Grove City players developing in travel ball
In the absence of a local American Legion team for a second consecutive year, the returning members of the Grove City High School baseball team are spread out again this summer.
Senior catcher Drew Nankivell is playing for the Columbus Cobras and classmate Kyle Bennett, who is expected to be one of the Greyhounds' top pitchers next spring, is playing for the Ohio Clippers. Junior left fielder Tyler Cowles and junior pitcher Ben Myers are playing for the Midland Braves and Ohio Panthers, respectively. Another senior, outfielder Brandon Marczika, also is playing for the Panthers.
Many area high school coaches prefer to keep their teams intact during the summer months, but Grove City coach Ryan Alexander seems resigned to the fact that travel ball is where the best competition can be found these days.
"I played Legion ball in the 1990s, but I'm not sure that's in our best interests anymore," he said. "The kids and their parents, they've gotten used to travel ball, so that's the direction we're heading in.
"We want our kids playing at the highest level they can. Legion ball, well, it just isn't the same as it used to be."
The Greyhounds are fielding two teams of local players that Alexander is hoping will serve as a proving ground of sorts for the younger players in his program. Grove City Red is a U18 team primarily made up of 16- and 17-year-olds and Grove City Blue, which is coached by 2008 graduate Todd Spadaro, consists of players in the 15 and 16 age group.
Grove City Red includes five players who played varsity this past spring in seniors Dallas Allen (INF), Hunter Christopherson (2B), Austin DeVore (P), Tyler Gaitten (OF) and Brian Stith (OF).
"A lot of our kids are just coming up from the (junior varsity)," Grove City Red coach Andy Welches said. "They've been playing behind the older guys and are still maturing. (The Greyhounds lost) six players (to graduation), so there will be some holes to fill next year. This is their chance to show what they can do on the field."
The reigning OCC-Ohio Division champions, the Greyhounds advanced to the Division I state tournament for the second consecutive season this past spring, finishing 26-3 after a 3-2 loss to eventual-champion Cincinnati Moeller in a semifinal June 1 at Huntington Park. They finished 22-11 in 2011, losing 7-2 to eventual-champion Liberty Township Lakota East in a state semifinal.
"Everybody would like to see us get back to the final four and bring home a state championship," said Grove City Red assistant coach Brandon Maynard, a 2010 Grove City graduate. "This summer is about developing some of the kids who might be able to help make that happen."