High school baseball is all about arms — right arms and left arms and arms that can blow fastballs by hitters and arms that can make hitters think they just saw a (curveball) ghost.
Genoa coach Ron Rightnowar has a staff full of good arms. Four of the Comets’ top seven pitchers are juniors, and two of them (seniors Quentin Spiess and Gabe Yanez) are lefties. Because of the pitching staff, Genoa is still in the hunt for a Northern Buckeye Conference championship entering Wednesday’s game at Eastwood.
The Comets (13-5, 8-1 NBC) were scheduled to play a sectional final on Thursday at Fairview.
“When I took over this program a couple years ago I recognized right away we were short on arms,” Rightnowar said. “Luke (Rightnowar, Ron’s son) was still at Toledo Christian his freshman year and just came over last year. He gave us a big shot in the arm pitching-wise. We’ve been developing guys and trying to develop some pitching, and the guys have done a great job.
“There is plenty of room to improve – we’ve walked too many guys - but as far as them listening and being able to learn and compete and do the little things it takes to win, I’m very proud of them.”
Genoa started the season with a three-game road trip to Nashville, Tenn., where it played teams that were already well into their 2014 season. The Comets lost 12-5 in their opener and then lost 6-1 and 3-1. Genoa’s other losses are 2-1 to Lake (20-2, 9-0 NBC) and 3-0 to Whitmer.
Luke Rightnowar, a junior, has stepped into Genoa’s No. 1 spot in the rotation following a sophomore season in which he went 9-0 and earned honorable mention all-conference honors.
“Luke is a talented kid who just keeps getting better and better on the mound,” coach Rightnowar said. “He has a good understanding of who he is and he stays within himself. He locates very well and really competes in the big spots.”
Rightnowar, who is 15-2 in his high school career, suffered a complete-game 3-1 loss in Tennessee and also lost a 2-1 duel against Lake’s star pitcher, Michigan-bound Jayce Vancena. Through 18 games, Rightnowar is 5-2 with a 1.40 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 40 innings.
Genoa’s other starters are junior Matt Aumiller, Spiess and junior Kyle Edwards. Coach Rightnowar said Aumiller is perhaps the Comets’ most versatile player. Aumiller is 1-1 with a 1.09 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings.
“He’s a kid who just wants to play. It doesn’t matter where,” coach Rightnowar said. “He can play all nine positions with effectiveness defensively, and he swings the bat well, too. His ability to throw in all roles on the pitching staff helps because I can use him in any situation. I love him because he just wants to compete and he always does what is needed and with a great attitude.”
Spiess, who is 3-1 with a 3.85 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 20 innings, continues to develop his confidence on the mound, according to coach Rightnowar.
“He has a good arm from the left side and has an above average curveball, which high school kids don’t get to see often,” Rightnowar said. “His strength is that he remains calm in competition, and he has really helped us a ton with the innings he’s picked up for us.”
Edwards, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow, is 3-0 with a 4.33 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 21 innings.
“I am really proud of Kyle,” coach Rightnowar said. “He battled back from missing all of last season to being one of our steady guys this season. He’s gotten better as his trust and confidence in his arm has grown. He pitches well as a starter or coming out of the bullpen. He will continue to improve each time out and will be a mainstay in our rotation going forward.”
Senior Alex Hayes, Yanez and junior Jake Wojciechowski have all performed well out of the bullpen. Hayes, a first-team All-NBC designated hitter last season, was one of Genoa’s top two pitchers a year ago.
“We can rely on Alex to pitch in any role, including starting if necessary,” coach Rightnowar said. “His experience on the mound in big games is a real bonus. He throws strikes and has a good idea what he’s doing.”
Rightnowar said he moved Hayes out of the starting rotation in order to ease the strain of playing shortstop.
“It has worked out well for the team, and Alex,” the coach said. “He has played tremendous shortstop for us without having to worry about having a sore arm to then try and make plays.”
Rightnowar said Yanez has been a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen after spending most of last season with the junior varsity squad.
“As a left-hander, he mixes his pitches well and really keeps hitters off-balance,” Rightnowar said. “He can pitch often and is able to come into a game in a number of situations, which gives me great flexibility.”
Wojciechowski, a second-team all-conference outfielder last year, has only scratched the surface of his potential on the mound, Rightnowar said. Wojciechowski was used as a late-inning reliever in 2013.
“He had modest success, but generally he was inconsistent,” Rightnowar said. “He continued to work at it and he urged me to use him, but I was skeptical. I could see he was making progress, so lately we’ve gotten him back into that late-inning role and he has been tremendous. His energy is perfect in that role and he really wants the ball.”