When Tyler Fitzgerald finds his Grandview Heights High School baseball team in a bind, he knows where to turn.
The coach summons Gavin Van Horn from shortstop to the pitcher's mound to limit the damage, because he knows the junior right-hander has the temperament needed to succeed in those situations.
"Out there on the mound, Gavin faces adversity better than anyone," said Fitzgerald, whose team was 5-3 overall and 0-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division after losing to Worthington Christian 11-4 on April 2.
"He's never too high or low. He can step in during high-pressure situations and get us out of a jam."
Last year, Van Horn was named honorable mention all-league after going 6-0 with a 4.39 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. He said he relishes the role of coming in, holding down the opposing offense and taking control of the game.
"I like having control and being involved in every play," said Van Horn, who was 1-0 with a 1.05 ERA in 6 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, seven walks and one hit batter in his first three appearances this season. "I like that baseball is not wholly a physical game but a mental game as well. I like the mental aspect of it, especially pitching."
Van Horn throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs as well as a changeup and curveball, and he said he is "working on a slider."
Doubleheaders March 30 and 31 left the Bobcats' pitching staff reeling in terms of innings-usage rules, so Fitzgerald looked to Van Horn to fill the void by starting the league opener against Worthington Christian. He surrendered just one run in five innings and struck out eight before being pulled in the sixth after his pitch count passed 100.
"If you look at him from his freshman year until now, he pretty much always has been a reliever for us," Fitzgerald said. "The biggest difference is that he is throwing more strikes, getting ahead in the count and striking out more batters. He has been controlling the strike zone."
Van Horn said players can't let the little things bother them during the game. He had a strong performance against Worthington Christian this season, but it was a different story in an 11-10 home loss to the Warriors last spring.
"I used to have trouble controlling my anger," he said. "I had struck out a lot in a home game last year with Worthington Christian. When I came into the dugout I started slamming my helmet and bat and (Fitzgerald) pulled me from the game. One of biggest memories is coach telling me I had to control that (emotion) and not let it show. I needed to channel that energy into other parts of the game. It was a big learning experience for me."
An under-control Van Horn had a milestone moment during the Bobcats' spring-break trip to Tennessee. He hit his first career home run, just clearing the left-field fence during a 12-4 loss to Sedalia (Missouri) Smith-Cotton on March 30 at Harrison Chattanooga Central.
"It was a fastball that was slightly inside and I was able to get a good part of the bat on it, but I didn't even think it was going out," he said. "I thought maybe the left fielder could get to it, so I was trying to hustle and get a double. I heard everyone cheering and I looked out and saw the left fielder looking over the fence."
Through eight games, Van Horn was hitting .167 but had a .375 on-base percentage thanks to working four walks and getting hit by a pitch another four times. He had scored nine runs and had five RBI.
Van Horn moved from the outfield to shortstop this spring and has enjoyed the transition. He said he feels more a part of the game being a member of the infield.
"Coach moved me into shortstop this year and, aside from pitching, shortstop is the spot where you get the most action," Van Horn said. "Being a shortstop, you have to communicate with everyone on the field.
"That's something that I have to work -- communicating on the field more. You have to talk more and work things out, and I have been trying to talk more and be more of a leader."
Softball team wins two of first three games
The softball team worked around postponements to begin the season at 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Bexley on April 9.
The Bobcats had six postponements before April 9, including three games in the Ohio Invitational on April 7 and 8 at Firestone Stadium in Akron. They were to play Atwater Waterloo and Medina on April 7 and Medina Highland on April 8.
After losing to Worthington Christian 18-7 on April 2 in league play, Grandview rebounded to beat the Warriors 14-9 two days later by pounding out 11 hits.
The Bobcats defeated Briggs 20-1 in five innings April 6 with a 15-hit performance. Claire Bower hit a two-run home run and was the winning pitcher, and Leila Meyer had a solo homer.
Boys tennis team wins season opener
The boys tennis team, which lost its first nine matches last season, won its season-opening contest April 5.
The Bobcats defeated Whitehall 3-2 in MSL-Ohio action. Junior Brett Holcomb won at first singles, sophomore Calvin Horning won at second singles and the team of junior Patrick Rowland and sophomore Bryan Gilleland won at first doubles.
Last season, Grandview defeated the Rams 5-0 to pick up its initial victory.
The Bobcats had played only one match before facing Whetstone on April 9 and league-foe London on April 10. A league match with Worthington Christian on April 3 and a match against Jonathan Alder on April 4 were postponed.
Below are the coming schedules for the Grandview Heights baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 12 -- At Madison Plains
*April 13 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian. Game resumed in 10th inning tied at 2 after being suspended by darkness April 5.
*April 16 -- Home vs. Whitehall
*April 18 -- At Whitehall
April 12 -- At Buckeye Valley
April 14 -- At Watkins Memorial with Reynoldsburg
*April 16 -- Home vs. Whitehall
*April 18 -- At Whitehall
April 12 -- Home vs. Hartley
*April 17 -- Home vs. Bexley
April 18 -- Home vs. Hamilton Township
TRACK & FIELD
April 13 -- Bexley Relays
April 16 -- At Thomas Worthington