Joey Bertani was an imposing figure when he stepped to the plate for the Grandview Heights baseball team, and the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior first baseman put up the numbers to match.

Bertani was looking to improve on a 2019 season in which he led the Bobcats in batting average (.511), home runs (3), RBI (44), doubles (10) and slugging percentage (.739). However, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the spring sports season.

Last fall for the football team, Bertani was named first-team all-state and all-district in Division VI as a defensive lineman and earned MSL-Ohio Division Lineman of the Year honors. He missed his chance to be all-state in two sports as a senior, but he's excited to turn the page and prepare to play baseball at Ashland University.

"Ashland has a great baseball program and I knew they could help me develop as a player," he said. "I'm hitting off tees at home and lifting weights and doing band exercises for my arm. Ashland wants me primarily as a first baseman, but I'm up for any place I can get on the field to play."

Playing on the offensive and defensive lines helped his mental approach in baseball, said Bertani, who had a team-leading 89 tackles, including eight for loss, last fall. He also had seven sacks, one interception, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles, helping the Bobcats go 7-5 and reach the Region 24 playoffs.

"You don't need lineman strength to be a baseball player, but baseball is a mental game," he said. "Being a lineman you have to do all of the dirty work and you learn how to grind and persevere.

"Whenever you make an out in baseball, you have to get past it. In football, if you miss a block you have to look to the next play. You have to stay calm and collected in both sports."

Baseball coach Tyler Fitzgerald said Bertani is the total package.

"Joey is a disciplined hitter and uses all parts of the field," Fitzgerald said. "As a right-handed hitter, he can spray the outside pitch into the right-center-field gap. When he makes contact, it always seems to be on the barrel.

"He's not just a good hitter. He has great hands. The fielders knew that if they threw anywhere close, Joey would get it (at first base). The pitchers were also able to hold runners because they knew they would not give up a base on a pickoff attempt."

Bertani helped the Bobcats finish 19-8 overall last season and place second (6-2) in the MSL-Ohio behind Bexley (7-1).

As a sophomore, Bertani was second-team all-district and league Player of the Year, putting up impressive numbers at the plate and on the mound. He led the Bobcats in batting average (.443), home runs (3), RBI (23), doubles (14) and on-base percentage (.510) and was 1-3 with a 1.09 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 13 walks in 32 innings.

Bertani did not pitch as a junior because of an injury to his right shoulder, but he continued to improve his game.

"I always knew that hard work would pay off," he said. "I have been hitting the ball farther and farther with weight training and that has increased the speed of my swing.

"Hitting is really timing, and your swing path helps. You need to know your swing."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen