Senior and Ohio Northern commit Noah Truax was feeling ready for his biggest role yet with the Watterson baseball team before the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Last season, he hit .329 with 14 RBI and went 3-0 on the mound with a 0.22 ERA and was named first-team all-CCL as the Eagles finished 21-7, shared the league title and reached a Division II district final before losing to Granville 7-4.
In the Eagles' CCL finale a year ago, Truax went 1-for-2 with an RBI and pitched a six-hitter with six strikeouts in a 5-0 win over Hartley. The victory earned Watterson a share of the league championship with the Hawks.
His next start didn't come until the district final. Truax allowed two hits and no earned runs in five innings. Watterson led 2-1 when he left the game, but the Eagles' bullpen wasn't able to close out the win.
Watterson lost two of its top pitchers from last season to graduation in Ashland recruit Drake McAninch and Walsh recruit Stephen Garrett.
"(The coaches) had me start a few games last year (and) I started in our district final game," said Truax, a Lewis Center resident. "We lost our top two pitchers, Drake McAninch and Stephen Garrett, so I was probably going to be the ace this year. My strength this year was going to be pitching, but last year a lot of it was hitting and fielding. I definitely helped with the pitching aspect, like with our Hartley game and in our district final game."
Like last year, Truax was expected to start at shortstop this season when he wasn't pitching.
"He was going to be right in the middle of our lineup again," said first-year coach Jeff Boulware, a 1998 Watterson graduate who replaced longtime coach Scott Manahan during the offseason. "It's just a real shame. He's one of the hardest-working kids I've ever been around and I just feel really bad for him. Noah was really looking forward to this season."
Truax went 4-0 with a 3.16 ERA as a sophomore when the Eagles lost to Lakewood 2-0 in a district final to finish 18-10 and played junior varsity as a freshman before making varsity as a sophomore.
"I have a lot of (equipment) in my basement and I'm lucky enough to have a lot of stuff so I've just been lifting and going outside," Truax said. "I go to this barn that my buddy owns twice a week. I can hit, I can pitch and I can do everything except for the whole team aspect. I've been trying to stay busy.
"I was super excited for this year. I thought this year was probably going to be one of the most fun years. I was voted captain and it was our senior season and I felt like I was feeling the most confident and that I'm at a peak as a high school athlete."
Truax, who plans to study nursing in college, has turned his focus to preparing to play for Ohio Northern. The Polar Bears are coached by Gene Stechschulte, who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2000-02 and has headed the program since 2012.
Will Davis, a 2017 Watterson graduate, also plays for Ohio Northern.
"They came to see me play a few games, I went to their camp and they offered me a spot," Truax said. "Gene Stechschulte played in the majors and almost every year he's had a winning record as a head coach, so I think that's pretty impressive. They recruited me as a dual-position player, but told me I'd probably be pitching more. Now that the NCAA said (this year's) seniors can have another year of eligibility, I'll probably be playing even less infield. They told me I'd be pitching more at the start.
"Right now, there is a really good reason to go into nursing, but I've always wanted to do something in the medical field and wasn't sure what. I've always been into helping people and when people have injuries, what you do to help them."