Genoa returns from a second place finish in the Suburban Lakes League as projected co-champions with Eastwood.
Genoa coach Dan Thompson is expecting his team to follow through. Thompson is being assisted by Scott Lau, Tim Spiess, and Eric Wolfe.
Last year, the Comets were 16-12 overall and 11-3 in the SLL, but also won a sectional championship only to lose to district champion Fairview 5-4 in the district semis.
The Comets return most of their pitching staff and seven out of nine starters. You can add into three new transfers.
“With three move-ins, starting positions have been highly competitive,” Thompson said. “We have a lot of flexibility in the infield as we have six all-league selections to choose from.”
Returning are seniors Callan Bialorucki (OF), Troy Espinosa (RHP/OF), Zack Apel (SS/2B), and Beau Lamb (C/1B/RHP). Apel and Lamb were both honorable mention SLL selections last year.
Juniors returning include Matt Bassitt (RHP/3B) and Connor Wendt (RHP/SS), both second team selections. Sophomores are Seth Dufendock (OF/SLL) and Matt Murphy (OF). Dufendock was honorable mention in 2008.
Newcomers are senior Josh Palmer (RHP/IF), a former First Team All-TAAC selection who transferred back from Cardinal Stritch; Lake junior transfer Greg Hillabrand (2B), a First Team SLL selection; and another transfer from Lake, senior Josh Hillabrand (LHP/OF).
Coming to the varsity from the junior varsity are junior Alex Eckel, who Thompson says will battle Lamb for starting catcher. Also moving up are juniors J.J. Adkins (3B/RHP), Joe Karikas (IF/RHP), and Dustin TenEyck (OF) — all back-ups, for now, Thompson said.
Sophomore right-hander Luke Sutter (P/1B), who will battling for a spot in Genoa’s pitching rotation. Sophomore Garrett Scott will do likewise in the Comet outfield. Senior outfielder Mark Newland is playing his first season of high school baseball.
“With outfielders, we have depth at all positions, but there are times when I have to bring one our all-league infielders out depending on who is pitching,” Thompson said.
“Pitching depth is good on paper with Connor (Wendt) and Matt (Bassitt) looking strong early,” the coach continues. “Josh Palmer was the No. 1 pitcher at Cardinal Stritch. Troy Espinosa pitched and has thrown well in early scrimmages. We open with five games in five days so all will get innings early.”
Thompson adds, “Hitting seems to be stronger this year as many have one more year experience and are much stronger due to off-season commitments to weight training.
“We have decent speed throughout the lineup and some of the younger players are swinging good bats looking for at bats if some of the returning starters don’t get the job done early.”
Eastwood baseball has all its pitching back from last season, including junior Clayton Ruch (5-0 W-L/1.51/38 SO/six saves), senior Luke Eschenbrenner (4-3/3.06/54 SO), 6-foot-6 junior Clay Rolf (5-0/3.85//46 SO), and senior Josh Zellers (2-2/3.56/14 SO).
The Eagles also have seven players returning who batted over .300. That pretty much tells the story itself that Coach Don “Chopper” Schmeltz expects a successful season.
“We need to get help from some juniors,” Schmeltz warned. “If we don’t have any injuries we should be very competitive.”
Schmeltz is picking Eastwood to win the Suburban Lakes League, followed by Genoa, Elmwood, Lake, Woodmore, Gibsonburg, Lakota, and Otsego.
In nine years coaching at Eastwood, his teams have gone 153-63. Last year’s team went 20-6 overall, 10-4 in the SLL.
In the field, Rolf will catch and play first base when not pitching, Eschenbrenner will catch, Ruch will play third base, and Zellers will play shortstop. Rolf was a First Team All-SLL and Second Team All-District choice last year. Eschbrenner, Ruch, and Zellers were honorable mention.
Add to the mix returning Second Team All-SLL second baseman Ashton Brown, and you’ve got a batting order that can be deadly to opposing pitchers.
Rolf leads the returning players after hitting .443 with eight home runs, 42 RBI, and six stolen bases, followed by Brown (.385/1 HR/23 RBI/6 SB), Brett Teall (.379/17 RBI), Zellers (.360/20 RBI), Scott Sexton (.355/24 RBI/6 SB), Eschenbrenner (.324/1 HR/20 RBI), and Ruch (.306/8 RBI).
Lake veteran baseball coach Greg Wilker knows his team will be young, but he doesn’t expect that to keep his team from doing well in the Suburban Lakes League.
“With only four returning lettermen this year, we will be fielding a very young team, however, we still expect to play competitive baseball,” Wilker said.
