Dublin Jerome High School senior baseball player Tom Coon is looking forward to his final Dublin Classic.
The eighth annual event will be held Saturday, April 20, at Coffman. Jerome will play Coffman at 9 a.m., followed by Coffman and Scioto at 11:30 a.m. and Jerome and Scioto at 2 p.m.
Coon, a third baseman and pitcher, has developed friendships with players from Coffman and Scioto, in part by playing together on travel teams.
"It's going to be the last time we play Coffman (in the regular season)," Coon said. "For Coffman especially, it's really important for me to win being the last time we're going to play them. I know a few more guys on the Coffman team, but I'd still love to beat them."
Last season, in an event shortened by bad weather, Jerome defeated Scioto 10-0 in five innings and Scioto defeated Coffman 5-4. Coffman and Jerome did not play.
The event was rained out in 2011.
This year's event has extra meaning because proceeds benefit ovarian cancer research. The theme of the Dublin Classic is "Strike Out Ovarian Cancer."
"You always look forward to the Dublin Classic," Jerome coach Chris Huesman said. "You always look forward to playing the other teams and the kids look forward to playing kids that they've grown up playing with in travel ball."
Jerome and Scioto should become more familiar with each other in the next week, as the teams will play a pair of OCC-Cardinal Division games following the Dublin Classic. Jerome plays host to the Irish on Monday, April 22, and visits Scioto on Wednesday, April 24.
After starting 1-4, the Celtics had won five consecutive games before playing Hilliard Darby on April 16.
Huesman pointed to the hitting of Coon, first baseman and pitcher Jason Johnson and catcher Kyle Lento and the pitching of Masashi Sakamoto, Coon and Johnson as keys to the turnaround.
Through nine games, Coon was leading the team with a .438 batting average, ahead of Johnson (.407) and Lento (.355).
Sakamoto, who earned the win in relief in a 7-6, 11-inning victory over Hilliard Bradley on April 8, entered the week 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA. He had 19 strikeouts and one walk in 19 2/3 innings.
"We have been finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory so far this season," Huesman said. "The thing I like about this team is their fight. They don't give up and because of the great competition we've played, I feel we've only gotten better. Some of the mistakes that we're making are things that we can clean up."
Coach: Irish are 'totally not satisfied'
Although his team had won five of its first 10 games before playing Westerville North on April 16, first-year Scioto coach Ken Carpenter and his players were not satisfied.
"We're totally not satisfied with our record," he said. "We feel like we could be a little better than we are right now. There's nothing wrong with our record, but we also realize we have to take care of our situations. We can't make mistakes that put us in some holes."
Starting sophomore outfielder Nick Conner has missed several games, including two after being ejected for a collision with Westerville Central catcher Sawyer Allen while attempting to score April 10.
In the two games he had played entering this week, Conner was 5-for-6 with three doubles and four RBI.
Through seven games, senior Aaron Strausbaugh (P/SS) was hitting .550 and junior Matthew Messick (P/SS/2B) was hitting .478.
Carpenter also pointed to the contributions of senior outfielder Matt Vogel as a key to the team's success.
Strausbaugh, an Ohio Wesleyan recruit, is excited for the Dublin Classic.
"I don't get too many chances to play Coffman, so that's always good," he said. "Playing Jerome a third time during the season is always fun just to see those guys again and compete."
Carpenter is looking forward to coaching in his first classic.
"It's just a great day for Dublin baseball in general," he said. "To get out there against two coaches who are unbelievable coaches (in Huesman and Coffman coach Tim Saunders), and both have state titles and done a lot for Dublin, from a coaching standpoint that will be great.
"The players are the most important part, getting a chance to see these guys compete against each other. They've grown up together playing with and against each other. Now it's kind of a fun day."
Coffman loses top pitcher
Senior Jason Hall, who was expected to be Coffman's top pitcher this spring, likely will miss the remainder of the season with a nerve problem in his right throwing elbow, according to Saunders.
Saunders said at this point, Hall will not need surgery. He will not be allowed to throw for about six weeks.
Hall will play at Xavier, and Saunders said the injury should not affect his scholarship.
"That's a huge loss," Saunders said. "It's really bad for him. Not very often you're a Division I player and you don't even play your sport (as a senior). I feel bad for him. I feel bad for his parents who've watched him all these years ... and I feel bad for us because as a team we need him on the mound."
Saunders hopes other players step up in Hall's absence, and he has been impressed with the early pitching contributions of senior Andrew Dugal and sophomore Joey Murray.
"We're really battling hard on this and it's like we have one gear," Saunders said. "We play at first gear. We don't get amped up for anything. We don't have the best players, so we have to show more energy and enthusiasm on the field. Basically our biggest obstacle right now is getting kids to get out of their comfort zone and do that."
Senior outfielder Dominic Tiberi is preparing for his final Dublin Classic.
"I always love playing (against Jerome and Scioto)," he said. "It's kind of interesting playing against the guys I'm friends with on the other team. It's quite a competition, but yet it's still fun to be out there playing with them."