The Ohio Elite Arn 14-and-under baseball team developed a solid core over the last six years while adding key players each summer.
One of those additions this season, catcher Connor Till, helped the team win the platinum bracket championship in the Buckeye Elite Showcase Tournament.
In the final July 15 at Denison University, Ohio Elite Arn rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the fifth inning to defeat Team All-American Dujka of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, 6-3.
“I have faith in my team,” said Till, a rising sophomore at Olentangy Orange High School who delivered an RBI single in the victory. “I never thought we didn’t have a chance of winning this game.”
Ohio Elite Arn went 6-0 in the tournament and finished the summer 42-7 overall.
“This is the best tournament in the Midwest,” coach Brad Arn said. “We’ve won a lot of big tournaments. This is the biggest one of the summer for us. This had all the big dogs coming in here to Columbus fighting for this tournament, so to come out on top is an unbelievable feeling.”
Till had an RBI single in the second as Ohio Elite Arn took a 2-0 lead.
Mason Cushman, who attends Fairbanks, went the distance on the mound, allowing six hits and striking out four. He also added a two-run double in a three-run fifth.
Brandon Kim, who attends Westerville South, scored a run in the second.
The remaining players were from Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan, Springfield Shawnee and Van Wert Lincolnview.
Ohio Elite Arn reached the final with a 1-0 win over East Macomb (Michigan) Muskies Pretzer in a semifinal July 15 at Don Edwards Park in Newark.
Landon Price, who attends Lincolnview, pitched a complete game, allowing two hits and striking out three.
Ohio Elite Arn won six of nine tournaments in the final season for Arn, whose son, Kade, played third base for the team.
“I’ve coached these guys all along,” Arn said. “At 15U, Ohio Elite doesn’t allow parent coaches. It was going to be an emotional year. We put a lot into it and went out on top.”
Arn said the team had watched Till over the last few summers and was impressed by his play, leading to an invitation to join the program this summer.
“They saw me at a tournament last year in Mason, Ohio, and they recruited me and I tried out for them,” said Till, who previously played for Olentangy Ambush. “I really love this team. I love the guys on the team.”
Ohio Elite Kurtz reached a 14U semifinal, losing to Team All-American Dujka 5-2 to finish 38-14.
The tournament was divided into four divisions: 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U.
Each team was guaranteed three games in pool play and at least one game in championship play. Following pool play, teams were divided into platinum, gold, silver and bronze brackets, with champions determined in each division. Platinum is considered the top bracket.
Other champions in the platinum brackets were Clinton (Pennsylvania) West Hills (18U), Erie (Pennsylvania) Steelheads Prospects (16U) and Dayton Classics Roush (15U).
The tournament began July 12 and was played at 74 venues throughout central Ohio. There were 308 teams representing 10 states and Canada, and a total of 758 games were played.
“I’ve been coaching for 25 years, so I’ve made the tournament circuit,” said Mark Gessner, who shares tournament director duties with Jeff Dutiel. “I took what was good and what was bad. We try to make it a positive experience for the teams. Even though we’ve had bad weather (in the past), teams know they’re going to get their money’s worth.”
Columbus Royals reach 18U semifinal
In its first season, the Columbus Royals 18U team reached a platinum bracket semifinal, losing to eventual champion West Hills 5-0 on July 15 at Otterbein.
The Royals went 5-1 in the tournament and finished the summer 9-10 overall.
The team was formed five weeks ago when Olentangy graduate Ethan Kellner contacted coach Tracey Wilson in hopes of organizing a squad.
“I was planning on stopping after my last season of school ball and Ethan texted me and asked if I wanted to get a team together,” said Mason Ward, an Upper Arlington graduate. “We were supposed to play with the Ohio Surge, but that fell through when we didn’t get enough guys. We decided to put our own team together.”
The team consisted of players from Centennial, Central Crossing, Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy, UA and Worthington Kilbourne.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Wilson said. “To me, they’re champions to get as far as they did in this big of a tournament. I’d pick these kids every day of the week. These kids fight and they never quit. It was a great experience and a great ride.”
Shortstop Shaan Morales, a Centennial graduate, had six hits in games played July 14.