Grove City High School baseball coach Ryan Alexander affectionately calls his players “dirt bags” because of their gritty attitude.
It’s a mindset that began in the offseason and was displayed prominently when the Greyhounds won at Gahanna 3-2 on May 3 for their 13th consecutive victory, moving them closer to the OCC-Ohio Division title.
“This team gets after it,” Alexander said. “This team has been getting after it since summer when we finished last year. They get after it in the weight room, they run snow hills, they do everything to prepare for these kind of games and this kind of an environment.”
The Greyhounds were 17-5 overall and 11-1 in the league after defeating Lancaster 6-0 on May 5, while second-place Pickerington North was 7-3 in the league after defeating Gahanna 7-1 the same day.
Grove City played Briggs on May 6, while North played Reynoldsburg in a league game.
The Greyhounds needed a league win or a North loss to clinch the outright league title. Grove City played North on May 7 and plays host to North on Saturday, May 10, to close out its league schedule.
Alexander presents “dirt bags” awards following each game, with Chase Antle and Dominic Cooper receiving them after the win over Gahanna.
Antle, a junior pitcher, turned in a complete-game effort, allowing five hits, striking out five and walking one while throwing 80 pitches.
“I felt pretty good,” said Antle, who has emerged as one of the team’s top three pitchers, along with Ben Myers and Josh Schaffer. “It’s definitely nice to get a win against Gahanna. They’re a big powerhouse, so I knew I had to come out and deal, and that’s what I did.”
Cooper, who plays shortstop and bats ninth, drove in all three runs. He had a two-run single in the second inning and drove in Dakota Hawkins with the go-ahead run in the sixth with a bunt single.
“I just hope we peak coming up here in a couple of weeks and I know we will,” Cooper said. “We’re a good team.”
Grove City received the third seed in the Division I district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Greyhounds play host to 27th-seeded Briggs or 40th-seeded Licking Heights in the second round Wednesday, May 14, with the winner playing 10th-seeded Hilliard Darby, 28th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 43rd-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal May 20 at Olentangy.
The district final is May 22 at Ohio Dominican.
The Greyhounds split two league games with Reynoldsburg, winning 9-4 on April 8 and losing 8-0 on April 9.
Before playing Briggs, the loss to Reynoldsburg was the Greyhounds’ last setback.
“You’re always going to have to play great teams in our area to (advance in the tournament),” Alexander said. “We were happy with the three seed and getting to be the home team through the district final. We can’t wait.”
Grove City advanced to a state semifinal in 2011 and 2012 and a district final last season. The Greyhounds lost to Liberty Township Lakota East 7-2 in 2011, Cincinnati Moeller 3-2 in 2012 and Thomas Worthington 8-2 last season.
Thomas is seeded first and Olentangy Liberty is second in this season’s district tournament.
“The first goal is to win the league and after that we want to make a deep run in the playoffs, and I think we can,” Antle said. “We have a great team behind us and we just have to play the way that we can.”
Through 21 games, Tyler Cowles was hitting .556, followed by Myers (.444), Gage Kavy (.407), Peyton Bowyer (.350), Robbie Jobe (.349), Cooper (.333) and Hawkins (.325).
Jake Norbut had 19 RBI and Cowles had 18 RBI and three home runs.
Myers was 5-1 with a 2.46 ERA, 35 strikeouts and nine walks in 37 innings. Schaffer was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 20 walks in 26 2/3 innings, and Antle was 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 23 walks in 37 innings.
Central Crossing seeded 30th in tourney
Central Crossing is seeded 30th in the Division I district tournament and plays host to 40th-seeded Columbus West in the first round Monday, May 12.
The winner plays at 11th-seeded Gahanna on Wednesday, May 14, with that winner moving on to a district semifinal May 20 at Dublin Coffman against fourth-seeded Olentangy Orange, 32nd-seeded Dublin Scioto or 37th-seeded Groveport.
The Comets were 8-10 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on May 6.
Central Crossing lost to Marysville 15-1 in five innings May 2 and 5-1 on May 5.
Through 17 games, Ethan Swank was hitting .370, followed by Doug Smith (.354), Marc Russell (.364) and Danny Concepcion (.348). Smith had 16 RBI and Antonio Quintana had 10.
Smith also was 4-3 with a 2.31 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 12 walks in 39 1/3 innings.