Eastwood, Clay look to win league titles

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

In its final season in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, Clay is looking for a three-peat.
As with any team in baseball, it starts with the pitchers.
Jim Phillips’ crew features some good starters in C.J. Boudreaux, Vinny Gallaher, Jared Hoersten and Jase Kennedy with Ethan Stager, Anthony Barnes, Kaden Rife, Grady Spears and Alec Sutton in the bullpen.
Bourdreaux was the Pitcher of the Year in the conference last year, going 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA to go with 69 strikeouts and 21 walks. Galloper went 4-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
At the plate, outfielder Christian Mays hit .344 to go with four doubles, one triple, 13 RBIs and 34 runs. Stager, who also plays in the outfield, hit .333 to go with five doubles, one home run, 15 RBIs and 13 runs.
“This team returns experience at almost every position and has great depth returning on the mound,” said Phillips. “If we take care of the little things, through a very challenging schedule, this team has the opportunity to accomplish great things."
Phillips believes that any number of teams could win the conference.
“I think the league will be really balanced this year. Almost all of the teams in our conference have at least two really good arms,” Phillips said. “This to me means that on any given night, someone can beat you. So for us to three-peat in the league, we will need to be ready to go each and every night.”

Eastwood had a great season in 2022, going 26-2, including 13-1 in the Northern Buckeye Conference good enough to win the league – and captured a district championship before falling to Ottawa Hills, 5-1, in the regional semifinals.
Could the Eagles be headed for better things this season?
Kevin Leady’s club has a very talented group that includes three returning hitters that batted .412 or better last season.
Shortstop Case Boos hit .467 to go with three home runs, 23 RBIs, 47 runs and 40 stolen bases, while first baseman Jordan Pickerel hit .422 to go with 26 RBIs and 26 runs and outfielder/pitcher Jackson Bauer hit .412 with 23 RBIs and 23 runs.
The starters are Ethan Rapp (8-1, 0.40 ERA, 76 K), Bauer (6-0, 1.07 ERA) and Andrew Badenhop (3-0, 1.75 ERA).
“As a program, we have many athletes going above and beyond to prepare for the upcoming season. A lot has gone on behind the scenes that we want to make sure we show appreciation for,” said Leady. “We have a great core returning and are excited to see how we gel throughout the season. Expectations are high for this group, but we understand the work needed to be successful.”

Genoa won 19 games and finished with a 9-4 mark in the Northern Buckeye Conference last year.
This season, the Comets are hoping to challenge Eastwood for the top spot in the league.
Jack Hartman (4-1, 1.83 ERA), Jake Ewersen (2-2, 2.26 ERA), Brady Belegrin, Caleb Klatt, Robert Messenger and Alex Spencer will be part of the rotation or the bullpen.
“Pitching, defense and experience are our strengths, and depth is our weakness,” said Genoa coach Gary Nissen.
Last year, Spencer, who normally plays third base, hit .325 to go with 30 RBIs, Messenger, an outfielder, scored 27 runs and Belegrin, who plays shortstop, hit .297.
The team has nine returning letter winners.
“We look forward to competing in a tough (conference) and district,” said Nissen.

An experienced Northwood squad knows it is in a good baseball conference, but that doesn’t mean Clay Rolf’s bunch isn’t excited for the possibilities.
“This team has a lot of experience coming back from last year, so they know what to expect from varsity baseball games,” he said. “They have been working hard on fine-tuning their skills both individually and as a team. Our strengths will be our athletic ability and versatility.”
The batting order will be flexible, but at this point, it looks like center fielder Elias Pecina will lead off, followed by Mason Smith (LF), A.J. Cruz (SS), Nolan Wagner (P), Gage Reed (3B), Nathan Huber (catcher), Sean Kovacs (1B), Kaden Cluckey (RF), and Ethan Clair or Brian Hollabaugh will play second base.
“Our rotation will come down to who can throw the most consistent strikes,” said Rolf.
It will likely consist of Wagner, Reed, Cruz and Kovacs with Clair, Pecina and Mason Smith in the bullpen.
“Our goal this year is to compete for the league,” Rolf said. “Our guys have been working hard and are excited for the season.”

After winning just two games last season, Waite coach Dylan Clifton-Lorton is hoping to change the culture on the East Side.
An all-league player when he suited up for the Indians, Clifton-Lorton is hoping he can get some good production out of his pitchers, which include Jorge Gonzales, Barry Layman, Kross Kerschner, Jonah Anderson and Michael Bialecki.
Gonzales and Kerschner both play shortstop, Layman is a catcher and Anderson and Bialecki will man the corners at third and first base, respectively.
Start and Bowsher were picked to finish first and second, respectively, in the City League, followed by Waite, Rogers and Woodward.

Cardinal Stritch
Could this be the year Cardinal Stritch gets back to the top of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference?
The Cardinals return three pitchers in Dustin Moon, Dylan St. Pierre and Kayden Granger. Also returning are outfielders Colin Fitzgerald and Tyler Bohnsack and Nate Bennett, a utility player who hit .327 and stole 32 bases last season. St. Pierre hit .375 last year.
When not pitching, Moon and Bennett are utility players and St. Pierre and Granger are infielders.
Last season, Stritch went 8-14 and 3-5 in the TAAC. The favorites to win the conference are Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian while the Cardinals were picked to finish third.
Bennett will split catching duties with Justin Moon, Cole Tobias is the shortstop, St. Pierre is the second baseman and Bohnsack plays center field.
“We will be solid up the middle,” said Stritch coach Mike McGee.

Lake had a good season in 2022, going 18-10 and 8-6 in the Northern Buckeye Conference while winning a sectional title.
But in the previous 10 seasons, the Flyers won five league titles, so the expectation is to get back to the top of the conference.
Led by Drew Tajblik, who went 7-2 with a 2.26 ERA, there are a number of returning pitchers in Matt Perry, Ryan Wagner, Caleb Tobias, Aiden Young and Jay Blazevich. Perry and Wagner also play in the outfield, Wagner splits time between first and third base, Tobias sometimes plays first base, Young is a utility player, Tajblik plays shortstop and Blazevich will see time at second base. Gavin Kohlhofer and Connor Eck will see time at catcher and DH.
“We have a really deep pitching staff and a strong defense that should allow us to compete in every game we play this spring,” said Casey Witt, now in his second season taking over for legendary coach Greg Wilker.

Oak Harbor
Oak Harbor had some growing pains last season, but this experienced group is hoping to take another step forward.
Sophomore Michael LaLonde leads the attack at the top of the order and as the No. 1 pitcher. He’ll will be joined by Tim Marquette, Karson Lajti and Hayden Craig in the rotation.
Following LaLonde, Cooper Schultz bats second, followed by Brayden Butzin, Marquette, Craig, a mix of players that hit sixth through eighth and Brayden Myerholtz.
“We have a good group of seniors. The kids in the program have been motivated since day one like we’ve never seen in the program,” said Oak Harbor coach Nick Lance. “That has shown up in our first four games on both varsity and the JV team.
“We’ve beaten some pretty good teams with plus (pitchers). We beat Genoa, Fremont Ross and Edison and lost a tough one to Margaretta,” Lance said.

Gibsonburg lost six starters from last season on a team that went 17-7 and was 12-4 in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.
The top returning hitters are Nolan Hoover SS/P (.367 batting average), Martin Myerholtz 1B/3B/P (.292), Gavyn Rapp 2B (.265), and Jake Hall 1B/OF (.259).
Thirteen of the 17 wins came from Nolan Hoover and Martin Myerholtz. The other pitchers are Brady Hill, Gavyn Rapp, and Grant Dawson.
“The strength of our team is experienced pitching in Martin Myerholtz and Nolan Hoover,” said Gibsonburg coach Kyle Rase. “Over 70% of our innings pitched return from last year. We lost six starters, so we lost a lot of offensive production from last year.”
The River Division is filled with good teams and it will be a battle night in and night out.
“Every team will have to be ready to play each night,” said Rase. “Our goals are to get better each day and be competitive in every game.”

Last season, Woodmore went 6-19 and 1-13 in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
Competing in a good baseball conference will only make things difficult for a team that lacks experience.
“I feel like our team has good chemistry and is willing to work together to accomplish goals. We have a mix of seniors and younger players that need to learn,” said Woodmore coach Jake Huss. “I look for the seniors to lead by example and help the younger players develop. I also feel like our team is very coachable and willing to work hard.
“Being so young and lacking some varsity experience will be one of the weaknesses of our team. We will need guys to step up in games and compete.”
The pitching staff will include Andrew Tucker, Trace Murphy, Parker Hahn, Quentin Trevino and Michael Seeger.
Tucker, who also plays infield, will hit in the middle of the order. Trevino (3B/OF), Murphy (1B/OF), Hahn (INF), Seeger (INF), Nate Horvath (OF), Liam McCarthy (INF), Tyler Smith (C/OF), Harry LaMunyon (OF) and Luke Havers (OF) will also see time in the lineup.


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