Nick Russell has done some great things as quarterback of the Northwood Rangers football team. But it may be in baseball where he truly leaves his mark.
The Toledo Area Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year in football last fall, Russell is a strong candidate for TAAC Player of the Year honors in baseball this spring. Russell is hitting .506 with an on-base percentage of .594, six home runs and 38 RBIs, all tops on the club. On the mound, he's 5-3 with a 2.48 ERA and has 43 strikeouts in 42.1 innings of work.
Last fall, Russell led the Ranger football team to a 10-1 record, a TAAC championship and an appearance in the Division V playoffs. Russell completed 54-of-90 passes for 1,085 yards and 16 touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 530 yards on 75 carries and two touchdowns.
Russell credits his brother, Erik, a 2011 Northwood graduate, who also played football and baseball for the Rangers, with helping him to work on his technique as a pitcher. Currently, Erik is a sophomore at Manchester University, a school located 35 miles west of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Thus far, Nick Russell’s Rangers have won four games in the Division IV baseball tournament, defeating league foes Danbury (18-0) and Toledo Christian (10-3) before holding off North Baltimore, 3-2 and then downed another league foe, No. 3 seed Ottawa Hills, 8-6, to win a district championship. It was the sixth consecutive season in which the Rangers and Green Bears have faced one another in the postseason.
In their district semifinal game against the Tigers, the Rangers took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning on a solo home run by Justin Rohrs and two-run home run by Russell. North Baltimore responded with a run in the sixth and added another in the seventh before Russell got the last hitter to pop out with the bases loaded to end it. In addition to his two RBIs, Russell got the job done on the mound, allowing two runs, none earned, on two hits in seven innings of work. He struck out nine and walked four.
Russell also came up big in the Rangers' upset of Toledo Christian in the sectional final, going 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs while getting the win on the mound.
Currently 17-10, things weren't going so well for the Rangers earlier this year. In fact, they started the season 2-7 before turning it around by going 15-3 in their last 18 games.
“We started off slow and battled through some internal issues,” said Northwood coach Dave Russell, Nick’s father. “We minimized the distractions and focused as a team. Our senior leaders took control of the team and turned us around. We feel we are peaking at the right time.”
The seniors he's referring to are Nick Russell, who plays shortstop when he's not pitching, third baseman Justin Rohrs, first baseman John Segura, center fielder Evan Perkins, right fielder Jordan Schell and left fielder Brandon Hoffman. They've all been instrumental to Northwood's success not just this season but in years past as well. Last season, the Rangers advanced to the district final and, in the two years before that, won the TAAC.
“We started off very slow, but I think reality (set in), which made us work harder,” said Nick Russell, who's been playing baseball since he was 5-years-old. “It has shown the latter part of the season. Winning the TAAC was one of our goals, but it's not even close to (being) as important as (making it) to the state tournament.”
The Rangers, which are hitting .339 as a team, has Perkins (.346 BA, 7 2B, 28 R) in the leadoff spot followed by Segura (.412 BA, 8 2B, 30 R), Russell (.506 BA, 6 HR, 38 RBI) and Rohrs (.398 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI) in the cleanup spot. C Myles Habel, SS/P Jake Davenport, LF Hoffman, 2B Jack Romstadt and Shell round out the lineup.
In addition to Russell and Davenport (1-3, 4.10 ERA), Segura (2-0, 2.63 ERA), Rohrs (4-0, 3.02 ERA) and John Habel (1-0, 4.45 ERA) have pitched as well.
“I am very proud of what we've accomplished as a team,” Nick Russell said. “A lot of people might think to themselves that it's just little old Northwood, but I think we can say in the past four years we have proven we can compete with anyone.”