Grandview Heights Roundup: Johnny Clark filling leadership role for Bobcats baseball team

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior Johnny Clark, an outfielder and pitcher, is playing a vital leadership role this season for a young Grandview Heights baseball team. “Johnny leads by example, and he’s always the hardest worker in the room,” coach Tyler Fitzgerald said.

Johnny Clark was used to blending into the crowd, but that has changed during his senior season with the Grandview Heights baseball team.

Clark is one of five seniors and one of two players with varsity experience entering the season. The other is junior outfielder/pitcher Jack Greer.

This season, Clark, an outfielder and pitcher, has had to shift gears and become the player who makes the plays instead of being the role player he was as a sophomore. And he has been forced to take on that new role after losing his junior year when the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“In the past, I didn’t have to be a leader,” he said. “There was always someone else. I was the guy on the side listening and following the directions. Now, I have to be the one to make the plays and keep everyone hyped up. This year, I have to do that for this team because I’m the leader.

“It’s becoming more natural now, but it was tough at first. … Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and do some things you wouldn’t normally do. If someone is down and they don’t look like they want to talk to you, you have to pat them on the back and tell them that they have to do their part.”

Although the Bobcats had a rough start, losing their first eight games and first five MSL-Ohio Division contests, Clark said it’s easier to put things into perspective after last spring.

“It’s a blessing in itself to be out there and just playing these games,” he said. “Everything was closed last year. I would throw with my dad and go out to Teays Valley to hit with my (TNT) club coach. I would have rather been out here with my friends.”

Coach Tyler Fitzgerald said Clark is everything a young team like the Bobcats needs to get on track.

“Johnny leads by example, and he’s always the hardest worker in the room,” Fitzgerald said. “He made himself a better baseball player through hard work.

“He worked really hard to improve his swing. In offseason workouts, he was always the first one there and the last to leave. I’d see him in the batting cage throughout the offseason, and he was hitting a lot off a tee. He kept playing with his club team and never took time off. He worked to make himself a better hitter.”

Through eight games, Clark was batting a team-high .391 with three RBI, five runs and a team-leading .500 on-base percentage. On the mound, he did not have a decision with a 1.31 ERA, six strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.

“Hitting is the strongest part of my game,” he said. “I battle up there when I’m at the plate. I’m an on-base guy who hits in the gaps. I have power but I’m not (2020 graduate) Joey Bertani, who was hitting seven bombs in a season. My job is to get on base and make things happen.”

As part of his maturation as a player, Clark is getting better at accepting that even .300 hitters still lose their individual battles with pitchers seven out of 10 times.

“It’s failure. That’s the hardest part of the game,” he said. “I’ve failed a lot in my career. Something I’ve been trying to improve on is dealing with that failure better. I’m not getting angry as much, but it’s not easy to fail. It’s not easy to cheer on your team when you struck out with the bases loaded.”

But Clark sees his team showing steady improvement. After losing their first two league contests to Columbus Academy 8-2 on April 5 and 11-0 in five innings April 7, the Bobcats dropped a pair of three-run contests to Worthington Christian, 6-3 on April 9 and 9-6 on April 13.

Grandview led 6-5 entering the bottom of the sixth at Buckeye Valley, but lost the MSL-Ohio game 11-6 on April 14.

“I think we’re getting better every game,” Clark said. “I think we’re just getting better and having fun. We’re looking like a ball team. We’ve been out a year, and it’s tough to come back with the players that we lost. We’re looking better and better every time we come out to the field.”

Boys tennis team

starts season at 5-1

The boys tennis team was 5-1 overall after defeating Whetstone 4-1 on April 14 and 1-1 in the MSL-Ohio after beating Worthington Christian 5-0 on April 13. The Bobcats won all of the matches against the Warriors in straight sets.

The lineup against Worthington Christian featured Max Lauer (first singles), Kieren Bode (second singles), Adam Narcelles (third singles), Connor Hayes and Tyler Schmied (first doubles) and Dominic Moretti and Hayden Roemer (second doubles).

“I think we’re probably a little deeper than we’ve been for the past couples of years, but not by much,” coach Kathy Kinnard said. “We’re not a Bexley or an Academy, but we’re stronger than we’ve been.”

The Bobcats lost 5-0 to Academy on April 6.

“We have some athletes, and that can make it easier to pick up tennis,” Kinnard said. “The kids don’t seem to be rattled when they’re in close matches like Bloom-Carroll (3-2 win March 31). They just keep playing and having fun.”

Denison Murphy won the 1,600 meters as the Bobcats boys team defeated Olentangy Berlin 85-52 on April 12.

Haj Abed leads boys

track team to dual win

Collin Haj Abed won two events to lead the boys track and field team past host Olentangy Berlin 85-52 on April 12.

The junior won the 110-meter hurdles (15.9 seconds) and the long jump (20 feet, 4 1/2 inches). 

Also winning events were Matthew Taylor in the shot put (45-2 1/2), Owen Billeter in the discus (121-5 1/2), Jason Reaser in the high jump (5-4), Tristin Pierce in the 200 (24.21), Derek Amicon in the 800 (2:00.15), Denison Murphy in the 1,600 (4:56.92) and Connor Dobies in the 300 hurdles (46.0).

A pair of distance runners led the way as the girls team defeated the Bears 76-60, with Madeline Palmisciano winning the 3,200 (12:24.78) and Greta Tew winning the 1,600 (6:01.68).

Other winners were Chai Dobbs-Euans in the discus (81-8), Tayler Pierce in the high jump (5-0), Hayley Cook in the 200 (29.11) and Eleanor Winemiller in the 300 hurdles (56.43).

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