The Newark High school baseball team remains a work in progress.
"No question," first-year coach Kyle Walters said. "It's exciting to see the strides we've made, though. We can't afford to take any steps backward, but I like some of the things we're doing."
Last Thursday's 12-8 victory at Olentangy was the third in four games for the Wildcats, who improved to 7-10 overall and surpassed last year's win total (6). Ryan Nutter had three hits and Jacob Brent and Nick Waites had three RBI.
That followed strong pitching performances from Nutter and sophomore Mike Boichan, who picked up the decision in a 4-3 OCC-Ohio Division victory over Gahanna last Monday. He struck out seven and walked two.
"We were very impressed with Mike. We told him a couple days before we'd need him to pitch his best game for us to have a chance, and he answered the call," said Walters, whose team was 3-3 in the league after last Wednesday's 13-3 loss to first-place Hilliard Darby. "The thing we've stressed with him is his strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and he has really improved that. He got better (last Monday) and we're looking for big things from him."
Nutter also pitched a complete game to defeat Grove City 3-1 on April 19, allowing four hits as the Wildcats ended a three-game losing streak. The senior had posted a 3-0 record before taking his first loss against Darby.
"He's definitely our best pitcher," Walters said. "Will McCoy, our catcher, and him work really well together. That's a good combination."
The Wildcats have a chance to inch closer toward .500 with OCC-Ohio games Monday at home against Westland and Wednesday at Lancaster. They also play Saturday at Olentangy Liberty.
Nutter was the winning pitcher and helped his own cause with two doubles when Newark defeated the Cougars 12-2 on April 19. He threw a two-hitter and struck out nine during a 5-2 win over the Gales on April 14, and Boichan pitched the seventh inning to earn the save.
"As long as we keep doing a better job with the little things we'll put up more wins. We just can't beat ourselves," Walters said. "Without walks and errors, we're right there."
•ELSEWHERE -- Jerrod Ours hit a grand slam and Shane McGuire added a two-run home run as Utica beat Johnstown 11-0 last Tuesday, improving to 11-2 overall and 7-0 in the MBC. It had won 11 in a row entering last Friday's game against East Knox.
It was Ours' fourth home run of the season.
"We definitely have some power, but I don't know if we're what you'd call a power-hitting team," coach Bren Henderson said. "I'd say we're a gap-hitting team."
Either way, the Redskins are looking strong in their league-title defense with games Monday against Loudonville and Friday against Northridge at home and Tuesday at Centerburg.
As many as three Licking County teams could win league championships. Heath is looking good in the MSL-Ohio and Watkins Memorial remains in contention in the OCC-Capital.