Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders baseball team feeling optimistic about future

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Junior Preston Allen and Reynoldsburg entered the offseason feeling confident. “With how many young guys we have and everything we had this year on the (junior varsity) level, we have a really good chance to build something going into next year,” he said.

Pitching struggles kept the Reynoldsburg baseball team from establishing the consistency it was looking for this spring.

It was never, according to coach Bob Benjamin, a question of heart or work ethic that led to a 7-20 finish. 

Backing that up was the team’s performance in a 12-10 loss to 21st-seeded Gahanna on May 17 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. 

The 38th-seeded Raiders fell behind 12-3 before clawing their way back into it. 

“Being down 12-3 and fighting back to that with a shot at the end to tie it, I can’t ask for any more,” Benjamin said. “We had a good last week. We turned the corner and started playing well and things started to fall into place. I can’t make excuses, but we just didn’t throw strikes all year.” 

The improving health of junior Preston Allen, who was one of the team’s top hitters all season but wasn’t cleared to pitch until late April, provides a big reason for optimism heading into the offseason. 

Allen struck out 11 in four innings during his first start, a 12-2 victory over Columbus Academy on May 1, and was on a limited pitch count in his other appearances. 

“(Pitching) was something I’d been looking forward to,” Allen said. “We all just go to war for each other. When we get down or see somebody get down or make an error, we all put in a team effort together. With how many young guys we have and everything we had this year on the (junior varsity) level, we have a really good chance to build something going into next year.” 

In a 6-4 victory over Groveport on May 11, sophomore Patrick Johnson struck out eight and threw a complete game. 

Another key member of the pitching staff was sophomore Gabe DeJesus, who led the team in ERA. 

Juniors Evan Litton (INF/P), Bishop Patton (utility/P) and Mitchell Trace (P/C) and freshman Nate Pierson (INF/P) should join Allen among the top returning hitters. 

Junior Brady Mason (1B/P) and freshmen Nate Eckstein (3B/C/P) and Cody Martin (P/OF) are others eligible to return. 

Justin Barko (OF/1B), Aiden Elston (OF/P), Salmon Qudeer (OF) and Ben Wilson (C/3B/P) led an eight-player senior class. 

“All we’re replacing really is our outfield,” Benjamin said. “We lose one pitcher but all of the other pitchers are back once they’re healthy.” 

Brian McClain was one of three seniors for the Raiders,  who finished 10-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

Tennis team excited 

about progression 

After going 11-9 in 2019 to post its first winning season since 2014, the boys tennis team took another step forward this spring. 

Sophomore first-singles player Jaden Coley led the way for the Raiders as they went 10-4 overall and finished second (4-1) in the OCC-Buckeye Division. 

Coley earned a sectional runner-up finish May 15 at home despite entering the postseason unseeded. 

At district May 20 at home, Coley opened by beating Dublin Scioto’s Luis Ramirez-Marquez 6-1, 6-4 before losing 6-1, 6-0 to St. Charles’ Reece Yakubov in a quarterfinal. 

“He just had an awesome season,” coach Brett Stewart said. “From when sectionals started, he had a super-tough draw and played great in the seedings and carried it on. Jaden’s motivated to work in the offseason. I’m really proud of the way he played this season.” 

Coley played first singles for the Raiders, with junior James Knorr also eligible to return after playing second singles and reaching a quarterfinal in singles at sectional. 

Also expected back are sophomores David Harris and Malik Stallings, who reached the second round of sectional in doubles. 

“I’m pretty proud of all of us,” Coley said. “I just want to get better, get more consistent, get stronger and become a stronger player with a stronger mentality.” 

Senior Brian McClain, who played third singles most of the season, won his play-in match and lost in the first round at sectional in singles, while seniors Ryan Burns and Dane Myers lost in the first round in doubles. 

Sophomore Aaron Slisher is another eligible to return. 

“They surprised me a little this year,” Stewart said. “Not that I thought it was going to be a down year, but they’ve really worked hard and we’re a really small team. I’m proud of them.” 

Volleyball team has 

big offseason plans 

The 15th-seeded boys volleyball team had its season end with a 25-8, 25-9, 25-14 loss May 21 at 14th-seeded Hilliard Davidson in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament. 

“I was actually able to get game film on (Davidson) and we prepared all week for them,” coach Matt Bailey said. “They ran exactly what was on film, but we just didn’t execute.” 

The Raiders finished 4-21 overall after going 1-24 in 2019. 

The senior class was led by Al Coumbassa (setter/opposite), Sam Gilmore (middle hitter), Monty Rollins (middle hitter) and Gabe Sargent (outside hitter). 

Gilmore was second-team all-OCC-Ohio as Reynoldsburg finished sixth (3-11) behind champion Gahanna (14-0). Rollins was honorable mention all-league.  

Rollins led in kills (105), digs (101) and serves received (292). Coumbassa led in assists (253). 

Juniors Desmond Barber (outside hitter) and Mohammed Shalash (outside hitter/defensive specialist) should be the top returnees. Others eligible to return are juniors Yonatan Araya (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Chris Williams (middle hitter/opposite hitter) and Gerald Yeboah (opposite hitter), sophomores Parker Bailey (setter/defensive specialist/libero) and Henry Keller (defensive specialist) and freshman Anthony Myers (setter/opposite hitter). 

“The seniors laid a great foundation going forward,” coach Bailey said. “In the offseason program, we’re going to try to close the volleyball IQ gap that we’re struggling behind other programs with and there are some skills that we’re also going to try to close up the gap with.” 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek 

BASEBALL 

Record: 7-20 overall  

OCC-Buckeye standings: Lancaster (13-2), Central Crossing (11-4), Newark and Pickerington Central (both 7-8), Reynoldsburg (4-11), Groveport (3-12) 

Seniors lost: Justin Barko, Corey Brafford, Aiden Elston, Tim Jones, Danish Qudeer, Salmon Qudeer, Mekhi Stevens and Ben Wilson 

Key returnees: Preston Allen, Gabe DeJesus, Evan Litton, Brady Mason, Bishop Patton, Nate Pierson and Mitchell Trace 

Postseason: Lost to Gahanna 12-10 in first round of Division I district tournament 

BOYS TENNIS 

Record: 10-4 overall  

OCC-Ohio standings: Pickerington Central (5-0), Reynoldsburg (4-1), Lancaster (3-2), Newark (2-3), Central Crossing (1-4), Groveport (0-5) 

Seniors lost: Ryan Burns, Brian McClain and Dane Myers 

Key returnees: Jaden Coley, David Harris, James Knorr and Malik Stallings 

BOYS VOLLEYBALL 

Record: 4-21 overall  

OCC-Ohio standings: Gahanna (14-0), New Albany (12-2), Pickerington Central (10-4), Pickerington North and Westerville Central (both 7-7), Reynoldsburg (3-11), Delaware (3-11), Westerville South (0-14) 

Seniors lost: Axusmawe Asemalash, Al Coumbassa, Sam Gilmore, John Hayes, Ephratah Meskel, Monty Rollins and Gabe Sargent 

Key returnees: Yonatan Araya, Parker Bailey, Desmond Barber and Mohammed Shalash 

Postseason: Lost to Hilliard Davidson 25-8, 25-9, 25-14 in first round of Division I East Region tournament