In 24 seasons as a head coach, all at Lake, Wilker’s (387-269) teams have won five league championships, including three in the SLL and two in the Northern Lakes League. Last year’s team was 15-12 overall, 6-8 in the SLL.
Lake has two aces returning to the mound — juniors Ryan Hotmer (3-2 W-L/1.63 ERA) and Brandon Maze (2-2/1.94). When not pitching, Hotmer will play first base and Maze will play shortstop.
At the plate, Hotmer batted .329 with 22 RBI and Maze batted .150. The other two key returnees are senior catcher Taylor Barteck (.296 BA) and senior outfielder Andrew Pennington (.164).
The Flyers proved how competitive they could be, nearly defeating a strong Perrysburg team. Coming up short, 3-2, Barteck was 2-for-3 with a home run and Terry Tomanski was 2-for-3 with a double and RBI.
Lake got its first win 5-0 win over North Baltimore as Paul Magee pitched a complete game 3-hit shutout. Leading hitters for the Flyers were Hotmer (3-for-4 with two RBI) and Maze (2-4/RBI)
First year baseball coach Todd Bringman may be new at the helm, but he’s not new to the Woodmore baseball program.
Bringman has been a varsity assistant coach at Woodmore the past two seasons, and before that was the junior varsity coach. Yet, he says there will be changes.
“They have had to adjust to a new system, philosophy and ideas,” Bringman said. “They have to fully embrace and support these new concepts. We have some new faces in the lineup and they need to step up both offensively and defensively.
“Our team consists of a bunch of hard working kids,” the coach continues. “They are doing everything the coaches are asking them to do.”
Bringman hopes to bring back seasons like Woodmore had in 2006 and 2008, when the Wildcats won district championships. His part the past three seasons has been as hitting instructor, including three trips to the district final and during Woodmore’s run to the regionals in ’08.
“It all depends on them (this year’s players),” Bringman said. “If they continue to work hard, improve, compete and believe in what we are doing they can achieve anything.”
Last season, the Wildcats were 15-13 overall, 4-10 in the Suburban Lakes League. Bringman has five returning lettermen to help his team improve on that mark — all seniors.
Michael Fahle returns as catcher and pitcher, Jack Rospert will be either on the mound or in the outfield, Cody Schnabel will be on the mound or at third base, and rounding out the senior contingent are shortstop Robert Schumacher and outfielder Brian Melnek. Fahle was a Second Team All-SLL choice last season.
“Fahle is being recruited by several universities,” Bringman said. “He’s a very good catcher and a solid bat.”
Bringman expects Fahle, Rospert, Schumacher, Melnek, and sophomore Jake Zollinger to be his top hitters. Zollinger is a “very versatile player with lots of speed,” Bringman said.
Rospert and Schnabel, because of their experience, will be the aces on the mound. Defensively, Bringman says “everyone is solid in the field.”
“We should be fundamentally sound defensively,” Bringman said. “Pitching should be sound. These returning lettermen have seen Woodmore go to the regionals twice in the past three years and the district finals all three years. They know what it takes to get there. Team unity is at a high level and will carry them wherever they want to go.”
Bringman says filling out the lineup is Billy Kuhlman, who has “become a very fundamentally sound infielder”; Seth Ottney “has found a role as a solid pitcher”; first baseman Joel Moenter has shown signs of improvement; Andy Flick is “versatile defensively and a solid starting pitcher”; and Cameron Shirer has developed into a starting pitcher role and will play first base, too, where he has shown signs of improvement. Zollinger, Flick, and Shirer all were junior varsity players last year.
“They all have the ability to be difference makers,” Coach Bringman said. “They are competitors.”
Besides returning to regionals, Bringman has set goals to finish high in the SLL.
“The SLL is always very strong and this year is no different,” Bringman said. “Eastwood returns almost their entire team from last year. At Elmwood, Coach (Kyle) Reiser always has his team ready to play at a high level. Lake is young, but Coach (Greg) Wilker has them competing and Genoa has a lot of returning players with varsity experience.
Gibsonburg baseball coach Kyle Rase will long be remembered as the coach who was the first in Ohio to lead a team with a losing record to a state championship.
Rase had been to the state final four before as a player with Convoy Crestview. But as a coach, he’s found out that there aren’t many baseball leagues stronger than the Suburban Lakes League.
“The SLL is a very tough baseball league,” Rase said. “I expect to be competitive night-in and night-out. Our competition in our league is very tough. At one point a couple years ago we have had four different schools make the state final four in a 10-year span.”
Gibsonburg won the Division IV state title in 2005. Last season’s Golden Bears actually fared better during the regular season than the ’05 team, finishing 16-10 overall and 7-7 in the SLL.
The Golden Bears return five lettermen, but only two starters — both seniors. Two seniors, the team’s ace veteran pitcher and first baseman James Cantrell and catcher Pat Cantrell, hope to lead the Bears to a strong finish again. Pat Cantrell (.375 BA) was an Honorable Mention All-SLL selection as a junior. On the mound, James was 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA.
Outside of the Cantrell’s, Rase says he has a versatile group.
“I expect to have a very solid group of hitters and on any given night for a player to have a big night,” Rase said. “I have several players that can play many positions which will be a strength of our team.”
Among them are Michael Molina, who returns after being injured during the 2008 season. Coming into the mix is Nick Baker, who transferred from Fremont St. Joseph, where Rase says he was “a very good player.”
“I think our team has great chemistry, attitudes, and senior leadership. I look forward to having a good year with a great group of guys,” Rase said.
OAK HARBOR BASEBALL
Oak Harbor baseball coach Rob Schimmoeller is bringing stability to the Rocket program in his fifth season, bringing with him a 51-44 career record in his first four years.
Schimmoeller also has two years at Fremont Ross under his belt, and his Little Giants went 28-22 over that span. At Oak Harbor, Schimmoeller’s assistants are Dale Mitchell, Nick Lance, and trainer Dan Hoover.
He’s expecting the Oak Harbor program to continue on its way up where it can compete at the top with regular Sandusky Bay Conference perennial baseball powers Perkins, Edison, and Margaretta.
“If we hit, we’ll finish in the top half,” Schimmoeller said. “Perkins and Edison have the most back and should make strong tournament runs.”
Last year, Oak Harbor was 12-9 overall and third in the SBC with a 9-5 record. Schimmoeller has six returning lettermen to help his team meet that mark or do even better.
Schimmoeller says his team’s strengths should be pitching and defense, and he’s seen signs of that in the Rockets’ early season contests. He says the team graduated its best hitters from last season.
“Through our four scrimmages, we’ve only made five errors and our top five pitchers have only given up eight runs,”
Schimmoeller said. “We’ve graduated the middle our lineup from last season. We’ll need to play low scoring games to be successful.”
One of those top hitters who graduated was Wade Ishmael, who won the Toledo Mud Hens’ third annual High School Home Run Derby last summer. Ishmael hit for an impressive 41 points — a new record — including six home runs. Ishmael batted .431 with four homers and 31 RBI last season for Oak Harbor.
This year’s Rockets are 1-2 overall early in the season, opening with a win over Monroeville, 7-1, stumbling late in losing to Fremont St. Joseph, 10-4, and lost to Genoa, 23-6.
Top players returning for Oak Harbor include senior Phil O’Shea (P/1B), senior Greg Diefenthaler (3B/P), senior Ryan Grof (P/1B), and sophomore Josh Warnke (SS/P). Diefenthaler was a Second Team All-SBC infielder last season, O’Shea a second team pitcher, and Warnke an honorable mention infielder.
At the plate, Schimmoeller expects Diefenthaler (.463 BA/1 HR/20 RBI), O’Shea (.362/20 RBI), and Warnke (.333/6 RBI) to be Oak Harbor’s best hitters, adding that he expects them to improve on last year’s stats.
His top pitchers are O’Shea (5-2 W-L/1.88 ERA/22 SO), Grof, Warnke, and Dillon Stiger (2-1/3.20) because of their experience last year, and says defensively Warnke and Diefenthaler are “solid” at shortstop and third base. Schimmoeller says Warnke has become one of the hardest working players on his team.
Schimmoeller has a corps of players who are showing signs they could contribute, including senior Bill Durivage (OF), junior Damian McAtee (C), sophomore D.J. Everett (P/IF), freshman Brian Mallernee (OF/P), and freshman Joey Mallernee (OF/C).
In his second consecutive season at Waite, Coach Danny Clayton is continuing to work on building the program back to where it was when he left.
In total, Clayton has been at Waite nine years, leading Indians baseball to a 122-62 career record. In the previous eight years, his Waite teams have reached the Toledo City League final four a total of four times, and won one CL championship.
But he left to spend four years at Genoa, leading the Comets to a 73-33 record and two Suburban Lakes League
championships, before coming back to rebuild at Waite again, where he teaches.
Clayton also coached at Northwood, where his teams went 40-16 and won a district championship.
Last year, Clayton’s first season back at Waite after his four-year hiatus to coach at Genoa, the Indians were 10-11, 4-6 in the CL. He expects this year’s Waite team to finish in the middle of the CL standings in what he calls “always very good” competition.
This year’s team returns senior pitcher/shortstop Joe Imm, a Second Team All-City selection last year.
