Aaron Kauser admitted he was an unlikely candidate to be the DeSales High School baseball team's top hitter and pitcher as May approached.
Yet through 18 games, Kauser not only led the Stallions with a .436 batting average, but he owned a 0.80 ERA to go with a 3-1 record on the mound.
"To look at me, people might not think I have a pitcher's build," Kauser said. "I'm only 5-(foot-)10 and 170 pounds. So many pitchers are taller and lankier or are more muscular. But I've put in a lot of work. I got after it in the weight room last summer. I didn't have the season I wanted last year and I knew it'd take a lot of work to get better. All that work is paying off now."
Kauser, who usually bats fifth or sixth in the order, and Joey Velazquez were tied for second on the team in hits with 18 through 18 games, behind Owen Faulkner's 21. As a pitcher, Kauser recorded 24 strikeouts and allowed 10 walks in 26 1/3 innings and earned starts in three of the team's first four CCL games: a 2-1 loss to Watterson on April 12, an 8-4 win at St. Charles on April 17 and a 6-3 win at Hartley on April 24.
"I never underestimate what a senior can do and he is putting together one heck of a senior year," coach Tom Neubert said. "You get stronger and confident as you get older, and for Aaron, it's his work ethic. He is the dirtiest and sweatiest every day at practice and in every game. He does things the right away and it's paying off. But to say Aaron Kauser is my top hitter, I never thought I'd be saying that (17) games into the year."
DeSales was 10-9 overall and 3-1 in the CCL before playing Watterson on April 29.
As a junior, Kauser was 1-1 as a pitcher with a 1.42 ERA, 12 strikeouts and four walks in 12 2/3 innings and batted .220 with nine hits and nine RBI while playing mostly first base. His work ethic seemed to pay dividends last summer, when a successful season with the Columbus Sharks drew the attention of Division III college programs, including Capital.
Kauser adjusted his motion, saying he throws less like a catcher now, and also adjusted his batting stance to stay back and "swing with a purpose."
"That motion was making me lose a lot of velocity because I was throwing from up around my ear. That was maybe the biggest thing I changed," Kauser said. "My fastball is my best pitch all the way, but I like my cutter and my curveball and I think I have a nice changeup. I have four pitches I can trust for strikes."
Kauser committed to Capital on April 10 and expects to be primarily a pitcher.
"No one outworks him," said Stallions pitcher Michael Pallaci, who also is a summer teammate of Kauser. "In summer ball, he's been our ace the last couple years, always our No. 1 or No. 2. This year, that's translated here. His pitches move a lot. He can keep hitters off balance."
DeSales was second in the CCL entering play April 29, a half-game behind league leader Watterson (3-0). The Stallions are seeking their second consecutive CCL championship after sharing the title with Hartley last season.
DeSales will find out its postseason path at the Division II district tournament draw Sunday, May 5. If the Stallions are to win their third district title in four years, Neubert expects Kauser to play a large part.
"I'd just describe him as a typical DeSales baseball player," Neubert said. "He will go out there and give everything he can get out of his body each and every day. Sure, he'll fail from time to time, but he goes out there to win games and play as hard as he can."
Boys lacrosse team learns from past
According to boys lacrosse coach Matt Triplet, a few things helped change the team's fortunes after a 9-2 loss to Springboro on April 6 dropped them to 3-4.
"We were up-and-down early and we had a lot of growing up to do. The other thing was a lot of guys on the field for us didn't have a lot of varsity experience," Triplet said. "(Players) settling into their roles was a huge thing. After we were 3-4, we had a good talk and I let the guys know we hadn't been on the losing side of a record in a long time. It was a good history lesson."
A four-game winning streak in which DeSales outscored its opponents 50-13 followed, and the Stallions are 8-5 overall entering a home game against New Albany on Thursday, May 2.
During that streak, DeSales defeated Granville 16-4 on April 11, Upper St. Clair (Pennsylvania) 11-2 on April 13, St. Charles 8-6 on April 17 and Bexley 15-1 on April 23. The Stallions lost to Watterson 11-10 in overtime April 25 at Fortress Obetz despite Tommy Clayton's seven-goal performance, but rebounded to beat Toledo St. Francis 7-3 on April 27.
Triplet said he drew on the experiences of another defending Division II state championship team he'd coached to show this year's players some parallels.
"The 2013 team came in ready to win, too, and we had to guard against being overconfident because of what we'd achieved," Triplet said of a team that lost in a state semifinal. "One day at practice, we listed everything that happened last year, listed some obstacles, and we remembered it wasn't quite the dream season it might seem like now. We had to overcome things then, too, and I think that's helped."
After playing five games during a 17-day stretch, the Stallions have only one game this week, at home against New Albany on Thursday, May 2.
"That's just the way the schedule shook out, but (this week) will give us some time to learn and catch up on what we need to teach," Triplet said. "That doesn't always happen when you have a game every other day."
Track teams prep for league meet
The boys track and field team will seek its third CCL championship in four years when it participates in the league meet Monday, May 6, and Wednesday, May 8, at Columbus School for Girls.
Ian McCandlish will try to defend his title in the 800 meters, as will the 400 and 3,200 relays. McCandlish, Jonathan Pusateri and Caden Zellner were on the 3,200 relay last season and also helped the 1,600 relay to second place, and Jaylen Ball and Angelo Ricci are back from the 400 relay.
Ricci placed second in the long jump at last year's meet as DeSales scored 138 points to finish ahead of St. Charles (126), Hartley (113), Watterson (78) and Ready (33).
Each of the girls team's three individual champions at last year's meet graduated, and Lexi Hall, who was on the winning 400 relay, is out for the season with an injury. Hall also was third in the high jump and fourth in the 200, helping the Stallions to third place (107) behind Watterson (175.5) and Hartley (116) and ahead of Ready (47.5) and CSG (45).
DeSales' final competition before the league meet will be Friday, May 3, when it participates in the Larkin/Crosten Invitational at Thomas Worthington. The Larkin/Crosten is Upper Arlington's annual invitational, but the meet is being held at Thomas this season because of construction at UA.
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*May 3 -- Home vs. St. Charles. The Stallions defeated the Cardinals 8-4 on April 17.
*May 6 -- Home vs. Hartley. The Stallions defeated the Hawks 6-3 on April 24.
May 7 -- Home vs. Lakewood
May 2 -- Home vs. New Albany
May 7 -- At Olentangy Orange
*May 2 -- At Bexley
May 6 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
May 2 -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial
May 4 -- At Pickerington North
with Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph
May 9 -- Home vs. 10th-seeded Centennial or 11th-seeded Bexley in second round of Division II district tournament. The Stallions are seeded seventh.
May 2 -- Central Crossing at Woodward Park
May 4 -- Teays Valley Invitational
May 6 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*May 7 -- Ready at Westgate Park
TRACK & FIELD
May 3 -- Larkin/Crosten Invitational at Thomas Worthington
May 6, 8 -- CCL meet at Columbus School for Girls
May 4 -- At Delaware with New Albany
May 6 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
May 8 -- Home vs. Westerville Central