Grandview Heights Roundup: Young Bobcats baseball team never backed down

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Jackson Larson (facing) led Grandview Heights in batting average (.440), home runs (1), RBI (22), runs (31), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.520) and slugging percentage (.607).

Coach Tyler Fitzgerald knew the hand he was dealt heading into his sixth year leading the  Grandview Heights baseball program.

The Bobcats were both inexperienced and young as they worked their way through a schedule of talented MSL-Ohio Division programs. They lost their first 11 contests but finished 8-18 overall, falling 3-2 at top-seeded Worthington Christian on May 19 in their Division III district tournament opener. Grandview lost to the Warriors 6-3 on April 9 and 9-6 on April 13 in league play.

Fitzgerald couldn’t be happier with the progress that he saw throughout the season.

“We started with pretty much a blank slate,” said Fitzgerald, whose team finished fifth (4-8) in the MSL-Ohio behind co-champions Buckeye Valley and Worthington Christian (both 11-1). “Losing a season (because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic) is tough for any team, but it was especially difficult for us. Coming into the season we had no one with more than 10 innings of varsity experience, so we were learning it on the fly and trying to figure things out.

“A lot of the guys that did play summer baseball after the spring season was canceled were freshmen and sophomores. I’m proud of the effort they put forth. They didn’t back down to the No. 1 seed. We played them three times and it was close all three times, but this was the best game.”

Jackson Larson pitched for the 16th-seeded Bobcats in the finale, giving up two earned runs in six innings with two strikeouts and one walk. The sophomore also went 2-for-3 with a walk.

Junior outfielder Max Mott drove in both runs with a pair of singles. He knocked in freshman shortstop Charlie Ticknor in the third inning and freshman third baseman Graham Nelson in the seventh.

“Jackson really carried us out there,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a game-changer. He can give you a shot against any team, and he definitely did that (in the district opener). He led by example and in pretty much every statistical category.”

Larson (honorable mention all-district and all-league) led Grandview in batting average (.440), home runs (1), RBI (22), runs (31), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.520) and slugging percentage (.607). He also was 3-5 with a 2.85 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 20 walks in 39 1/3 innings.

The Bobcats had three seniors in Johnny Clark (OF), Brendan Cleary (2B) and Jake Zimmerman (P/DH). 

Clark, a first-team all-league selection who has committed to Capital, batted .329 with 17 RBI, 17 runs and seven stolen bases. Cleary hit .241 with 11 RBI and nine runs.

Zimmerman, who will play football at Ohio Northern, was 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 25 walks in 27 2/3 innings.

“The seniors helped with our attitude, and they really knew baseball and baseball etiquette,” Larson said. “They helped all of the underclassmen.”

Fitzgerald said the senior class was important to a young lineup.

“I challenged the boys to peak at the right time, and the seniors were the glue that helped keep these guys together,” he said. “It’s always tough to be part of a rebuild, especially for seniors. The record wasn’t what we would have wanted, but I went to the ball field excited to coach these kids and have a positive atmosphere. They all kept fighting despite the setbacks.”

Junior Jack Greer (P/OF) was 2-6 with a 3.87 ERA, 39 strikeouts and 19 walks in 38 innings.

Mott had a .301 batting average with 17 RBI and 10 runs, and Ticknor hit .239 with eight RBI, 20 runs and seven stolen bases. Freshman William Halberg (1B) hit .239 with 20 RBI, 16 runs and six stolen bases, and sophomore catcher Jacob Larson, Jackson’s brother, batted .208 with eight RBI and six runs.

Grandview's Jillian Curfman and Greta Tew compete in the 1,600 earlier this season. Tew was among the Bobcats who advanced to the Division III regional May 26 and 28 at Chillicothe Southeastern.

Boys track team

wins district title

Collin Haj Abed won three individual events and was on a second-place relay to help lead the boys track and field team to a first-place finish in the Division III district meet that concluded May 22 at Granville.

Haj Abed won the long jump (21 feet, 10 inches), the 110-meter hurdles (15.82 seconds) and the 300 hurdles (41.19) as the top four finishers in each event advanced to the regional May 26 and 28 at Chillicothe Southeastern. 

The top four in each regional event advanced to the state meet June 4 and 5 at Westerville North.

Haj Abed joined Tristin Pierce, Henry Murphy and P.J. Tingler on the runner-up 400 relay (45.35) to help the Bobcats total 118.5 points, finishing ahead of second-place Mount Gilead (74) as 19 teams scored.

Derek Amicon won the 800 (1:59.85) and 1,600 (4:28.68) and was on the first-place 3,200 relay (8:16.32) with Denison Murphy, Riley Oller and Adam Bechtel. He also joined Tingler, Bechtel and Pierce on the winning 1,600 relay (3:32.15).

Connor McCormick won the pole vault (14-0), Owen Billiter placed fourth in the discus (131-7) and Matthew Taylor was fourth in the shot put (41-4 3/4).

For the girls team, Tayler Pierce won the high jump (5-4) and Chai Dobbs-Euans was fourth (4-9) as the Bobcats finished third (106) of 13 teams behind Mount Gilead (135) and Liberty Union (108) in the district 2 meet.

Sophie Andrew was runner-up in the pole vault (8-4), and Abbie Baxter was second in the 400 (1:04.63). Hannah Yochem placed second in the 300 hurdles (49.52) and was on the champion 1,600 relay (4:18.33) with Hayley Cook, Baxter and Tia Thomas. 

Yochem also was on the runner-up 3,200 relay (10:19.93) with Baxter, Greta Tew and Madeline Palmisciano, who was third in the 1,600 (5:24.96) and 3,200 (11:57.77). The 400 relay of Cook, Lucia Mastroianni, Zoey Miller and Pierce placed second (52.97).

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BASEBALL

Record: 8-18 overall

MSL-Ohio standings: Buckeye Valley and Worthington Christian (11-1), Bexley (8-4), Columbus Academy (5-6), Grandview (4-8), Whitehall (2-9), Wellington (0-12)

Seniors lost: Johnny Clark, Brendan Cleary, and Jake Zimmerman

Key returnees: Jack Greer, William Halberg, Jackson Larson, Jacob Larson, Max Mott and Charlie Ticknor

Postseason: Lost to Worthington Christian 3-2 in second round of Division III district tournament