Written by J. Patrick Eaken
Tuesday, 13 May 2008 09:51
Dominick Coduti, Brent Graham and Casey Winckowski lead a group of six local players that have helped steer the Owens Community College baseball team to the best winning percentage in the country heading into the regional tournament.
“As a team, we had high hopes going into this year,” Winckowski said. “We are starting to accomplish all of our goals we had set for ourselves.”
They finished the regular season with a 31-4-1 record, are ranked ninth in the final Div. II National Junior College Athletic Association poll of the regular season and have three players in the top 20 in the country in hitting.
One of their goals was reached by winning the seventh Ohio Community College Athletic Conference title in school history and the fourth in the last five years.
“This season has been one to remember because of the group of ‘fellas’ we have,” Coduti said. “We all mesh pretty well together.”
Coduti, a sophomore from Northwood, started in right field, hit .329 and had four home runs with 33 rbi’s.
“He has been a solid number nine hitter all year,” Bob Schultz, Owens head baseball coach, said. “He put in a lot of hard work in the off season and you can tell the difference. He has hit several timely home runs to turn the tide in games this year.”
Winckowski, a freshman third baseman from Clay, finished the regular season twelfth in the country in hitting at .491 and had 10 rbi’s. In addition to his hitting, Winckowski pitched in a busy month of April for the team.
“Down the stretch, he pitched in some important league games and won two of them,” Schultz said.
Winckowski feels one area of his game has seen a big improvement this year.
“The biggest part of my game I have made improvements in is my hitting,” he said. “In high school, I was just a big pull hitter and only worried about home runs. In college I have made the improvement to be able to hit to all sides of field with power.”
Graham, a sophomore from Clay, is what Schultz calls a gamer.
“He’s played catcher, third base, outfield and first base over the last two years,” he said. “He’s not overly athletic, but when you put him between the lines he plays baseball.”
Graham played first base this season and hit .309 with one home run and 14 rbi’s.
In addition to those three players, freshmen Kevin Dunn of Genoa, Jared Wolff of Eastwood and Scott Stevenson of Gibsonburg have also contributed this year for the Express.
Dunn may have made the biggest impact of the three because, after a couple years out of baseball, he pitched a no-hitter in his first collegiate game against St. Cloud C.C.
“He was our number two this year,” Schultz said. “He is a hard working, aggressive pitcher who has thrown in a lot of important league games.”
Stevenson, a backup outfielder, brings a particular asset to the team.
“He has been brought in to run in certain situations, which allows us to utilize his quickness,” Schultz said.
Wolff has been a utility player for the team this year.
“He is a hard working young man who comes to the park every day,” Schultz said. “He is unselfish and helps the team out in any way.”
Overall, this season has been a lesson in patience resulting in success for Schultz, a Waite graduate, and assistant coach Gabe Medina, a Clay graduate. Amid a hectic schedule, their team won 24 out of 27 games in April.
“This season has been very interesting,” he said. “The frustrating part has been the weather with the snow and cold temperatures in Northwest Ohio. However, the kids rebounded, took it one game at a time and played well.”
Medina encourages people to take notice of a team that he said is one of the best in the area, no matter which division level.
“We have a solid baseball team and the community doesn’t know about us,” he said. “It’s sad.”
Owens will compete in the double-elimination NJCAA Region 12 tournament this weekend. They will open up play against Kalamazoo Valley C.C. at 10 a.m. on May 9. The championship game will occur at 4 p.m. on May 11.
If Owens would win the regional tournament, they would advance to the NJCAA Div. II World Series National Championships to be held May 24-31 in Millington, Tenn.
“Our team has been playing good baseball all year and we have one goal that our team is striving for which is getting a bid to the national championship,” Winckowski said.