Pickerington North's Pagano a dual threat
Tyler Pagano entered the week with two victories and two saves for the Pickerington High School North baseball team, and he is weeks away from becoming the first four-year letterwinner in the program's 10-season history.
Even though most of his contributions have come on the mound, the Oakland University signee believes his offensive talent shouldn't be overlooked.
"I'd like to think of myself as an outfielder first," Pagano said. "I concentrate first on hitting, then I do what I can pitching. I used to be more of a pitcher and I kind of transitioned this year."
Typically the Panthers' cleanup hitter, Pagano entered the week hitting .425 with six doubles and two two-run home runs. The first came April 4 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in a 14-2 win over Greenville (Ky.) Muhlenberg County, and the second was in the first inning of a 7-6 win over West Chester Lakota West on April 13.
Those efforts lead an offense that through 13 games was averaging 6.7 runs with a team batting average of .380 as North entered the week 11-2 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division.
"Tyler has done really well. I can't wait to see what else he can do," said senior second baseman Jordan Grubb, a Walsh University signee who has hit in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh spots this year. "We all have power. He's a huge bat in the lineup, but we have a lot of power."
Pagano was 3-1 on the mound as a sophomore, and last year was 5-2 with a 2.65 ERA while striking out 33 and walking 32 in 37 innings. He also hit .295 with 15 RBI and was honorable mention all-league.
But wanting to emphasize Pagano's offensive talents while not losing him entirely as a pitcher, coach Tim Thomas decided to move Pagano into middle relief this season.
Pagano threw in five of North's first 13 games, striking out six and walking two in eight innings.
"The last three years, he'd give us five, six or seven innings at a time, but once a week. Now it's two innings here and an inning there," Thomas said. "We knew he was going to provide such a big bat for us in the lineup that I didn't want to tax his arm, blow his arm out on Monday and have that still affecting him on Friday. We want to keep him healthy and at 100 percent and not tax him on Monday and blow him out for the week.
"And being a four-year player and a senior and a (Division I college recruit), you want those kids in your lineup in the biggest situations as much as possible."
Pagano said the transition also was prompted by some struggles he endured as a pitcher last summer with the Ohio Elite.
"My arm was sore and I just transitioned over to the outfield," he said. "A lot of good things happened from there."
Pagano and Grubb are among five Panthers who will play in college. The others are outfielder/pitcher Ryan Miller (Miami University), pitcher/outfielder Kyle Montell (Tiffin) and catcher/pitcher Matt Poland (Dayton).
North entered the week tied for second in the league with Pickerington Central, behind leaders Gahanna (6-0) and Grove City (6-0).
Bad weather forced the postponement of two games between the Panthers and Tigers last week. The first meeting, scheduled for April 17 at Central, was rescheduled for April 23. The second, which was to be played April 19 at North, was rescheduled for Thursday, April 25.
"We're disappointed," Pagano said after the April 19 postponement. "We were gearing up all week for the two games, and then they get rained out. That's pretty tough. But we'll be ready (this) week. (We have) seven games in six days (scheduled this week). We'll be ready."
Tigers picking up steam in league
Central positioned itself near the top of the OCC-Ohio by virtue of two five-inning victories over Reynoldsburg last week, 15-1 on April 15 and 18-1 on April 18, and entered the week 5-3 overall.
Senior pitcher/shortstop Greg Basalyga had a two-run home run in the third inning April 18, and junior pitcher Michael Barnabei threw a one-hitter.
The Tigers committed six errors in a 15-7 loss at Hilliard Darby on April 20, a game in which they were outhit 18-10.
Central had a chance to shake up the league standings earlier this week with two games against Grove City, at home April 22 and on the road April 24.