The Big Walnut High School baseball team has been adjusting to a new coach and a fresh start after saying goodbye to a group of seniors who were part of the winningest four-year span in program history.
Under former coach Chris Holly, the 2016 graduates went 75-44 and won a regional championship and two district titles. Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 20-11 overall, losing 10-5 to Gahanna in a Division I regional semifinal.
Enter coach Jack Schone, who has been with the program for eight seasons as the junior varsity and a middle school coach.
"As a new staff, the challenge of past successes is definitely there in front of us," Schone said. "A continued drive and passion for the game will help fuel us as a staff. We want to see our kids grow as young people. ... As always, winning the league and having a successful run in this year's tourney is always part of our list of things to do."
The Golden Eagles are off to a good start, as they improved to 7-3 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital Division with a 5-2 victory over Newark on April 12 and took a four-game winning streak into their league game against New Albany on April 13.
Big Walnut returned six starters in seniors Henry von Hollen (1B/P) and Parker Imertreijs (C) and juniors Austin Becker (SS/P), Connor Gerren (CF), Colton Lee (3B/P) and Noah Sprowls (2B).
Von Hollen has committed to play at Wright State and Becker has committed to Vanderbilt.
"The kids have been working extremely hard," Schone said. "Practices have been fast-paced, and there's a new kind of energy, if you will. With that comes new challenges, and I don't think anyone is very comfortable right now as it relates to competing for field positions."
Others who have been playing regularly are senior Nick Dimitroff (OF) and junior Jack Foster (INF/DH). Junior infielder Austin Krinn and junior outfielders Cale Sherbourne, Zach Rines and Jackson Seiple also have been competing for playing time, Schone said.
"We definitely have athletic kids, we have baseball savvy kids and we have kids who love the game," Schone said.
Field events leading
boys track team
Boys track and field coach Eric Myers likes his team's depth following what he described as a "rebuilding year."
Of the 77 athletes in the program, 22 are returning letterwinners, including one Division I state qualifier from last season in junior Abe Myers (discus) and four regional qualifiers in seniors Noah McKinney (pole vault), Cole Amato (discus) and Zach MacDonald (400 meters) and junior Brandon Mosher (shot put).
Myers finished eighth in the discus (161 feet, 11 inches) at state after placing second (165-0) at regional. He also finished eighth at state in 2015.
Also at regional, McKinney finished ninth in the pole vault (12-6), Mosher was ninth in the shot put (48-11 1/2), Amato was 11th in the discus (139-7) and MacDonald was 14th in the 400 (53.21 seconds).
"Our strength this season will be in the field events, as we return four regional qualifiers from last season, including Abe, who finished eighth in the state," said coach Myers, who is in his 10th season. "Our experience with 22 (letterwinners) will also be a strength. These guys are a hard-working group, and they enjoy competing."
Those strengths were evident April 8 in the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays, where host Big Walnut finished first (88 points) ahead of Westerville Central (65), Grove City (61.5), Delaware (60.5), Hamilton Township (52), Watterson (50), Central Crossing (38), Worthington Kilbourne (37), Northland (35), Columbus Academy (23), Centennial (19), Centerburg (3) and Columbus South (2).
The girls team placed second (89) behind Westerville Central (110) and ahead of Delaware (80), Watterson (69), Grove City (41), Kilbourne (36), Central Crossing (32), Northland (28), Centennial (22), Hamilton Township (17), Academy (11), South (5) and Centerburg (2).
Abe Myers, who is not related to coach Myers, and Mosher finished first (169-2) and second (136-8), respectively, in the discus and Mosher won the shot put (54-0).
The Golden Eagles also finished first in the 800 sprint medley relay with senior Sam Boyd, juniors Tim Rumas and Devon Bingman and sophomore Dante Chhuom (1:39.8), and sophomore Caleb Ramey placed second in the long jump (20-1/4).
Also among the returning letterwinners are distance runners Matt Halbakken (senior), William Hefner (junior) and Jacob Hutchinson (junior) and sprinter and hurdler Cody White (junior).
As part of OCC realignment, the OCC-Capital now consists of Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Franklin Heights, Groveport, New Albany and Newark. A year ago, the Golden Eagles finished third (83.33) in the league meet behind Olentangy Orange (150) and Olentangy (112.83).
"We are very optimistic with the realignment of our OCC division and looking forward to the league meet in May," coach Myers said.
settling into roles
Boys tennis coach Ryan Balaz knew his deep, experienced roster would provide for plenty of competition within his team.
Now those roles are becoming more defined.
Jared Deel and D.J. Werner have seen consistent playing time at second and third singles, respectively. Each was 3-3 following a 5-0 loss to defending OCC-Capital champion New Albany on April 11.
"New Albany is a very talented and deep team," said Balaz, whose team was 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the league after the loss to the Eagles. "They sat some of their top players, but this was the most competitive we've been with them."
Deel lost to New Albany's Chris Mathes 6-4, 6-7, 1-0 in a superset tiebreaker. In a 3-2 loss to Granville on April 10, the senior lost 6-3, 6-3 to returning state qualifier John Purnode.
"Deel has really been playing some of the best tennis of his career," Balaz said. "To get six games off that Purnode, you have to be on."
Carson Becker has been playing first singles but also plays baseball and doesn't compete in every match.
Nick Schulz was 4-2 in doubles, where Lane Davis, Matt Pushkin, Stephen Pushkin and Gabe Mexicott also have been earning playing time.
March 25 -- vs. Amherst Steele (DH)
March 30 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
*April 3 -- at Canal Winchester
*April 4 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*April 5 -- at New Albany
April 8 -- vs. Amanda-Clearcreek (DH)
*April 10 -- vs. Newark
*April 12 -- at Newark
*April 13 -- vs. New Albany
*April 17 -- vs. Franklin Heights
April 18 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*April 19 -- at Franklin Heights
*April 21 -- at Groveport
April 22 -- at Olentangy Orange (DH)
*April 24 -- vs. Groveport
*April 26 -- vs. Canal Winchester
*April 28 -- at New Albany
*May 1 -- vs. Newark
*May 3 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*May 5 -- at Groveport
May 6 -- at Lakewood
BOYS TRACK & FIELD
March 28 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
April 1 -- Newark Invitational
April 4 -- at Westerville Central and Whitehall
April 7 -- at Buckeye Valley
April 8 -- Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at home
April 11 -- at Marion Harding
April 15 -- Hank Smith Invitational at Heath
April 18 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
April 19 -- Gahanna Relays
April 26 -- vs. Olentangy
April 29 -- Gary Smith Invitational at Thomas Worthington
May 2 -- vs. Franklin Heights
May 5 -- Delaware County Elite 8 at Olentangy Orange
May 11, 13 -- OCC-Capital meet at Dublin Coffman
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis and girls track & field teams:
*April 18 -- Home vs. Westerville South
April 22 -- Home vs. Bowling Green
*April 17 -- At Westerville South
April 22 -- TBA in Hannigan-Galipault Tournament at Thomas Worthington
*April 17 -- Home vs. Newark
April 18 -- Home vs. DeSales
*April 19 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
April 21 -- At Westerville North
April 22 -- At Westerville South (DH)
April 17 -- Home vs. Mount Vernon
*April 18 -- At Franklin Heights
April 19 -- At Westerville North
April 21 -- Hilliard Bradley Doubles Tournament
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
April 18 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
April 19 -- Gahanna Relays