Baseball: Olentangy Orange Pioneers fall one win short of state

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior Josh Laisure led Orange to a 27-4 season that ended in a Division I regional final. A Wright State signee, Laisure was first-team all-state and the Player of the Year in the Central District and OCC-Central Division.

The season ended earlier than expected for the Olentangy Orange baseball team, but second-year coach Tom Marker couldn’t have been more proud of his players.

The second-ranked Pioneers finished 27-4 overall, losing to New Albany 3-1 in a Division I regional final June 5 at Dublin Coffman.

The contest was tied at 1 until the Eagles pushed across single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Orange had runners on first and second in the fifth with the top of the batting order coming up but did not score.

“We played the game the way we were supposed to,” Marker said. “We needed timely two-out hits and to get hits in big-time spots. We put our best lineup out there, and we just didn’t get it done. That’s baseball.”

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Cole Cahill struck out eight and walked one while giving up six hits in six innings. New Albany starter Elijah Griffith gave up four hits, struck out two and walked one in four-plus innings. Brady Conley relieved, going three innings and surrendering one hit, striking out one and hitting one batter.

“The key to our pitching is that we have had such great relief work, but also that we don’t walk people,” New Albany coach Dave Starling said. “If we don’t put people on base, batters at any level will just get themselves out if you just give them the chance to put the ball in play. That worked out well.”

Cahill, senior left fielder Austin Knupp, senior center fielder Caden Konczak (Toledo signee), senior right fielder Sam Sells (Ohio Northern commit) and senior catcher Connor Till (King commit) all singled in the loss.

Orange squeezed past ninth-ranked Westerville South 8-7 in a regional semifinal June 4 at Coffman. Junior shortstop Matt Wolfe, a Vanderbilt recruit, went 4-for-4 with a double, three runs and two RBI. He drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the bottom of the sixth.

Sophomore Jacob Tabor picked up the win in relief of senior Josh Laisure, a Wright State signee who was first-team all-state and the Player of the Year in the Central District and OCC-Central Division.

The Pioneers earned the top seed for the district tournament and won their first district championship since 2017 by defeating 11th-seeded and visiting Berlin 5-1 on May 27. Laisure tossed a four-hitter with seven strikeouts.

Orange also won the OCC-Central, going 14-1 to finish four games ahead of Liberty and Upper Arlington. It was its first league championship since winning back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.

“We had a great group of kids, especially the seniors,” Marker said. “I came in here when these guys were sophomores, and they had a great coach before me in coach (Phil) Callaghan. They listened to me and gave me a chance and I couldn’t be happier with them. I love those guys. We had 22 connected guys on the roster.”

Laisure, who also played third base, batted .417 with 24 RBI, 27 runs and 16 stolen bases and went 10-0 with a 0.92 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings.

Wolfe (second-team all-state, first-team all-district and all-league) batted .419 with two home runs, 25 RBI, 31 runs and 19 stolen bases. Konczak (first-team all-state, all-district and all-league) hit .412 with one homer, 28 RBI, 38 runs, 10 doubles, eight triples and 20 stolen bases.

Sells (first-team all-district, second-team all-league) batted .420 with 21 RBI and 30 runs, and Knupp (honorable mention all-district) hit .352 with 14 RBI and 22 runs. Till (first-team all-district, second-team all-league) hit .352 with 11 RBI and 14 runs, and senior first baseman Logan Shearer (honorable mention all-district and all-league) batted .329 with 26 RBI and 19 runs.

“When you have seniors that set the foundation and do things right, it’s easy to follow,” Marker said. “They taught the guys how to do things the right way.”

Cahill (honorable mention all-state, first-team all-district and all-league) batted .396 with 26 RBI and 17 runs and went 7-1 with a 1.84 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 57 innings.

Tabor (first-team all-district, special mention all-league) was 5-0 with a 1.73 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. Other starters expected back are junior third baseman Rocco Leonetti and sophomore second baseman Charlie Scholvin.

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ORANGE BASEBALL

Record: 27-4 overall

OCC-Central standings: Orange (14-1), Liberty and Upper Arlington (10-5), Hilliard Davidson (5-10), Hilliard Bradley and Dublin Coffman (3-12)

Seniors lost: Jake Balek, Tyler Deering, Joey Dimeo, Austin Doseck, Caden Konczak, Austin Knupp, Josh Laisure, Tommy Robbins, Sam Sells, Logan Shearer, Nathan Stock, Connor Till and Graem Tipp

Key returnees: Cole Cahill, Rocco Leonetti, Charlie Scholvin, Jacob Tabor and Matt Wolfe

Postseason: Defeated Chillicothe 15-0 (5 innings); def. St. Charles 6-0; def. Berlin 5-1; def. Westerville South 8-7; lost to New Albany 3-1 in Division I regional final