Luke Wolford thought he had it all figured out.

Luke Wolford thought he had it all figured out.

As a freshman and sophomore for the Olentangy Orange High School baseball team, Wolford would prepare himself for a game with tape and eye black so he could look like a major leaguer.

But since then, the senior has focused more on the mental aspects of the game. The Pioneers have followed suit, going 11-2 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Franklin Heights on April 25.

"As a freshmen and sophomore, it was more about appearance," Wolford said. "We would have our arms taped and wear the eye black, but the record wasn't good. Now we go out and play seven innings and expect to win every single game – if we play our best and throw strikes then that will give us the opportunity to win."

In its fourth season, the Orange program was 10-15 in 2009, 17-11 in 2010 and 19-9 last year. Wolford said preparation and attitude brought about the change.

"The biggest difference is how much more we know about baseball and respect the game," he said. "You can't get too high or too low when you're winning or losing, and you have to appreciate playing the game. In past seasons, we sometimes took for granted playing the game, but a lot of kids don't have the opportunity to play. That's why you have to be ready to give your all every day."

Coach Phil Callaghan said Wolford's attitude sets him apart.

"The fact he plays the game hard all of the time is the best aspect of his game," said Callaghan, who has coached for more than 30 seasons at DeSales, Dublin Scioto and Orange. "I don't think I have ever had a kid that I can say never takes a pitch off or never takes a play off before this, but that's the way Luke plays. I think he might be the best combination of talent and playing hard that I have ever seen.

"Luke doesn't have the best stuff (as a pitcher) in the district or league and he plays hard at shortstop, but he always is playing hard. It doesn't seem like anyone at the highest levels of the game plays like that anymore."

Through 12 games, the University of Dayton signee was hitting .478 (22-for-46) with 14 runs, two home runs, 13 RBI, five doubles, four stolen bases, one triple and a .510 on-base percentage. He also was 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 30 innings with two saves, 30 strikeouts and 12 walks.

"Luke became a guy we relied on last year and that has carried over," Callaghan said. "He has a great skill level at shortstop with great hands, a quick release on his throws and a strong arm. But it's his warrior mentality that makes him so good."

Entering this season, Wolford was second in career batting average at Orange at .420 (95-for-226), just behind 2011 graduate Jared Leet (.421; 101-for-240), but now he has the lead at .430 (117-for-272) before April 23. He also was the program's career leader in hits (117), runs (92) and stolen bases (36) and has the top two season batting averages (.474 last season and .473 in 2009).

"Luke knows this very well, but at next level he always has to work on his offense," Callaghan said. "He can help (Dayton) immediately defensively, but he'll need to be a better hitter.

"The first thing they will try to do in college is to get him to use his lower body more. He'll have to add to his lower body in the weight room. They'll have a workout regimen for him to do. But that's OK because he starts working on things immediately."

Wolford started immediately at Orange, seeing time at second base as well as shortstop. As his senior year winds down, he has started to realize how much of a role baseball has played in his life.

"Playing as a freshman, I wasn't intimidated, but I knew I had to prove myself," Wolford said. "The only thing I could control is to go out and play hard.

"But I've played the game since I was 4 and I love baseball, period."