Ohio State saw Marcus Ernst's potential to consistently spray base hits when it recruited him a little less than two years ago, and that promise has come to fruition this spring.
Now a senior shortstop for the Dublin Coffman High School baseball team, Ernst has developed into one of central Ohio's top hitters.
"This year, my batting average is way up and there's a lot of little things I've (worked on)," Ernst said. "In the offseason, I worked on elevating the ball, not trying to ground out as much. I think (I have an) ability to have a lot of extra-base hits. If guys get on in front of me, I have the ability to drive in some guys."
Ernst, who usually bats third for the Shamrocks, has been the biggest cog in a lineup that is hoping to find its stride with the postseason approaching.
Coffman was 10-7 overall and 8-5 in the OCC-Central Division after beating Marysville 5-3 on April 30. The Shamrocks beat Westland 12-2 in a league game April 27 and won a pair of games April 28, defeating Toledo St. Francis 4-1 and Brunswick 4-3.
Through 13 games, Ernst had a .486 batting average (17-for-35) with four walks, four doubles and one home run.
The only other regulars in the lineup batting better than .300 through 13 games were Mike King (.323) and Graham Schiefferle (.308).
"He's doing well," coach Tim Saunders said of Ernst. "He's a true player. If he's not the best in central Ohio, he's one of the top couple. He's got a good arm."
Ernst was one of Coffman's top pitchers last season, but Saunders has elected to use him strictly in the field this season while leaning on Canyon Caldwell and Ryan Ebeling on the mound.
Through 13 games, Caldwell was 0-4 but had a 2.04 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 24 innings, while Ebeling was 2-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 18 innings.
Ernst has been at shortstop the last two seasons for the Shamrocks but could end up at third base or second base for the Buckeyes.
He'll join Pickerington North infielder Mitchell Smith and Olentangy Liberty pitcher Mitch Milheim as part of Ohio State's 2019 freshman class.
Despite missing most of his sophomore season because of a meniscus injury, Ernst gained college interest for his play with the Bo Jackson Elite summer team and committed to Ohio State in December 2016.
"Going into my junior year of high school, a couple of my (Bo Jackson) teammates were getting looked at by Ohio State, so (the Buckeyes' coaches) were coming to a lot of our summer games and they offered me that summer," Ernst said. "We have 14 or 15 Division I commits from that team. They said they liked my offense a lot."
Ernst also played football and basketball for Coffman. A second-team all-league quarterback who passed for 1,194 yards last fall, he helped the football team go 8-3 and win the OCC-Central title. This past winter, he helped the boys basketball team win a Division I district championship.
Also a member of the National Honor Society, Ernst was one of 12 seniors at the school to be on the principal's advisory council this school year.
He's excited about what still is to come as he prepares for the final stretch of his last prep baseball season.
"There are a lot of good things going on," Ernst said. "Coach Saunders has been around for 31 years, so obviously he's got a lot of great connections and people that have come back and spoken to us that I've enjoyed. I think the puzzle is starting to fit together and we're starting to come around. It's good to see the guys swinging the bats well and that we've got some new guys stepping up.
"I kind of knew early on that baseball was kind of the path I was going to go on (collegiately), but football and basketball were two huge parts of my high school career. I've always been a big Buckeyes fan and it's always been a goal of mine to go there and to play there. It's been lots of fun."
Volleyball team takes big steps forward
By the season's midpoint, the boys volleyball team already had surpassed its victory total from last season, when it finished 7-16.
The Shamrocks, who will learn their seeding for the Division I tournament May 14, won eight of their first 14 matches and were 5-5 in the OCC-Ohio before facing Reynoldsburg on May 1.
Coffman closes league action Tuesday, May 8, at Pickerington North.
"We're always about trying to get better, and last year I took these sophomores and was just literally teaching them how you play volleyball," coach Shane Farrell said. "Now it's a lot nicer putting things together. I like seeing the improvement. Last year, we were just struggling to get the ball in play. We're just getting more consistent."
Junior Jack Proctor, who was named first-team all-league last season and is in his third season as setter, helps lead an offense that features outside hitter Joey Mitchell, middle hitter Sean McDerment and opposite hitters Cameron Burris and Tali Berzins, while senior libero Sam Malloy has been leading the defense.
"We definitely are taking lots of big steps in the right direction," Proctor said. "We have lots of potential. I've definitely been focusing on serving probably the most and being consistent. I feel like we've been playing more as a team."
Softball team to play in Battle of Dublin
The softball team will compete in the Battle of Dublin on Saturday, May 5, against host Jerome and Scioto.
Coffman was 9-9 overall and 4-5 in the OCC-Central after losing to Central Crossing 6-1 on April 30 and before playing Upper Arlington on May 2.
The Shamrocks defeated Hilliard Davidson 7-6 in a league game April 27 before splitting a pair of games April 28, beating Newark Catholic 5-4 and losing to Newark 11-1.
"For the most part, our hitting has been phenomenal," coach Scott Tillman said.
Junior catcher Marley McDonald, who was batting .600 during the team's 6-0 start, had two hits and four RBI in a 14-1 win over Westland on April 25.
Junior Sophie Maggs (1B) and sophomore Sophie Mitchell (3B/utility) also have been key hitters, while junior Maddie Luke and sophomores Kelsi Anderson and Lizzie Werth all have seen action at pitcher.
Six juniors and three sophomores have been among the regulars in Coffman's lineup.
"I'm confident with the players we have in there," Tillman said. "I've turned the pitch calling to Marley and she's done a phenomenal job. We have talent in both the senior and sophomore classes, but the juniors have really stepped up as leaders and have done a great job."
Girls lacrosse team competes for title
The girls lacrosse team played UA for the OCC-Central championship May 1.
Heading into the matchup, the Shamrocks were 9-2 overall and 5-0 in the league after bouncing back from a 12-11 loss to Columbus School for Girls on April 23 by beating league opponents Gahanna (11-4 on April 25) and Pickerington North (14-1 on April 26) on back-to-back nights.
Delaney Murray had five goals and Megan Murphy scored three against Gahanna and Annamarie Guth scored four and Murray and Renae Tonon both scored three against Pickerington North.
UA also was 5-0 in the league heading into the matchup May 1. The Golden Bears entered the contest on a 31-game winning streak that began last season, when UA beat Coffman 14-1 during the regular season and went on to win the Division I state championship.
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
May 3 -- At Jerome
*May 4 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington. The Shamrocks beat the Golden Bears 4-3 on April 20 and lost 6-5 on April 26.
May 5 -- At Beavercreek (DH)
May 7 -- Home vs. 40th-seeded Newark in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at ninth-seeded Olentangy in second round May 9. Coffman is seeded 26th.
May 5 -- Home vs. Detroit Catholic Central
May 6 -- At Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's
May 9 -- Home vs. Scioto
May 3 -- Home vs. Bradley
May 5 -- Home vs. Hamilton (Ind.) Southeastern
May 8 -- Home vs. New Albany
May 3 -- Home vs. New Albany
May 5 -- At Jerome with Scioto in Battle of Dublin
May 7 -- Home vs. 44th-seeded Thomas Worthington in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at fifth-seeded Delaware in second round May 9. Coffman is seeded 23rd.
May 3 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington B
May 4 -- At Columbus Academy
TRACK & FIELD
May 4 -- Larkin/Crosten Invitational at UA
May 3 -- At New Albany
May 4 -- Battle of Dublin at Scioto
*May 8 -- At Pickerington North. The Shamrocks beats the Panthers 24-26, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21 on April 17.