Other top returning players are seniors Isiah Segura and Jim Cosgrove, juniors Frank Cruz Paddila, Phillip Hatch, and Jordan Rios, and sophomore Nick Wagner. Clayton believes his top first year players are senior Alex Zapata, junior Luke Murphy and Kyle Gloria, and freshmen Dylan Clifton and Jason Tedrow.
Clayton expects senior Alex Zapata, junior Chris Hartranft, sophomores Dakota Hunter, Nick Wagner, and Zack Morales to contribute as well.
To this day, there have only been three coaches in the history of Clay baseball, one of the all-time winningest programs in Ohio prep baseball history.
Coach Karl Knierim remains the third coach, and after 12 years his teams have gone 218-96. His commitment to Clay remains strong, even though he once coached at Cardinal Stritch, too (34-17).
Under Knerim, teams have won district championships in 1984 (Stritch) and at Clay in 1997, 2006, and 2007. Last year, Clay was 17-8 overall and 10-1 in the Toledo City League. Knierim has five returning lettermen this year.
Key players are senior Drew Kuns (P.1B), senior Kyle Romstadt (P/OF), senior Mike Toth (P/SS), senior Paul Zalar (SS), and senior Jonathon Unsohn (C/OF). Kuns and Toth were First Team All-City last year, while Romstadt was honorable mention.
After winning a sectional championship in 2008, Northwood baseball coach Dave Russell is looking for something more this season — his second as Ranger boss.
In Russell’s first season as a head coach, the Rangers were 9-14 overall and 5-6 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference. His team brings back seven lettermen to build on that.
Russell believes two senior outfielders, Mike Smothers and Kevin Yarger, can provide the sparkplug to get the program’s building process started.
“Both worked hard in the off season and we hope to get solid production and senior leadership out of both,” Russell said.
Beyond those seniors and his returning lettermen, Russell believes his team has something special this season to surprise perennial league contenders Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian.
Russell believes Northwood can finish in the top three this season, but says the “league is pretty solid this year.”
“Ottawa Hills and TC are always tough,” Russell said. “Dan bury is strong this year as well.”
“We have had some turnover in personnel, but now have a group of extremely dedicated and hard working players that are close,” Russell said. “We have excellent team chemistry and have a great mix of upper and lower classmen.
“If our seniors lead and we stay healthy, we can have a very successful year. We need our seniors to step up and lead,” Russell concludes. “We have a very tight knit group who play well together.”
Tyler Siebert returns after earning Second Team All-TAAC honors, and Alex Williams and Andy Jardy both bring with them Honorable Mention All-TAAC accolades.
On the mound, Siebert is Northwood’s senior ace, Jardy will be a top reliever, sophomore Cameron Juhasz will be a starter, Williams will add to the starting rotation, and sophomore Jake Pressley will fill out the rotation.
Russell says Jardy’s rise to a starting position became a big contributor to Northwood’s big finish. A non-starter early in his junior season, Russell says “he became a starter and a leader.”
Beyond those proven veterans, a lot could depend on whether his underclassmen can contribute. Russell says he’ll have it no other way.
“I expect my six sophomores to step and produce,” Russell said.
CARDINAL STRITCH BASEBALL
Cardinal Stritch returns five lettermen from a 17-12 overall finish that saw the Cardinals go 8-4 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
In nine years coaching at Stritch, Greg Christian’s teams have won three TAAC championships and one district championship, and Christian would like to see this year’s team add its fourth league title. Stritch is expected to finish close to the middle of the pack, and Coach Christian sees Ottawa Hills, Toledo Christian, and Danbury as the cream of the crop.
“We need varsity experience, and we need to be very smart because we are very young,” Christian said.
Two seniors, catcher Austin Maier and outfielder Andrew Pinciotti are leading that effort. Joining them are returning all league selections in junior shortstop Johnny Newis and junior designated hitter Joe Esposito.
Esposito was the team’s leading hitter last year at .389 and returning teammate Zach Rodriguez followed at .304. Christian can explain Esposito’s technique at the plate.
“Esposito has very quick hands and does not try to pull everything,” Christian said.
On the mound, top pitchers are junior D.J. Zalewski, junior Ryan Adams, and sophomore David Seymanski. Defensively, the Cardinals are led by junior outfielder Johnathon Kelly and Pinciotti.
Coach Christian believes there could be a future for some of his players at the next level someday.
“I think Austin Maier and Andrew Pinciotti could play Division II or Division III college,” Christian said. “Team speed, we are very quick — especially our outfielders.”
wo sophomores are expecting to make big contributions to the infield — second baseman Matt Guy and Tim Langlois. Freshman first baseman Kyle Hatfield and senior third baseman Matt Repka round out the starting roster.