Columbus Academy Roundup: Vikings baseball team not using small roster as excuse

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Brady Hess delivers a pitch during Columbus Academy's 8-2 season-opening win over Grandview on April 5. The senior is expected to be the ace for the Vikings, whose roster features only 12 players this spring.

The Columbus Academy baseball team began the season trying to overcome the unfamiliar obstacle of having a limited roster. 

Sixth-year coach Todd Dunkle said the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is one reason behind the Vikings’ lack of numbers. However, he believes they still can obtain their objectives. 

With just 12 players in the program, Academy will not field a junior varsity team this spring. The Vikings also had to cancel five games during the second week of spring break because of a lack of players. 

None of the issues stopped Academy from winning its opener 8-2 over Grandview in an MSL-Ohio Division contest April 5 at home. 

“We’re young, but we have some guys who can throw the ball,” Dunkle said. “We have some decent arms and we’re going to be patient. We can’t afford injuries. We haven’t changed our goals. We haven’t changed our mentality. We’re going to throw strikes and we’re going to be aggressive. We want to win the league and play in a district final.” 

Dunkle expects Buckeye Valley and Worthington Christian to be two of the teams to beat in the league.

“Buckeye Valley is going to be strong,” he said. “Worthington Christian is going to have a decent team. Buckeye Valley should be the strongest, but everybody else you can throw them in a hat. We’re going to be in the mix.” 

The Vikings return seven players from the 2019 team that finished 13-12. 

Dunkle expects senior Brady Hess (P/INF) to emerge as the ace of the pitching staff. He earned the win in the opener, pitching the first 5 2/3 innings. 

“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing,” said Hess, who was honorable mention all-league as a sophomore. “It’s huge to get off to a good start. We have a lot of young guys on the team. (There’s) a little bit of inexperience but getting the first win, especially against a league opponent, is huge. ... Low numbers doesn’t mean we’re not competing for the league or district, so we’ll keep going with that.” 

Also back are seniors Finn Cassady (OF/INF), Keir Gorospe (OF) and Jacob Podgurski (P/INF) and juniors Tanner Compton (P/OF/INF), Jonathan Hill (C/P/OF/INF) and Carter James (OF/INF). 

James missed the start of the season as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered during football. Dunkle hopes he will return near the end of the season. 

Sophomore left-hander Dylan Ritzenthaler (P/OF/1B) should complement Hess on the mound, according to Dunkle. 

Sophomore Luke Boltz (P/OF/INF) and freshmen Carson James (OF/INF), Scott Rogers (OF/INF) and Peter Tsung (P/C/INF) also are looking to contribute. 

“I don’t think COVID helped us out,” Dunkle said. “We had a decent freshman class last year that I thought was going to help. We had eight guys who came out as freshmen and only (Boltz and Ritzenthaler) returned.” 

BASEBALL 

Coach: Todd Dunkle, sixth season 

Next game: April 15 vs. Watterson 

Key athletes: Finn Cassady, Tanner Compton, Brady Hess, Jacob Podgurski and Dylan Ritzenthaler 

Boys tennis team

seeks titles 

The boys tennis team again has its sights set on league and state team tournament titles. 

The top returnees are seniors Jack Madison and Arie Tuckerman, who lost to former teammates Suriya Sundaram and Rhian Seneviratne 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the Division II state doubles final in 2019. 

Madison, Tuckerman and junior Ryan Panley should play singles during the regular season, with Madison and Tuckerman expected to again play doubles in the postseason. 

“They have some work to do to maintain that level and get back to where they were,” third-year coach Marc Wurtzman said of Madison and Tuckerman. “Their plan is to go after sectional and district and try to get back to the state.” 

Senior Lucas Huang, juniors Sidd Amirneni, Jake Stouffer and Jaswanth Vandrasi, sophomores Saagar Arya, Stefan Li and Cory Wu and freshman Vincent Sommer are competing for doubles spots. 

“The seniors are excited that we’re having a season,” Wurtzman said. “My one freshman and the sophomores have zero varsity experience, so we have a pretty young team. We’re playing for the future. The future is pretty bright at Academy.” 

The Vikings went 5-0 in the MSL-Ohio in 2019 to win the league title ahead of Wellington (4-1). But they lost to Wellington 3-0 in a Division II Ohio Tennis Coaches Association district final, and the Jaguars went on to win their second consecutive state title. 

Academy will compete in a four-team OTCA district tournament, with its semifinal match against West Jefferson to be held on a date to be determined. Bexley and Wellington will meet in the other semifinal, and the district champion advances to the state tournament. 

“We’re a very deep team,” Wurtzman said. “I really like our whole team. We’re going to work our tails off and give our best effort against Wellington if we’re fortunate enough to make it against them.”

BOYS TENNIS 

Coach: Marc Wurtzman, third season 

Next match: April 16 vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier 

Key athletes: Jack Madison, Ryan Panley and Arie Tuckerman

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank