Watterson Roundup: Young Eagles baseball team ‘ready to compete’

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Watterson's Max McCann slides safely into third base during a game against Olentangy Berlin on April 13. McCann, a senior, said he likes the way the Eagles have been battling opponents, proving they're "ready to compete in big games."

Leading by two runs but looking for more in the eighth inning at Columbus Academy, the Watterson baseball team executed a double steal that included Noah Gruver stealing home. 

The 11-9 win April 15 was an example of the moxie that senior Max McCann believes can be a part of the team’s story going forward. 

The Eagles lost four one-run games in the season’s first three weeks, with the win over the Vikings coming between two of those defeats. 

“We’re pretty young,” McCann said. “We’ve got a few senior leaders like myself and a couple other guys. Every day is a new learning experience, like (against Academy) where we had a lot of mistakes, but we’re going to come back tomorrow. We showed our fight and how we’re ready to compete in big games, and it’s exciting. Against big-time teams, it’ll be nice for us to have the competitive edge.” 

After falling 3-0 to Hartley on April 19 in its CCL opener, Watterson was 5-5. 

McCann, who plays first base and outfield and bats third, has been among the team’s top hitters along with senior infielder Noah Grayem and sophomore center fielder Charlie Bernotas. 

Also a football and basketball player for the Eagles, Bernotas was set to be a starter as a freshman last spring before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

He had two hits, one walk and one RBI against Academy and then walked twice April 17 as Watterson lost to Thomas Worthington 2-1. 

“Last year I made varsity and had a few practices, but we had no scrimmages and then (the season) ended,” Bernotas said. “This year, being a returning varsity guy but not playing any games is like starting out new and not knowing what to do. Guys like Max and Noah Gruver and Noah Grayem have helped me and the other guys know how to play the sport. We just have to never give up and always battle back.” 

Another newcomer, freshman A.J. McAninch, pitched six innings and struck out six against Thomas. 

Then against Hartley, Gruver gave up two runs over six innings but the Eagles were limited to three hits. 

The rematch with Hartley is April 30 on the road. 

According to first-year coach Jeff Boulware, juniors Jack Byrne (2B/OF) and Matthew Monesi (1B/P) and freshman Nick Kudicka (P) also have been bright spots. 

Junior Dominic Orsini (OF/P) has missed time with an injury but is expected to provide depth once he’s able to play regularly. 

“This group competes like crazy,” Boulware said. “I love this team because they never give up. We find ways to make games interesting, that’s for sure. 

“We’ve got a lot of talent, but we’ve got a lot of growth to make. We make some silly plays, but offensively we’re a good team. Our pitchers need to throw more strikes. Defensively, the strength is in the outfield. But I like this team.” 

Dominic Contini and Watterson split their first four CCL matches, with both wins coming against Hartley. The Eagles beat the Hawks 16-25, 14-25, 25-6, 25-21, 15-13 on April 8 and 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21 on April 20.

Volleyball team  

leaning on Maziarz 

Boys volleyball coach Ryan Thompson wasn’t sure what to expect this spring considering the only player with any previous varsity experience was senior setter Jake Maziarz. 

There are 10 players in the program, but five are in their first season playing the sport. 

The Eagles were 2-2 in the CCL after beating Hartley 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21 on April 20 and 3-5 overall before facing Hilliard Bradley on April 21. 

On April 8, Watterson earned its first CCL victory by beating Hartley 16-25, 14-25, 25-6, 25-21, 15-13. Hartley has a team for the first time since the mid-1990s. 

“We need a lot of work on some of the basics like serve-receive, ... and reducing offensive errors is another big area of focus,” Thompson said. “We didn’t realize coming into the season that it was going to be an issue, but every team is different – every year is different – and with a whole new cast of players other than Jake, it caught us by surprise, so that’s been our other big focus when we’re not playing games.” 

According to Thompson, senior middle hitter/outside hitter Nick Whitsett has stepped up during his first season after previously being a part of the baseball program to join Maziarz as one of the Eagles’ top players. 

“Even as a freshman and sophomore setter, (Maziarz) was a leader then, too,” Thompson said. “Now he’s doing a phenomenal job. With some of the older guys being more aggressively minded, he’s keeping everybody on the same path. 

“(Whitsett) has a real high kill percentage so his efficiency is doing really well. He jumped over from baseball and has got a heck of an arm. We’re trying to take advantage of it, trying to teach him the ropes of volleyball and how to turn a baseball mindset into a volleyball one as quickly as we can.” 

Track teams building 

for postseason 

The boys and girls track and field teams are gearing up for the CCL meet May 10 and 12 at DeSales. 

On April 17, the program competed in the 10-team Hank Smith Invitational at Heath, with the girls scoring 192 points to capture the championship and the boys tying Mount Vernon for the title with 141.5 points. 

The girls took the top two spots in three events, with senior Anna Kessler finishing first (12.27 seconds) and senior Cailin O’Reilly second (12.98) in the 100 meters, Kessler placing first (25.82) and sophomore Sydney Workman second (26.49) in the 200 and sophomore Erin Karas finishing first (11:51.19) and junior Leah Hetteberg second (12:19.72) in the 3,200. 

Also winning were senior Grace Jenkins in the 400 (58.64), senior Brooklyn Brush in the 800 (2:28.68), Karas in the 1,600 (5:21.14), senior Erin Connors in the 100 hurdles (15.89) and 300 hurdles (46.08) and the 400 relay (49.78), 800 relay (1:48.09), 1,600 relay (4:11.48) and 3,200 relay (10:10.2). Others placing second were O’Reilly in the high jump (4 feet, 10 inches) and sophomore Hannah Brady in the long jump (15-9 1/2). 

Leading the boys was senior Will Garey, who won the 800 (2:00.44) and 1,600 (4:29.51). 

Also winning were senior Tyler Young in the 200 (23.25), junior Max Latshaw in the 3,200 (9:53.33), the 400 relay (45.72) and the 3,200 relay (8:20.46). Placing second were senior Nick Youell in the 400 (53.01), senior Cam Nickleson in the shot put (44-10 3/4) and Young in the long jump (20-2). 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek