Baseball: Hilliard Darby Panthers eager to get back on road to state

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Coach Mike Weer guided Darby to the state tournament in his first season in 2019. The Panthers have one returning starter from that team in senior shortstop/pitcher Andrew Patrick.

Coming off its first state tournament appearance in 2019, the Hilliard Darby baseball team had a long wait to begin the pursuit of a return trip when the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

Second-year coach Mike Weer believes his team has the potential to again contend for a spot among the final four teams in the state. 

“It was a long wait,” said Weer, whose team lost 4-3 in 13 innings in a 2019 state semifinal to eventual champion Cleveland St. Ignatius. “It was 21 months between outdoor practices. The last time we practiced was getting ready for the state semifinal.” 

Darby opened 1-2, with the victory a 6-3 decision over Wheelersburg on March 27 in Chillicothe. 

The Panthers – who lost 12-7 to Upper Arlington on March 30 and 3-2 to Watterson on March 29 – begin their OCC-Cardinal Division schedule April 12 against visiting Marysville. 

Darby is seeking its sixth consecutive league title, and other teams in the revamped OCC-Cardinal are Dublin Jerome, Olentangy, Olentangy Berlin and Thomas Worthington. 

“There’s no days off in our league,” Weer said. “The league will be extremely competitive.” 

Senior Andrew Patrick (SS/P) is the only returning starter back from the 2019 team that finished 24-8 overall. 

As a sophomore, Patrick hit .395 with 19 RBI, four triples, 23 runs and 23 stolen bases and was 6-0 on the mound with one save and a 1.62 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. He was named first-team all-district and second-team all-league. 

Patrick has committed to Wright State. 

Also back are seniors Alex Chawla (P/OF) and Jake Swartzmiller (1B). Other potential starters include seniors Corwin Allen (OF), Peyton Rife (1B), Carson Schneider (1B) and Rhys Weer (3B), juniors Nate Burdick (OF), Casey Maruniak (3B), Jameson O’Flynn (2B), Riley Sims (P/INF) and Matt Spencer (CF) and sophomores Cam Gilkerson (1B/OF), Luke Manche (3B) and Max Mullen (OF).  

“The exciting part is we have a lot of players who are competing, and the jobs are open,” Weer said. “It’s not like where we have a lot of returning players.” 

INSIDE THE PANTHERS 

•Coach: Mike Weer, second season 

•Next game: April 9 at Mount Vernon 

•Key athletes: Alex Chawla, Cam Gilkerson, Casey Maruniak, Andrew Patrick and Jake Swartzmiller 

Davidson coach 

likes team’s depth 

Davidson is looking to rebound from an 8-18 season in 2019, and seventh-year coach Justin Swallie believes depth and a solid pitching staff will be keys for his team. 

“We have a lot of good pitching,” Swallie said. “Our pitching depth is the best that it’s been in a while. We have a lot of guys who we can throw out there and give us a pretty good chance to win and compete in our league.” 

Senior Kyle Pepera (P/INF) is the only returning starter, and Swallie expects seniors Kevin Roberts (P/3B/DH) and Mitchell Steele (1B/OF/P) and junior Brady Boltinghouse (1B/P) to be other key members of the pitching staff. 

Senior Cam Colman is starting at third base early in the season, with Steele at first base, senior Ben Curry at second base, junior Nicolas Vertikoff at shortstop and junior Blake Pettit behind the plate. 

Seniors Austin Lippolis, Enzo Nieves and Connor Prince started the season in the outfield. 

“We have guys who can play,” Swallie said. “It’s just a matter of gaining that experience.” 

The Wildcats opened by beating Chillicothe 13-1 in five innings March 29 and losing 7-2 to Grove City on March 30. 

Davidson begins OCC-Central play April 12 at Olentangy Orange, and the league also includes Dublin Coffman, Bradley, Olentangy Liberty and Upper Arlington. 

“The league that we’re in, it’s going to be a challenge,” Swallie said. “We picked up Liberty and Orange. We still have Coffman and UA and we have Bradley. We play those teams 15 times. You have to be ready. We can’t have days off.” 

INSIDE THE WILDCATS 

•Coach: Justin Swallie, seventh season 

•Next game: April 8 vs. Dublin Scioto 

•Key athletes: Cam Colman, Kyle Pepera, Kevin Roberts and Mitchell Steele 

–Frank DiRenna

Injuries mount early

in season for Jaguars

Bradley has had to deal with numerous injuries, leaving a young group even younger.

The only varsity starter returning from 2019 was slated to be senior pitcher Caleb Jenkins, who was 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA, 23 strikeouts and 14 walks in 28 innings as a sophomore. However, Jenkins will miss this season on the mound after suffering a torn labrum in his pitching (right) shoulder. He also broke the hamate bone in the wrist joint of his glove hand at shortstop during a scrimmage, likely ending his season in the field as well.

Senior second baseman Ryan Duckworth, an Ohio Wesleyan recruit, might miss the season as well with a shoulder injury

“We had things figured out, but our depth chart has been looking a little different after some injuries,” said first-year coach coach Xander Uxley, who was an assistant under coach Nate Hillery in both of his seasons leading the program. “We lose our second baseman and our shortstop and we have to move our center fielder (Mason Koons) to short. Now everything moves all over the place for us.”

Senior pitcher Noah Perkins (back) and junior catcher Caden VanVorhis (shoulder) also are battling injuries.

Junior Max Vosters and sophomore Carter Hanson look to be the top starters, with Cameron Ridolfo and possibly VanVorhis behind the plate. Senior Dillon Gray, a converted outfielder, plays first along with Hanson seeing action at second, short and third after the injuries. Koons is at short and junior Kyle Conley will play at third.

Senior Ben Duncan will play center with VanVorhis, senior Hunter Wilson and junior Joey Lopez seeing time in the corners of the outfield. 

“We have to make sure we’re progressing, even with all of the injuries,” Uxley said. “We’re putting guys in different situations that they’ve never been in before. Once we started getting into games things have picked up.”

Bradley dropped a pair of one-run games before defeating Reynoldsburg 12-0 on March 31. The Jaguars lost 4-3 to St. Charles in their March 27 opener and 8-7 to Pickerington North on March 29.

INSIDE THE JAGUARS

•Coach: Xander Uxley, first season 

•Next game: April 8 at Canal Winchester

•Key athletes: Kyle Conley, Ben Duncan, Dillon Gray, Carter Hanson, Mason Koons and Max Vosters

–Scott Hennen

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