Three former area high school standouts helped the Ohio State baseball team reach the NCAA tournament this spring.
Tyler Cowles, a 2014 Grove City graduate, started in left field and Noah West, a 2016 Westerville Central graduate, started at shortstop for the Buckeyes, while Andrew Magno, a 2016 Dublin Scioto graduate, was a relief pitcher.
Ohio State finished seventh in the Big Ten Conference regular-season standings but reached a semifinal in the conference tournament and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. Seeded third in the regional held at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina, the Buckeyes went 0-2, losing to second-seeded South Carolina 8-3 on June 1 and fourth-seeded UNC Wilmington 4-3 in 13 innings June 2 to finish 36-24.
West had an RBI single in the top of the 11th inning against UNC Wilmington to give the Buckeyes a 3-2 lead, but the Seahawks tied the score in the bottom of the inning and pulled out the win two innings later.
West earned his starting position this spring as a sophomore after tearing the ACL in his right knee while playing baseball last summer. The injury forced him to miss the entire fall season.
"It was a grind, but it was something I was willing to do," he said. "I wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible."
West batted .223 with 22 RBI and 18 runs scored in 45 games this spring. He also was solid defensively, posting a .963 fielding percentage with 66 putouts and 114 assists while helping to turn 26 double plays.
As a freshman, he hit .213 in 37 games, including 30 starts.
"Noah is one of my favorites of all-time," Central coach Jeff Keifer said. "Given his work ethic and his character, this doesn't surprise me at all. I know it's a very difficult injury to come back from. That was my biggest concern, that he would be able to overcome all that, but I knew he'd work at it. That's the kind of kid he is."
As a junior at Central, West helped lead the Warhawks to their first state tournament, where they lost to Cincinnati Moeller 16-0 in five innings in the Division I final.
As a senior, he was named first-team all-district and all-OCC-Cardinal Division after hitting .318 with a team-high 33 runs. That season, Central lost to eventual state champion Pickerington North 1-0 in a district final.
"(The Central coaches) developed me into the player that I am today," West said. "I wouldn't be here without them."
Cowles was one of Ohio State's top hitters this spring as a senior, batting .322 with 49 RBI, 36 runs, 20 doubles and eight home runs in 60 games. He was named third-team All-Big Ten and made the Big Ten all-tournament team.
"When you grow up a Buckeye fan being from Ohio, you dream about being a Buckeye, and when you get that chance to become a Buckeye, you're going to cherish it," Cowles said.
After graduating from Grove City, Cowles played two seasons at Sinclair Community College, where batted .364 with 83 runs, 51 RBI, 21 stolen bases and 13 home runs as a sophomore and hit .312 with 55 RBI and six home runs as a freshman.
He transferred to Ohio State for his junior season, in which he batted .190 with 15 RBI while making 32 starts.
"I never struggled like that before in my life like last year," Cowles said. "Everyone faces adversity and it's how you respond to it. It's what makes you into the human being that you are, and I think I responded to it pretty well."
Cowles was hoping his senior season with the Buckeyes would lead to being selected in the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month, but he went undrafted.
Grove City coach Ryan Alexander believes Cowles still has a chance to land with a major league team as a free agent.
"I've been with Tyler since he was in middle school," Alexander said. "I love that kid. I'm rooting for him to be picked up by a team. I know he wants to continue his playing career. As one of the league leaders in a lot of categories in the Big Ten, he has chance to get picked up by somebody."
As a senior at Grove City, Cowles hit .500 with 26 RBI, 15 stolen bases, eight doubles and four home runs and was named first-team all-state, all-district and all-OCC-Ohio, as the Greyhounds reached a Division I regional semifinal before losing to Gahanna 8-7.
"Coach (Alexander) is a wild one. He definitely got me ready for this stage," Cowles said. "He would yell at me, scream at me, get in my face. But he got me ready to face the adversity I was going to have in the future, so he helped me out a lot."
Magno, a left-hander, pitched 7 2/3 innings in 16 relief appearances this spring as a sophomore, posting a disappointing 14.09 ERA. As a freshman for the Buckeyes, he pitched 1 1/3 innings in four relief appearances.
"I feel like I let the team down this past year because I wasn't able to contribute as much as I wanted to or didn't pitch as well as I expected to," said Magno, a preferred walk-on. "I'm ready to get after it this summer and find the way back."
As a senior at Scioto, Magno went 3-2 on the mound with a 1.80 ERA, 67 strikeouts and 35 walks in 46 2/3 innings and batted .366 with 11 RBI to earn first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and second-team all-district honors.
"Anytime a player from central Ohio gets an opportunity to play at Ohio State, it's a good thing," former Scioto coach Ken Carpenter said. "We knew that Andrew had the ability to play at the next level. He had the opportunity to work with a really good pitching coach while he was with me at Scioto, Chris Jones. We were able to get the most out of Andrew while he was playing for us."