Baseball: Olentangy Liberty Patriots working to extend run of success
One thing Olentangy Liberty baseball coach Ty Brenning appreciates about his team is how “stubborn” it has been to continue the program’s tradition of success.
The Patriots have won five league championships, three Division I district titles and the 2018 state title in eight seasons under Brenning, who believes last year’s squad, which lost its season to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, might have been just as good as any of his previous teams.
Liberty went 23-6 and was a district runner-up in 2019.
“Our kids have had anything but normal with all of the protocols in place, having school every other day (and) having to wear masks,” Brenning said. “We’ve been committed to making this year as normal as possible at all levels. It’s almost like the seniors have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders, like they had something taken away from them.”
The top returnee is senior catcher Brian Yamokoski, who hit .324 with 15 RBI in 2019.
Seniors Dom Magistrale (CF), Landon Smith (1B) and Michael Tuttle (2B) and junior Nolan Fogg (LF) also were contributors in 2019.
Sophomore Mason Onate, who has committed to Tulane, is at shortstop and junior David Dielman is at third base.
Yamokoski and sophomore Brock Amelung also should see time at first base, with sophomore Josh Stickel serving as the backup second baseman, senior Joey Dierker as the backup shortstop and junior Nathan Leininger and sophomore Josh Bercaw also being backup infielders.
Fogg is a left-handed hitter who is joined in left field by senior Adam Lane.
Junior Connor Bourn is in right field, with senior Drew Thornton and sophomores Anderson Gomez and Connor Mick serving as backup outfielders.
Junior Dom Roberts is the backup catcher.
Senior Joe Tootle and Gomez are expected to lead the pitching rotation, with senior left-hander Luke Dawson, seniors Nick Falter and Sam Zabonik, Bourn and Dielman also being options.
INSIDE THE PATRIOTS
•Coach: Ty Brenning, ninth season
•Next game: April 10 vs. DeSales
•Key athletes: Connor Bourn, David Dielman, Nolan Fogg, Anderson Gomez, Dom Magistrale, Mason Onate, Landon Smith, Joe Tootle and Brian Yamokoski
Pioneers loaded with
Orange has 13 seniors and five starters back from 2019 as it looks to challenge for OCC-Central Division and district titles — and maybe more.
Senior Josh Laisure (P/3B), a Wright State signee, is back after going 3-3 with a 4.08 ERA in 34 1/3 innings as a sophomore. He also batted .301 with 17 RBI and 15 runs.
Junior Matt Wolfe started at shortstop as a freshman. A Vanderbilt recruit, he batted .259 with 15 RBI and 20 runs.
Senior outfielders Caden Konczak (.349, 16 RBI, 26 runs, 12 stolen bases) and Sam Sells and senior catcher Lucas Till are the other returning starters. Konczak is a Toledo signee and Till is a King University commit.
Senior Tommy Robbins, Wolfe and sophomore left-handers Cameron Dickson and Josh Sorensen round out the rotation behind Laisure. Robbins is a West Liberty commit.
“We had a lot of those guys that played as sophomores and we have a solid pitching staff,” second-year coach Tom Marker said. “Our rotation is pretty deep as long as we can stay healthy.”
Till will be behind the plate with senior Logan Shearer and sophomore Cole Cahill at first, sophomore Charlie Scholvin at second, Wolfe at shortstop and Laisure, junior Kyle Diehr and sophomore Rocco Leonetti at third.
The outfield has Shearer and Scholvin in left, Konczak in center and Sells and senior Austin Knupp in right.
“Consistency will be a key for us,” Marker said. “We don’t have one specific thing we want to work on, we just have to make sure we stay consistent and do the little things right.”
INSIDE THE PIONEERS
•Coach: Tom Marker, second season
•Next game: April 10 vs. Saline (Michigan) and Dexter (Michigan)
•Key athletes: Caden Konczak, Josh Laisure, Sam Sells, Connor Till and Matt Wolfe
to make strides
Berlin coach Mike Weaver expects to see his squad make strides in its second season as it jumps to Division I.
The Bears had several players see varsity time in 2019, led by senior pitcher/outfielders Mitch Herbst and Jacob Moeller. Herbst batted .354 with 15 RBI and 11 runs and is expected to be the top pitcher after going 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 23 walks in 26 2/3 innings as a sophomore.
Moeller, a Walsh football commit who may be the team’s closer, batted .381 with 17 RBI in 2019. He led the Bears in home runs (2), runs (28), doubles (9) and triples (2).
“Mitch will be our No. 1 (starter) after being No. 3 two years ago, and Jacob hit the ball so well,” Weaver said. “We’ll be relying heavily on both this season.”
Herbst, a Marietta commit, will start along with senior Nathan Varner, junior Jake Brewster and sophomores Daniel Gladden and Griffin White. Seniors Ryan Horstman and Sam Reitz also will see time on the mound.
Junior Quintin Applegate and freshman Parker McDaniels will catch, with Gladden and Varner at first base. Juniors Mac Moore and Matthew Barreca started at second and shortstop, respectively, in 2019, as did senior Jake Kinkead at third.
The outfield has Moeller in left, Herbst in center and Brewster in right.
“We had the best offseason that we have had since I have been here, and the kids are a close-knit, family-oriented group,” Weaver said. “They like being around each other and they are hungry.
“These kids have taken great pride in being a part of this program, and there is not a lot of ego. They want to get better and they are not taking anything for granted.”
INSIDE THE BEARS
•Coach: Mike Weaver, second season
•Next game: April 9 at Pickerington North
•Key athletes: Matthew Barreca, Daniel Gladden, Mitch Herbst, Ryan Horstman, Jake Kinkead, Jacob Moeller and Mac Moore
Ohio State recruit Jace Middleton (P/CF) returns to pace Olentangy as the only returning player with varsity experience.
Middleton played in 23 of 26 games as a sophomore, batting .207 with 12 hits and seven RBI and going 0-1 with a 3.70 ERA in eight appearances because of a back injury.
He is one of three college recruits on the team, along with classmates Eric Efland (C/P, Westminster) and Grant Schaffner (DH/1B, Bethany). Senior Kaden Doup (3B/2B) will play football at Otterbein.
“We are a work in progress,” eighth-year coach Ryan Lucas said. “Considering the fact that most of these guys hadn’t played for me on game day yet, getting on the same page with calls, etc. will be an obstacle we will have to deal with early on. We must get consistent execution on the mound from our guys and build depth. Being a balanced team is what we are working hard to become.”
Juniors Tommy Chilicki and Austin Sizemore and sophomore Vitaly DiBlasi joined Middleton in the starting rotation to begin the season. Chilicki is a utility player, Sizemore also will play second base and shortstop and DiBlasi is an outfielder and shortstop.
Other expected key players include senior Kyle Offenbacher (P) and juniors Brandon Hire (SS/P), Nathan Holycross (P/2B/SS), Zach Neville (OF/P) and Carter Williamson (P/C/1B).
NSIDE THE BRAVES
•Coach: Ryan Lucas, eighth season
•Next game: April 9 vs. Lancaster at Beavers Field
•Key athletes: Eric Efland, Jace Middleton, Grant Schaffner, Austin Sizemore and Justin Wilkerson