Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders baseball team sees turning point in extra-inning loss

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Reynoldsburg's Justin Barko runs to third base April 5 during a 17-6 loss to visiting Hartley. The senior outfielder was hitting .375 through six games as the Raiders were batting .364 as a team.

During its game April 5, the Reynoldsburg baseball team put together a five-run third inning before Hartley took advantage of four consecutive walks to score seven times in the top of the fourth. 

Raiders pitchers walked 15 and hit one batter during the 17-6 loss, encapsulating the struggles the team has endured early on. 

A 7-6 loss in eight innings to DeSales on April 8 produced the kind of jolt Reynoldsburg has been looking for, however, now that it’s entrenched in its OCC-Buckeye Division schedule. 

“I think we turned the corner when we lost the extra-inning game against DeSales,” coach Bob Benjamin said. “We’ve had some things change. We’re in the right frame of mind.” 

Reynoldsburg was 3-5 overall after beating Groveport 11-8 on April 14. The other two wins came against Franklin Heights (13-2 on March 27 and 16-0 on April 7). 

Benjamin is hoping his team will be more competitive in the OCC-Buckeye than when the Raiders went 3-12 as a member of the OCC-Ohio in 2019 and finished last. 

Lancaster, which won the OCC-Ohio at 12-3 in 2019, played host to the Raiders on April 21 and travels to Reynoldsburg on April 23. 

Senior Justin Barko, who was expected to become a key player last spring before the season was canceled, has enjoyed the process of getting back on track. 

“It’s been awesome,” he said. “It (stunk) missing my junior season because we had a lot of talent. We’ve got a new conference that we’re trying to win and a lot of young guys on our team. It just feels great to be out here playing again.” 

Barko, who also was a punter and wide receiver for the football team last fall, has been one of the team’s top hitters so far. 

After battling arm problems as a freshman, Barko has regained confidence in his arm in right field and had thrown out one runner at the plate through six games. 

Junior Mitchell Trace (C/P) was batting .615 in 13 at-bats through six games, followed by freshman Nate Pierson (INF/P) at .556, junior Preston Allen (3B/P) and junior Evan Litton (INF/P) both at .400, Barko at .375 and junior Bishop Patton (utility/P) at .350. 

The Raiders were hitting .364 as a team.

The all-around play of senior Aidan Elston (LF) also has been a bright spot, according to Benjamin.  

Pierson and senior Ben Wilson have earned the pitching victories, and jnior Brady Mason and sophomore Gabe DeJesus are expected to see time on the mound. 

“The offense has been good, but there’s a lot more to come,” Elston said. “(We need) a lot more consistency and I think it’s going to hit our stride (in) conference play. 

“It’s awesome (playing). It’s a privilege, and we understand that after last season. We’re excited. We’re going to have a good season. We have a lot of young guys and old guys and we’re going to put it together. There’s more to come. We’re nowhere near our maximum potential.” 

Reynoldsburg's Paige Coey delivers a pitch during a 15-5 loss to New Albany on April 13 as the Raiders fell to 2-4 overall.

Softball team finding 

offensive stride 

After losing its first four games, the softball team broke through with back-to-back strong offensive performances. 

In a 12-2 win over Licking Heights on March 29, junior center fielder Makayla Brooks and junior shortstop Lexi Romero both had three hits, with Romero also driving in four runs and freshman outfielder Allison Wodzisz adding three RBI. 

Senior pitcher Paige Coey gave up just four hits and two runs in five innings. 

Then on April 6 in an 8-7 win over Bexley, junior Madelyn Rettke (INF) had four hits and two RBI and freshman Marley Smith added two hits and two RBI as Coey pitched another complete game, striking out eight. 

Smith, who can play third base and shortstop as well as in the outfield, also had two hits in a 6-2 loss to Hartley on April 9.

The Raiders also lost to New Albany 15-5 on April 13 to drop to 2-4 overall.

“It doesn’t matter where you put her right now, she’s got a big bat,” coach Tony Rettke said. 

Track teams get 

seasons started 

The boys and girls track and field teams are preparing to compete April 23 in the Wildcat Invitational at Westerville South and will have three other meets before they compete in the OCC-Buckeye meet May 13 and 15 at Lancaster. 

Both teams opened by finishing fourth at the six-team Watkins Memorial Icebreaker Invitational on April 3, with the boys scoring 79 points as Pickerington North (141) was first and the girls scoring 49 as the Panthers (142) swept the titles.

Sophomore Hollyn Tillman led the girls by winning the 100 meters (13.05 seconds). Seniors Marsellis Davis (1,600, 4:32.64) and Seth Davis (800, 2:00.22) and juniors Ibrahim Fall (200, 22.34) and Markez Gillman (100, 10.82) won individual titles for the boys. 

The boys 1,600 relay of senior Kyle Cannon, Marsellis Davis, Seth Davis and Fall also took first (3:31.5). 

On April 10 in the Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North, the boys were seventh (44) of 17 teams behind the champion and host Panthers (97) and the girls were sixth (58) of 15 teams behind champion Pickerington Central (100.5). 

The girls got runner-up finishes from Tillman in the 200 (26.84), junior Nya Collier in the 300 hurdles (48.71) and junior Milan Patterson in the long jump (16 feet, 4 1/2 inches), while Seth Davis was second in the 800 (1:58.8) for the boys. 

In addition, the girls 400 relay (51.38) of Patterson, Tillman, senior Kasha Rhodes and junior Aquilla Jacobs and the boys 400 relay (43.22) of Fall, Gillam, senior Andre Turner and junior Deon Campbell were both second. 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek