After winning 16 of its first 17 games last season, the Olentangy High School baseball team lost its first three games this spring.
The Braves rebounded to win their next four games before losing to Brunswick 3-2 on April 6.
“I think we thought we were going to have a fast start, but that shocked us,” said Woody Wallace, a four-year starter at catcher who has signed to play at the University of Cincinnati. “We played good teams and played some close games. I think we found that it wouldn’t be as easy as it was last year for us.”
Olentangy lost to DeSales 3-2 in 11 innings March 26 before losing to Worthington Kilbourne 4-1 on March 27 and St. Charles 3-2 on March 28. The Braves then swept Teays Valley by identical 8-1 scores in a doubleheader March 31 and beat Dublin Scioto 4-0 on April 2 and 11-7 on April 5 in the first two OCC-Cardinal Division games of the season.
“Last year, we started fast and we expected to do the same thing this year,” said senior pitcher Ryan Dubil, who earned the victory over Scioto on April 5. “That didn’t happen, but it made us learn how hard we had to work to win. Hopefully, that will help us go deeper into the playoffs.”
The Braves led 8-3 after five innings in the second game against Scioto, but the Irish cut their deficit to one with a four-run sixth inning. Olentangy got a run-scoring single by Dubil in a three-run sixth to regain control.
“That was a nice hit by ‘Dubie’ in the sixth,” coach Steve Little said. “That’s the kind of hit we weren’t getting earlier in the season. We still didn’t play the way we should in the field, with six errors. We didn’t close out plays.”
Little said his team wasn’t going to back down from tough competition, and the Braves’ schedule was set up for that reason.
“We play a tough schedule against good competition all year,” he said. “You have to play the top teams if you are going to get better.”
Little hasn’t been satisfied with the Braves’ offense.
“Our hitting is coming, but we’re really not where we usually are. We’re really having trouble with the new (toned-down) bats,” he said. “They’re killing the game. If we’re going to these bats, we might as well just go back to wooden bats.”
Dubil said the new bats leave pitchers little room for error.
“Because of the new bats, most games are going to be tight,” he said. “You have to go out and compete because one mistake can really hurt you.
“But as a hitter, it feels like you hit the ball a lot farther than it really goes. We have to have a lot of practice because the more you use it, the better feel you will get for it.”
Wallace said the bats are changing the way the game is played.
“There will be a lot of sacrifices and stealing bases when we’re waiting to squeak through hits,” Wallace said. “It will be a different game, but we just have to adapt.”