Sam Ankrom of the Thomas Worthington High School baseball team turned in a stellar performance when he took the mound against Upper Arlington on April 10.
The senior, whose previous outing came during the Cardinals' trip to the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., from March 30 to April 3, pitched a one-hitter as Thomas defeated the Golden Bears 10-0 in six innings.
The Cardinals had lost to UA 8-3 in their OCC-Central Division opener April 9.
"It was the best I've felt on the mound in a real long time," Ankrom said. "My velocity was up and I had great stuff. I was in charge. I struggled a bit in Myrtle Beach and even last fall. It was a great feeling."
After the game, however, the mood quickly changed for the Cardinals. First-year coach Anthony Leahy huddled with his players in center field and told them that former coach Stephen Gussler had received news from his doctors that he didn't have much time left to live.
Gussler, who has been battling stage 4 colon cancer for more than two years, coached the Cardinals for 16 seasons before stepping down this year.
"We went from a great mood to very low in a hurry," Ankrom said. "It was devastating news and it was something that happened quickly since he was declared cancer-free just a few months ago. It came out of nowhere."
For Ankrom, who has known Gussler through baseball since he was in elementary school, his performance that day against UA had special meaning.
"I was wearing (Gussler's jersey) number that game," Ankrom said. "When I was a sophomore, we got new camouflage jerseys and I was on the j.v. team and wore No. 18. Last year when I was on varsity, (2013 graduate) Roscoe Blackburn had No. 18, so Guss switched jerseys with me so we wouldn't have two No. 18s. I got the jersey he always wore, No. 15.
"He wasn't coaching this year and we didn't get new uniforms, so I still have his No. 15 jersey in our camo uniforms. The starting pitcher decides what uniforms we wear for every game and I chose camo that night (against UA)."
The Cardinals, playing for the pride of their program and their former coach, followed that win by beating Westland 11-1 in six innings on April 11 and defeating Marion Pleasant 11-5 and 8-4 on April 12.
The Cardinals were 8-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on April 16. They play Thursday, April 17, at Westland in a makeup from April 14.
Tommy Hoerauf pitched against Westland, allowing one hit, on a day in which the school's baseball facility received its new sign. It was announced last fall that the facility would be named Gussler Park, while the field would retain its name, Frank Welling Field.
Gussler was in attendance for the Westland game and spoke to the players afterward.
"It hasn't been easy for anyone who has ever met Guss," said Leahy, who played for Gussler at Thomas and is in his sixth year as a coach in the program. "If you've met him, you love him. He's been so strong through this and he almost always has a smile on his face no matter how he feels.
"Although it's difficult, I believe the kids want to play baseball and play it fundamentally well to honor him. They don't want to sit back and not play. They want to make him proud of this program and all the things we have achieved together. They want to show him they learned how to do the things he taught within this program."
Nick Pauley hit a home run in both games against Pleasant and Kegan Lanter homered in the win over UA.
"Tommy Pischel and Danny Gordon have been getting on base a ton in the first two spots in our order," Leahy said. "Gordon is moving the ball very well and has had a tremendous start to the season. We moved Pauley up from fifth or sixth to third because he's been hitting so well. Kegan Lanter is just starting to hit the ball, so we've got a number of kids playing well offensively."
Wolves earn split with Delaware in OCC play
Kilbourne was 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Capital before facing Big Walnut on April 16.
The Wolves opened league play April 9 with a 4-1 loss to Delaware at home. Daniel Zavatsky pitched a complete game for Kilbourne, allowing six hits, including a two-run homer by Colin Reed in the top of the seventh inning.
The Wolves bounced back to beat Delaware 15-4 in five innings in a league game April 10, scoring seven runs in the first inning and five in the fifth.
Kilbourne then lost to Mount Vernon 3-1 in a league game April 11 at home before splitting a doubleheader against host St. Charles on April 12, losing 9-3 in the first game and winning 6-4 in the second.
In the second game against St. Charles, Hyatt Shenefield earned the win in relief and his brother, Hayden, earned a save by pitching the final two innings.
Kilbourne travels to Mount Vernon on Thursday, April 17, for the teams' second league matchup. The contest was to have been played April 14, but was postponed because of bad weather.