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West Shore Conference varsity baseball preview (area teams)

Rangers return nine letter winners for 2014

West Shore Conference

By Joe Ostrica

After playing close to .500 last season, the North Ridgeville baseball team plans to challenge for a West Shore Conference championship this spring. The Rangers have nine letter winners returning from last year’s 13-16 (7-7 in WSC play) squad.

North Ridgeville is led by four-year varsity players Matt Feierabend and Nolan Freeman. Feierabend, a senor third baseman and pitcher, is an All-Lorain County and All-WSC first team selection who has verbally committed to play at Tiffin next year. Freeman, a first baseman and pitcher, is an All-WSC second team selection who is looking at playing at Tiffin or Lake Erie College next year.

The Rangers also have a strong nucleus of returning key contributors, including junior Nathan Colbert (first base and pitcher), junior Logan Armaro (second base), senior Jacob Chalkwater (outfield, pitcher), junior Ben Rankin (catcher) and senior Jay Duke (catcher).

“Pitching should be a strength of the team, with 12 of the 18 players on the roster expected to get innings in on the mound,” North Ridgeville head coach Matt Ponting said. “This year’s team will be stronger from top to bottom, bolstered by two transfer students – Mike Martin and Dylan Peck – along with leaders from last year’s strong junior varsity team – Dane Truelson, Nick Salvatore and Tyler Arnold – expected to play major roles.”

In addition to Martin (senior outfielder, pitcher) and Peck (junior outfielder, pitcher), Ponting said junior Austin Leininger (shortstop) is another player to keep an eye out for. Last year’s JV leaders coming up to varsity include junior Truelson (outfielder, pitcher), sophomore Salvatore (outfielder, pitcher) and junior Arnold (outfielder). Seniors Gabe Vega (first base, pitcher) and Keith Chrosniak (third base, pitcher) and

junior Travis Lindeman (outfielder, pitcher) round out the Rangers roster.

 

Eagles look to get back on track in WSC championship race

West Shore Conference

By Joe Ostrica

The Avon baseball team looks to return to contention for the West Shore Conference championship after finishing a distant third place, going 14-14 overall and 9-5 in the WSC, in 2013.

“The roster is made up of equal parts experience and untested talent, so it may be difficult at the beginning of the season to determine if we will be contenders as the underclassmen get their first extended taste of varsity baseball,” Avon head coach Frank DeSmit said. “We have seven returning seniors who will all be significant contributors as either pitchers or position players, but the remainder of the roster is young or untested. Our pitching should be one of our strengths as we have our top three pitchers from last year returning.

Avon will be looking for leadership from its seniors with all of them playing significant roles at the beginning of the season. Senior pitchers Jonny Morales, Ian Long (3-1, 2.80 ERA) and Alex Tomko (5-3 1.29 ERA) return as the main part of what will hopefully be another strong pitching staff. Junior Scott Barnum (2-0, 4 saves 3.02 ERA) looks to continue to impress on the mound as well. Also expected to vie for time in the rotation are juniors George Webb, Kyle Netkowicz, and Jack Bondy along with sophomore Jake Sopko.

“Ian Long, Alex Tomko and Jonny Morales are three seniors who will anchor the pitching staff, and they are joined by junior Scott Barnum,” DeSmit said. “Long and senior Kevin Maloney were our top hitters last year, plus seniors Shaun Traine and Andrew Lee will be expected to perform at the plate.”

If Avon hopes to reach its goal of a conference championship, the team will need to have a faster start at the plate in 2014. Long led the team last year (.338 batting average, 18 runs) followed by first baseman Kevin Maloney (.310 BA, 14 RBIs). Seniors Lee, Traine and Brian Baker look to also come back strong, while juniors Tim Moroz, Tanner Doenges, Kyle Netkowicz and George Webb hope to hit their way into permanent starting jobs.

“Our defense is solid up the middle, but we are still not sure who fits at third and in the outfield yet,” DeSmit said. “Consistent hitting and run production will be something we need to do better if we stand any chance of contending.”

DeSmit expects Midview and Lakewood to be the top teams to beat in the WSC.

“Midview and Lakewood were the top teams last year, and looking at their JV records and some of their returning pitchers I see no reason not to believe they will be the teams to beat again this year,” he said. “We begin every year with the same three goals: 1. Win the WSC; 2. Win a district final; 3. Make it to Columbus for the state final.”

DeSmit said Avon scheduled a lot of the SWC teams this year in anticipation of making the move to that conference in 2016.

“We will open the season in Cincinnati playing Kings High School, which will be tough, I’m sure, given the level of baseball in southwestern Ohio,” he said. “Also, our first week will really be a meat grinder as we play St. Vincent-St. Mary, St. Edward and Olmsted Falls while our seniors are in Washington D.C.

“I am excited to see how the team does this year with the returning experience we have. I am also hoping that the weather allows us to start the season on time.”

 

Rockets looking to rebound in the WSC

West Shore Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski

The Bay High School varsity baseball team would like to make last year’s overall record of 6-20 (5-9 in the West Shore Conference) a distant memory, and Rockets head coach Joseph Cheney is looking for players to be leaders.

