Notebook: Balance fuels Canal Winchester Indians baseball team's early success

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Canal Winchester sophomore Joey Helms was 4-0 as the baseball team was 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Franklin Heights on April 22.

Any concerns Canal Winchester baseball coach Drew Dosch had regarding his team’s lack of varsity experience entering this season quickly were quelled, perhaps faster than he expected.

Led by both a deep lineup and solid starting pitching, the Indians were 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Franklin Heights on April 22.

Canal Winchester averaged 8.6 runs and 9.9 hits in its first 13 games.

“One of our biggest concerns was a lack of experience and how they’d build themselves and handle adversity,” Dosch said. “We’ve had so many guys step up in so many different roles.

“We didn’t know what we had from a starting pitching perspective. Only one guy had ever had any varsity experience pitching and now we’re rolling five, six and seven guys out there that we feel give us a chance to compete and win. When you go that deep on the mound, that’s a pretty good feeling.”

Sophomore Joey Helms started 4-0 on the mound, success Dosch attributed to an effective fastball that reaches the mid-80s as well as an array of offspeed pitches. Helms struck out 29 and walked eight in his first 19 innings.

Matthew Davis was batting .452 with 19 hits through 13 games, ahead of Zade Fusselman (.405, 17 hits, 1 home run) and Kollin Trace (.364, 16 hits).

A stretch of seven scheduled league games in eight contests continues through May 5.

The Indians’ non-league schedule included early games against Upper Arlington, a Division I regional runner-up in 2019, as well as two other district champions from 2019 in Lancaster and New Albany. 

Canal Winchester defeated Lancaster 5-3 on April 3, fell to UA 6-1 on April 5 and lost 5-2 to New Albany, a former OCC-Capital rival, on April 20.

“It’s imperative that we continue to build on what we’ve started,” Dosch said. “You want to put people in positions where they can be successful and help the team. We want to roll a lineup out there with guys in position to be successful and it’s been a good evaluation so far.”

•Tyler McKee threw the Groveport Madison baseball team’s first no-hitter in more than eight years April 17 in a 12-0, five-inning non-league win over Franklin Heights.

McKee struck out seven, throwing 40 of his 48 pitches for strikes, and at the plate tripled and had four RBI.

The Cruisers’ most recent no-hitter had been thrown by Collin Bobo on April 6, 2013, against Brookhaven. Bobo, who was a freshman at the time, went on to play at Miami-Hamilton.

“It was a thrill,” coach Chris McKee said. “He was very intent on commanding the zone. He had a string of 21 straight strikes. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Groveport was 3-9 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Pickerington Central on April 23.

Groveport's Amara Towns was part of the second-place 800 relay and the third-place 400 relay April 10 at Pickerington North's Stingel Invitational.

Canal Winchester’s boys track and field team will try to defend its title at the annual Milt Will Invitational on April 29.

Groveport also is in the eight-team field that is rounded out by Columbus Academy, Fairfield Union, New Albany, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg.

Top performances this season so far for the Indians have included Penn State-recruit Korbin Martino’s win in the 400 meters April 10 at North’s Stingel Invitational, in which his meet-record time of 47.31 seconds easily dashed the meet’s previous mark of 48.72. He also set a school record of 21.35 in the 200 during an April 20 meet against Central and Reynoldsburg, a time that ranks first in the state.

High-jumper Harris Musungu had the Groveport boys team’s best finishes in its first two invitationals, placing second in the season-opening Newark Invitational on April 3 (5-8) and again in the Stingel Invitational (6-0). He also went 19-7 in the long jump in a quad April 16 at Bloom-Carroll to finish first.

The girls 800 relay of Emani Anthony, Zimmari Lilly, Chenise Smith and Amara Towns ran a season-best time of 1:49.76 to finish second in the Stingel Invitational. Their 400 relay of Anthony, Braylan James, Lilly and Towns ran its best time of 52.06 that day, placing third.

•Shawn Cassady was named Canal Winchester’s wrestling coach April 19, four weeks after coaching the program’s first state champion at any level.

Cassady, who had been Canal Winchester Middle School’s coach since 2017 and wrestled at Gahanna and Heidelberg, succeeds Harrison Rosch. Rosch resigned after four seasons.

“I’m so excited to take this program over. It’s been in great hands the last four years and I’m proud that I was a part of it with the middle school,” Cassady said. “I’m looking forward to getting started, finding coaches and getting the kids working out.”

Eighth-grader Izzy Jackson won the 175-pound championship in the Ohio Athletic Committee state tournament at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown on March 21.

Cassady also coaches baseball and football at the middle school.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave