Baseball always has felt like the right fit for Reynoldsburg High School senior Eliot Ladowitz.
For as long as he can remember, he's been traveling the country going to Major League Baseball parks. He even attended the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
It never has seemed like a contradiction to Ladowitz that he didn't end up in track and field even though that's the sport his father coaches. Richard Ladowitz became Reynoldsburg's head track coach this spring and has been with the program since Eliot was in elementary school.
"I was always a big baseball fan growing up," Eliot said.
"In junior high, I ran a couple meets because I was always a good runner, but baseball was really my main sport."
Now in his second season as a key player for the Raiders, Eliot has found his niche in a variety of roles.
During the Raiders' spring-break trip to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., from April 1-5, he saw time at second base, shortstop and third base.
He also might have been the biggest reason the Raiders left Florida with a 3-2 record because of what he did on the mound.
During a 9-6 win over Baker (Fla.) on April 1, Eliot pitched 2 2/3 innings and earned the save.
He then tossed 5 1/3 innings in relief, giving up no runs in the final four, to help Reynoldsburg earn a 6-5 win over Taylorsville (Ky.) Spencer County on April 5.
Eliot estimates he pitched only about five innings on varsity last season.
"I was very pleased with our pitching (in Florida)," coach Rob Gravatt said.
"We had a 3.39 ERA. We made some tough outs at the plate. It's our defense that has been our Achilles' heel the last couple years.
"We knew we were going to have to depend on Eliot Ladowitz in pitching and he came in twice out of the bullpen. He might have to serve dual purposes. He's just a really great utility player. He didn't pitch as much as he liked the last couple years, but he comes in and throws strikes."
"Coming into this year I worked a lot in the offseason developing off-speed pitches and threw a lot in the summer," Eliot said.
The Raiders struggled during the first week after their return from Florida.
After losing to Grove City 10-0 on April 8, Reynoldsburg lost to Grove City 16-1 on April 10 and was 3-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Pickerington Central on April 16.
Gravatt also was pleased with the offensive contributions during the trip of seniors Nick Hedrick (C), Colton McCroskey (INF/DH) and Tre Rowe (OF) and freshman Connor Richardson (SS).
"I thought we bonded more as a team (during the trip) and had good chemistry," Eliot said.
"We faced some good pitchers down there, although probably not as good as the OCC pitchers. It was a good experience to play some teams from all around.
"We batted really well in Florida, and now we just need to get stronger defensively."
Boys runners learning trade
Outside of senior Dominik Seitzer, a youth movement is in full force for the boys track program.
Seitzer, who helped the 3,200-meter relay take sixth in the Division I state meet last season and recently committed to run for Ohio State, is off to a strong start, according to coach Ladowitz.
The Raiders competed April 9 in an unscored meet at Gahanna that also included Groveport.
On April 12 in the Elk Relays at Centerville, the boys team placed 12th (21) behind champion Centerville (136) as 17 teams scored.
In the Wildcat Premier on April 6 at Hilliard Davidson, Seitzer won the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 26.72 seconds. Later that day, he ran his split in the 1,600 relay in about 49 seconds.
Reynoldsburg is surrounding Seitzer with young athletes.
According to coach Ladowitz, 17 of the 22 boys in the program are freshmen and sophomores.
"Dominik has been looking great," Ladowitz said. "We've got a core group of freshmen sprinters who are going to be a force to be reckoned with when they're seniors."
Freshman Mark Gooden is competing in the shot put and discus as well as running the 200 and 400. Classmates Chris Cochenour, Quincy Grey, Caleb Holbrook, Sam Shaheen and Cameron Young are running in sprinting events.
Girls track team also fueled by youth
The girls track team also has a younger look surrounding returnees Diamond Gause, a senior, and Leah Wallace, a sophomore.
Sophomore Courtney Purtell is an athlete Ladowitz believes can be a factor in the high jump as she continues to heal from a winter injury. She went 4 feet, 8 inches, just missing 4-10, on April 9 at Gahanna.
Senior Kiara Chatman and junior Ramiah Thornhill have been other early standouts.
Ladowitz also has high hopes for freshman sprinters Briana Barber, Gloria Opoku and Cymone Rogers.
Of the 27 girls in the program, 20 are freshmen and sophomores.
On April 12 in the Elk Relays, the Raiders were 12th (24) behind champion and host Centerville (133.5) as 17 teams scored.