The Hilliard Darby baseball team had a season to remember in 2019.
The Panthers finished 24-8 overall, went 11-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to capture their fifth consecutive league championship and made a deep postseason run, winning their first regional title and reaching a Division I state semifinal before falling to eventual champion Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-3 in 13 innings.
While Darby had contributors up and down its roster, pitchers and outfielders Connor Maruniak and Andrew Patrick were two who stood out. Both said that the Panthers' attention to detail and emphasis on avoiding errors played a large role in the team's success.
"I think the biggest thing is the basics and getting the details down," said Maruniak, a 2020 graduate. "We really focused hard on details and the small things, because we realized that an error or not fielding a ball perfectly or not getting around the ball, that can change a game. That can make a big difference."
"We barely made errors," said Patrick, a rising senior. "We didn't give opposing teams many opportunities to score because of that, and I think that's why we were so successful."
Coach Mike Weer said Maruniak and Patrick's contributions, particularly on the mound, also were key factors for the Panthers, and both were expected to play major roles again this season until spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"Connor and Andrew were outstanding for us in 2019," Weer said. "Neither had any varsity experience heading into last season and both worked themselves into being two of our top three starting pitchers in 2019 and exceptional outfielders."
Last season, Maruniak, who throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and knuckleball, went 8-2 with a 1.52 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings and was named second-team all-league, while Patrick, whose repertoire consists of a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider/cutter, went 6-0 with one save, a 1.62 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings and made first-team all-district and second-team all-league.
"Both fit perfectly into what we try to do defensively and on the mound," Weer said. "They both can throw up to four different pitches consistently for strikes. They both can get the strikeout when needed, but are not afraid to let the defense make plays behind them."
Patrick also put together a productive season at the plate and on the basepaths last year, hitting .395 with 19 RBI, four triples, 23 runs scored and 23 stolen bases.
"I did so well last year because of my work ethic," Patrick said. "I hit almost every day, I try to throw whenever I can and I play the game to have fun. When I do that, I believe I'm very good."
Maruniak said belief in himself and his teammates facilitated the season he had on the mound.
"I just believe it comes down to confidence, confidence in your team and confidence in your pitching," said Maruniak, who plans to study finance at the University of Dayton. "I didn't go out there trying to blow it by anyone. I just knew that I could throw it to the spot I wanted to with all my pitches."
Weer believes this season also would have been special for the Panthers with Maruniak and Patrick helping to lead the way.
"We were so excited to have both of them back for 2020 and so disappointed to not have the opportunity to attempt another deep playoff run this season," Weer said. "We will miss Connor's competitiveness on the mound and his leadership by example. We are elated to have Andrew (coming) back and expect him, once again, to be one of the top baseball players in central Ohio for 2021."