Baseball: Olentangy Berlin's Mitch Herbst, Ryan Horstman are far from average Bears

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Seniors Ryan Horstman (left) and Mitch Herbst have fueled the offense for the Berlin baseball team and have been integral leaders for the Bears. Herbst will play at Marietta and Horstman will play at Bryant & Stratton, a junior college in Cleveland.

Mitch Herbst and Ryan Horstman are double threats for the Olentangy Berlin baseball team.

The seniors are a 1-2 punch at the plate, leading the Bears in every major batting category. In the field, Herbst excels on the mound while Horstman provides standout defense in center field.

They’re also team leaders, but coach Mike Weaver said they go about that role in different ways.

“Mitch is a spirited kid to say the least and he has risen to be our best player,” said Weaver, whose team was 11-9 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Hilliard Darby on May 7. “Ryan does all of his talking with his play. He’s our best athlete and he is probably the fastest kid that I have ever coached. He covers all kinds of ground in center field and gets to balls that I don’t think anyone can reach.”

Each player had a pair of home runs before May 7, but Herbst made an exclamation mark with his, as both were grand slams. The second came April 28 in a 17-2, five-inning rout of Marysville during a league contest in which he went 3-for-3 and drove in nine runs.

“I (hit in) the four-hole, so I have to drive in runs,” said Herbst, who has committed to Marietta. “Ryan was our No. 2 hitter, but he was hitting so well that he moved down to No. 5 to drive in more runs.”

Through 19 games, Herbst led the Bears in batting average (.436), RBI (30) and on-base percentage (.529). He also had 13 runs scored, seven doubles and a .673 slugging percentage.

Horstman has committed to Bryant & Stratton, a junior college in Cleveland. He was batting .365 with 22 RBI and had team highs in runs (24), doubles (8), triples (4), stolen bases (8) and slugging percentage (.714).

“I probably would say I lead by example,” Horstman said. “I’m not the guy to fire people up. I have never been that kind of guy. I think that if I go out and give 100 percent, it will rub off on everyone and make them better.

“I believe in giving 100 percent and making a play for the team. You can have ups and downs hitting-wise, but defense is always there.”

On the mound, Herbst was 3-2 with a 4.15 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 18 walks in 25 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to Marietta to be a PO/DH — pitcher only and designated hitter,” Herbst said. “I have really been working on my craft of pitching for when I go there.

“I have three pitches, a change, fastball and curve, and I rely on my curve because it can be dirty. It starts at the head and drops right down to the knees.”

Horstman takes pride in his defense and knowing when he should dive for the ball and when it’s best to let it drop and hold the hitter to a single.

“The first time you see the ball off the bat — your initial jump — is so important in running down a fly ball,” said Horstman, who had two outfield assists and had yet to commit an error through 19 games. “As soon as you see it off the bat, you have to get that jump. If you don’t have that, you can’t normally get to the ball. That helps you know whether to go after it and dive for the ball or let it fall. You have to have those instincts.

“I know how far I can go. I have been diving for balls all my life and I have the speed that I can get to plenty of balls.”

Horstman is earnest. Herbst is boisterous but also quick to point out he’s not the major motivator for the Bears. That’s the role of senior third baseman Jake Kinkead.

“Our main leader is Jake Kinkead,” Herbst said. “Once he gets everyone up, I come in as the guy that keeps everyone up and hyped up and ready to go. I’m kind of like the hype-man for us.”

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