends in the back half of the season.”

Junior shortstop-pitcher Blake Bowen is having an All-Ohio caliber season. The Kentucky recruit entered the week leading the team in batting average (.561, 37-66), doubles (12), triples (4), home runs (5), runs (36) and RBI (39).

Other leading hitters include freshman Brady Bowen (.403) and senior Zach Harpster (.361). The top pitchers have been Brady Bowen (5-0, 1.48 ERA) and senior Drew Becker (6-1, 2.31 ERA).

Triway (17-7, 8-4 PAC)

The Titans finished second in the Principals Athletic Conference behind CVCA and are seeded sixth in the Div. II North Ridgeville District.

Junior Chad Harper and senior Kain Weaver have both had outstanding seasons. Harper leads the team in average (.492) and extra base hits (7 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR) while Weaver is hitting .427. They’ve also logged the most innings on the mound. Weaver is 4-1 with a 3.99 ERA while Harper is 4-3 with a 3.53 ERA. Sophomore Simon Kitchen leads the team in wins and has played outstanding defense.

Seniors Brock Tisko (.370) and Griffin Braun (.355) also have been top hitters.

“We have a veteran team with a lot of experience,” Titans coach Justin McDowell said. “We played a difficult nonleague schedule to prepare us for the tournament.

“Our hope is that the challenging schedule will pay off when it comes to high-leverage, stressful tournament games. Every team wants to be playing their best heading into the ‘second season,’ and we believe we are trending in the right direction.”

Norwayne (16-5, 12-2 WCAL)

Coach Blake Bellman led the Bobcats to a WCAL co-title and No. 1 seed in the Div. III Norwayne District. He also played on two WCAL title teams at Northwestern (2007-08).

“Our pitching staff this year has been a pleasant surprise, after losing Jed Hanzie early in the season to an injury,” Bellman said. “Guys like sophomore Mike Steingass (1.77 ERA), junior Hunter Bittinger, junior Jake Gill and sophomore Beau Polen have filled in nicely behind ace senior Trent Barstow (6-2, 1.32 ERA, 68 Ks, 48.1 IP).

“Timely hitting and solid defense has been key to our success. We have great leadership and work ethic behind our upperclassmen.”

Top hitters are sophomore Logan Dichler (.421, 26 RBI), sophomore Lucas Dudte (.388, 13 SB), Jay Hanzie (.375, 30 R) and Steingass (.361, 27 RBI). Dichler has been fantastic at catcher, throwing out 10 runners trying to steal and picking off five more.

Waynedale (19-4, 12-2)

The Bears split the WCAL title with Norwayne and earned the No. 2 seed in the Norwayne District, which puts the rivals on a collision course to possibly meet for the district title. There are other tough teams to contend with as well, including Gilmour, Smithville and Orrville.

“Our players have worked hard to improve at situational hitting, and now we are bringing more runs across the plate,” Bears coach Lucas Daugherty said. “Our pitching and defense has remained solid throughout the season, and that keeps us in every game. This group works hard every day, and they are a lot of fun to coach.”

Senior Jay Mast leads the way with a .411 batting average, ripping 13 doubles and a triple. Also hitting the ball well have been junior Connor Gatti (.397) and senior Ean Miller (.379).

Junior Trey Barkman (6-1, 1.69 ERA) and sophomore Ottoniel Solorano-Romero (5-1, 1.53) have led the pitching staff.

Hiland (13-7, 9-3 IVC South)

The Hawks, seeded second in the Div. IV East District, have struggled to find consistency, but coach Chris Dages believes they can make a strong post-season run.

“The word that comes to mind about this team is ‘resilient,’” Dages said. “It has been difficult to find a rhythm when you only play two days a week four out of the first five weeks of the season, but these players kept preparing and pushing each other in practices while we waited for the weather to break.

“These guys are also resilient in games: We were never out of any of the games we lost. With our strong pitching and solid defense, I'm excited to see what kind of tournament run this team puts together.”

Leading hitters are Cody Yoder (.428), Nolan Yoder (.393), Grant Miller (.362) and Jeff Todaro (.353, team-highs 2 HR, 25 RBI). Will Schlabach is 4-1 on the mound with a team-best 2.54 ERA while Nolan Yoder is 3-1 with a 3.33 ERA.

Also keep an eye on West Holmes (No. 13 seed Div. II East District) with senior ace pitcher Noah Clark, Hillsdale (top seed Div. IV Medina District) and Dalton (3 seed Div. IV Medina), which are capable of making a run.

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