The baseball careers of Pickerington High School Central seniors Greg Basalyga and Devon Fisk have been tied to one another for the past four years, and that will continue next year when the two become roommates and teammates at Bowling Green State University.
But Basalyga and Fisk decided their futures would be intertwined largely without the knowledge of the other.
Basalyga, a pitcher and shortstop, committed to BGSU shortly after his junior season, choosing the Falcons over Tennessee Tech and Xavier. Fisk, an outfielder and pitcher, wasn't approached by the Falcons until August, after his Pickerington American Legion Post 283 team won 56 games and finished fifth in the Great Lakes regional tournament.
"Devon and I didn't talk at all last summer," said Basalyga, who last fall became the first four-year starter in Central football history, according to coach Jay Sharrett. "He plays legion and I play for the Columbus Cobras, and I was heading into football and I saw he was heading to BG on a visit. (It) turns out they offered him. I texted him and asked him what he was going to do and said how cool it'd be if we could play another four years together."
For now, they're hoping their senior season springboards them into college.
Fisk, who earned the victory April 2 when the Tigers defeated Hilliard Bradley 5-1, threw four shutout innings in relief in a 5-3 loss to Lancaster on April 10.
"I just try to come in and get groundballs," Fisk said. "I'm not going to strike a lot of people out. I just try to get groundballs and get guys out."
Basalyga is looking to cap an all-around successful senior year. In football, he rushed for 393 yards and five touchdowns and recorded 116 tackles, including 13 for losses, at linebacker.
On April 8, Basalyga struggled in his start against Lancaster but recovered to go 2-for-3 with a double, single and two walks as the Tigers erased an 11-1, second-inning deficit to edge the Golden Gales 13-12. After Lancaster scored seven runs in the second, Central scored three runs in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
"We had a rough first two innings and kept chipping away the entire game," Tigers coach Andy Takos said. "You have to give the kids all the credit for battling back, hanging in there and not giving up. Some teams might have folded over. It easily could have been over in the fifth inning with us on the wrong end."
The Tigers were 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division after defeating Reynoldsburg 15-1 on April 15. After a league game April 17 at home against Pickerington North, Central visits North for the second half of a home-and-home series Friday, April 19.
Takos said positions have been solidified in the past two weeks. The infield consists of Basalyga, junior Kyle Casserly (1B/P), seniors Kaleb Foltz (2B) and Brett Franklin (2B), freshman Clayton Sorrell (1B), senior Ron Vandemark (C) and sophomore Ron Williams (3B).
The outfield is anchored by junior Michael Barnabei (RF), Fisk and senior Sam Laihr (LF).
"We're pretty comfortable at this point with who we have defensively," Takos said. "Pitching-wise, we're a little behind because we only had two scrimmages. The guys didn't get outside as much, and that has a big impact. There's a big difference between throwing inside and going outside and pitching off an actual mound in weather conditions. But we're progressing in that area."
Panthers hope to continue hot start
North couldn't have asked for a much better start, going 6-1 from March 31 to April 5 at the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Panthers returned home to mixed results, splitting their first two OCC-Ohio games by beating Newark 11-1 in five innings April 8 before losing to the Wildcats 3-1 two days later.
"The week down south was wonderful. We had a chance to put kids in situations we couldn't do up here with no scrimmages, and we played some really good baseball," said coach Tim Thomas, whose team was 11-2 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio after defeating Lancaster 8-3 on April 15.
"We were tested the first few games. We preached mental toughness and the kids stayed with it. We had some close games where we had to battle back and hang on."
North outhit Newark 7-3 in its loss and struck out only twice, but committed three errors. Thomas hoped the game was a reminder of the importance of situational success.
"Those can be having a good at-bat with having somebody on base or making routine plays," he said.
"You just have to have better at-bats when you have a chance to score. That's baseball."