After a 5-2 loss to Upper Arlington in a Division I regional semifinal May 30 at Dublin Coffman, New Albany High School baseball coach Dave Starling summarized the day in one sentence as he chatted with a friend.
"We picked a bad day to have a bad day," Starling said. "We have not had this many called third strikes in a game all season, so (UA pitcher Charlie Fleming) was doing something right. He was locking us up and had us off-balance. It's not fun trying to play catch-up. They were better than us. It's the way it is."
New Albany, which finished 27-2 overall, was ranked fourth in the final state poll and was appearing in its second consecutive regional, was held to four hits. The Eagles scored in the fourth inning on junior second baseman Jimmy Stevens' ground-rule double and again in the seventh on two errors, but UA scored twice in the third and twice in the fourth to chase previously undefeated pitcher Jack Sokol from the game.
Sokol, a junior and Purdue commit, allowed seven hits in four innings, striking out five and walking two. He was 8-0 coming into the game and 18-0 in his varsity career, according to Starling, and finished the season with 76 strikeouts and 35 walks in 60 1/3 innings. Sokol had a 0.87 ERA coming into the game and was named OCC-Capital Division Player of the Year and first-team all-district.
Stevens (.435, 37 hits, 13 RBI) and senior catcher Ethan Swincicki (.410, 34 hits, 38 RBI, 2 home runs) were named first-team all-league and all-district. Senior shortstop Nick Shroyer (.354, 28 hits, 13 RBI), junior outfielder Spencer Tammaro (.368, 27 hits, 14 RBI), senior Parker Thompson (3B) and junior pitcher Mike Sokol (7-0, 0.55 ERA, 44 strikeouts, 26 walks, 38 1/3 innings) were second-team all-league, senior Austin Erdely (P) was special mention all-league and senior Vaughn Hoff (P) was honorable mention all-league.
Tammaro was second-team all-district, and Thompson was honorable mention all-district.
Hoff recorded seven saves with a 0.89 ERA, 10 strikeouts and no walks.
Sophomore Brock Tibbitts (OF) batted .308 with 20 hits, three home runs and 17 RBI.
Erdely is an Indianapolis recruit. Mike Sokol has committed to Miami University.
New Albany went 14-1 in the OCC-Capital to win the league championship by four games ahead of runner-up Groveport (10-5), the only team to which it lost in the regular season. The Eagles also were voted the top seed for the 48-team district tournament.
"The culture around New Albany baseball is pretty solid," Starling said. "Everyone around this program expects to be successful. There are more good times ahead. We got two of our three goals we wanted to get this year (the league championship and a district title) and we wanted to get to the state final four. We just fell short of that. But it was a good year."
Relay leads boys track team at state
With three seniors and a freshman, the boys track and field team's 400-meter relay finished fifth (42.53 seconds) in the Division I state meet that concluded June 1 at Ohio State.
Seniors Michiah Burton, Alex Cox and Drew Watson and freshman Julian Meacham-Dean comprised the relay, which ran 43 seconds or better throughout the final month of the season.
"We feel really good. It's been a long ride," Cox said. "At the beginning of the year we were running 44s and now we're down to 42. There's been a lot of improvement and work to get to this point. (Meacham-Dean) has really stepped up and I'm really proud of him."
The relay scored all of New Albany's four points as the Eagles tied for 48th behind champion Pickerington Central (87) as 78 teams scored.
Junior Henry Zimmerman finished 10th in the discus (159 feet, 10 inches). That was 4-7 shorter than his regional championship throw May 22 at Pickerington North.
"Henry was a little off his performance the past few weeks, but he had a great season," coach Greg Flecher said. "His PR is a 172, so if he comes close to that he's in the finals and places pretty well. It's a little disappointing to not make the finals, but it was a great experience."
The 400 relay was coming off a third-place finish (42.52) at regional, where Burton also was 11th in the 100 (11.43).
Competing at regional but failing to advance for the girls team were junior Nicole Stewart in the 100 (fifth, 12.65), the 3,200 relay of juniors Mia Lachey and Lindsey Neff, sophomore Kiara Crumbley and freshman Sammie Sika (13th, 10:07.84) and Sika in the 3,200 (13th, 12:18.76).
Boys tennis coach reflects on season
After the boys tennis team finished third in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state tournament May 26 at Elysium Tennis Center, coach Marc Thomas reflected more on the legacy left by his seniors than any disappointment in falling short of first place.
New Albany went 16-2 overall, losing to Mason 3-1 in a semifinal before beating Findlay 4-0 in the third-place match. The Eagles had been state runners-up each of the previous two seasons and finished third in 2016.
"This is the most successful team in not just New Albany tennis history but one of the best teams in New Albany history," Thomas said. "Before these seniors got here, we were still trying to make the (OTCA) final four. This team has done that four straight times. We have two (individual) state titles. We've done things that by anyone's standards have made for an incredible four-year run. The guys coming in next year are going to have a lot to live up to. This class put New Albany tennis where it is and we want to keep that going into the future."
Ohio State recruit Robert Cash gave the Eagles their only win against the Comets, beating Niraj Komatineni 6-1, 6-1. Komatineni had won the Division I individual singles championship the previous day.
Against the Trojans, Army recruit Nathan Jose beat Drew Swisher 6-0, 6-1 at first singles, sophomore Ryan Mudre shut out Mac Robertson 6-0, 6-0 at second singles, the first doubles team of senior Logan Spiess and junior Alek Jacoby swept Andrew Gilgen and Logan Tichenor 6-4, 6-2 and seniors Dev Vasani and Ben Yan topped Blake Gray and Kevin Kuhn 6-1, 6-4 at second doubles.
Jose and sophomore Devin Boyer were coming off a third-place finish in the Division I individual state tournament the day before at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason. They went 3-1, defeating Cincinnati Sycamore's Matt Bolger and Samuel Marcus 7-6, 7-5 in the third-place match after losing to Mason's Anish Gangavaram and Vignesh Gogineni 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a semifinal.
Boyer and Jose were seeking their second consecutive doubles title.
"We put our best effort out there but sometimes our best isn't enough, but I'm really happy for what we've accomplished this year and over the past four years. It's bittersweet," Jose said. "Everybody at the state tournament is good. Everybody can hit the ball well. We knew that going in. We just had to grind out and see what happened."
Sophomore Ryan Mudre went 0-1 in singles, lost to Hunting Valley University School's Chas Norman 6-1, 6-3 in the first round.
Junior Alek Jacoby also is expected back for the Eagles, who went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital to win their 13th consecutive league championship.
"(Boyer, Jacoby and Mudre) will be huge for us," Thomas said. "We have pieces coming back where we're just going to have to meet together and figure out what we'll do for next season. Some guys will have step up and fill some pretty big shoes."