“We will need a catcher or two to step up to replace Max Lamb, who caught 85 percent of the innings last year,” Cheney said. “We also need some consistency in the outfield to replace Matt Toth – a two-year starter – and need to make up for the loss of Craig Linder’s bat in the middle of the lineup.”

The key returning letter winners for the Rockets are seniors Marty Schuerger (RHP) and Will Wilson (SS); juniors Griffin Watterson (RHP-3B) and Chris Francati (RHP-1B); and sophomore Jacob Crossan (RHP-2B).

“We have the core of our group coming back this year,” Cheney said. “We need to learn from last year, and play team-baseball.

“We will need to do the little things and learn to be focused and aggressive from the first pitch of every game.”

Along with Schuerger and Wilson, fellow seniors Rob MacAskill, Kevin Keefe and Andy Taylor will carry the load for the Rockets.

“We are looking for leadership and consistency from these seniors,” Cheney explained. “They need to lay it all out on the field for one last spring.”

The key newcomers to this year’s squad are junior Rex Sunahara (RHP-1B) and sophomore Kyle Thompson (LHP-OF).

The rest of the varsity roster is rounded out by Craig Fortunato, Stephen Krauser, Connor Huntington, Dan Schwede and Matt Tashjian.

Cheney is looking for the entire WSC to be very competitive this season.

“We are a hard-working group of players with something to prove,” he said. “We will need to overcome our youth and inexperience to challenge for the WSC title, and reach the district finals.

“We haven’t done either in more than five years.”

The Rockets’ coaching staff has also added a couple new members with Todd Ratica and Adam Peters being brought into the mix.

Bay will be dedicating its newly renovated field on April 26, against Avon Lake.

 

Pirates expect improvement in 2014

West Shore Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski

The Rocky River High School varsity baseball team had what could be considered a surprisingly down year last year. The Pirates had nine seniors on the team, but finished the season a mere 6-16 overall and 4-10 in the West Shore Conference.

The Pirates have seven letter winners returning this season, including key players Matt Lowry (SS), Mitch Williams (pitcher) and Matt Kocur (pitcher).

“Those three guys were were solid contributors last year,” Rocky River head coach Darryl Sanders said. “Our five total seniors are quiet leaders by example, but all are competitors.”

The key newcomers this year are Gary Matthews, Sam Russell and Cam Grendow, who will be looking to fill voids in open spots in the Pirates lineup.

“Every game will be big this year,” Sanders said. “We want to be better than last year. We have hard workers, with the ability to adapt.

“We want to compete for a conference title, and get to the district finals and regionals this season.”

The Pirates are still finalizing their roster, with players fighting for spots on varsity and junior varsity.

 

Lakewood reloads, looks to repeat last year’s success

West Shore Conference

By Ryan Kaczmarski

The Lakewood High School varsity baseball team is coming of an impressive 2013 outing in which the Rangers went 22-6 overall (10-4 in the West Shore Conference). That being said, there are some holes to fill from graduation if Lakewood plans on making another deep run into the playoffs.

“It’s going to be hard to replace an All-Ohio catcher in Wayne Naida,” Lakewood head coach Michael Ribar said.

The Rangers are returning four starters from last year’s squad, including pitchers Jameson Foran and Max Lavisky; outfielder Dan Zagaria, and infielder Chase Miller, who will be moving over from second base to short stop this season.

“Foran has been the No. 1 pitcher for us the last two seasons, and I’m looking for him to dominate on the mound this year,” Ribar said. “Miller has some of the best hands in the area, and has already accepted a scholarship to Huntington University, in Indiana.

“Zagaria is expected to pick up a big part of the hitting that the seniors from last year took with them,” he added. “Lavisky is a Division I prospect and only a junior at first base. I expect great leadership from these four also.”

Ribar is also looking for big things from his players who ave moved up from junior varsity for this season.

“I feel we have a strong junior class that will have to fill some big shoes from last year’s team,” he explained. “Nate Bonacuse, Andrew Lesko, Kyle Wagner and Nick Mahoney are expected to step right in and take on these responsibilities.

“We are also counting on senior catchers Zach Moran and Zach Sandersn to provide quality defense behind the plate,” Ribar added. “Besides the juniors and seniors, we are expecting big things from sophomore Ben Bulchik, who will pitch and fill the roles of Foran and Levisky, when they do pitch.”

Along with the tough conference schedule, including WSC champion Midview, the Rangers have made themselves a hard nonconference schedule which includes games against St. Ignatius, Mentor, Nordonia, Avon Lake, St. Edward and Westlake.

“We will rely on our pitching and defense to win games this year, along with situational hitting and fundamental baseball,” Ribar said. “We have a very intelligent baseball team that is committed to being successful.

“Our middle will have three new individuals starting, so we will rely on them to provide quality defense,” he continued. “We are going to have to produce runs this year, where last year, we were capable of hitting our way out of holes.

“We need to be aggressive and put forth every day.”

The team goals this season are to win 20 games, become WSC champs and qualify for regionals.

“We have the potential to continue building on what we have started over the past few years, now it’s time to prove it,” Ribar concluded.

The Lakewood Friday Night Under the Lights will continue this year, with the events being expanded to theme nights, starting on April 11, against Berea-Midpark, with “Support our Troops” night.

 

 

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