Westland Roundup: Cougars baseball team eager to get season going
With four players back from a 2019 team that showed promise, Westland baseball coach Brent Shannon couldn’t wait to return to the field.
The Cougars finished 9-17 in 2019 for their most wins since 2003, when they went 11-12.
Westland also earned its first OCC win since 2016, defeating Hilliard Davidson 3-1 to end a 38-game league losing streak.
After the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Cougars opened March 27 against Centennial.
“We lost a good amount of seniors, but the good thing is all the guys that were behind them are coming back and have been leading us with what we’re going through,” Shannon said. “It feels like it’s going to be a different season than what it has been in the past.”
The top returnee is junior Franklin Ramirez Lara (SS/2B/P), a second-team all-OCC-Central Division honoree in 2019. He batted .367 as a freshman with 26 RBI, six doubles, two triples and 13 runs scored.
On the mound, Ramirez Lara was 2-2 with a 3.78 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 11 walks in 33 1/3 innings.
Senior Drew Curtiss (C/1B) had 11 RBI in 2019 and is expected to provide leadership this spring.
“I could not be more excited (to start the season) and the guys are super ready,” Curtiss said. “We haven’t set a specific number, but I know we can finish over .500. We can win more than half of our games. Looking at our schedule, I know we have it in us.”
Senior Brenden Gordon (3B/P) and junior Brady Gray (2B/SS/P) also return.
Other players are seniors Chase Alexander (1B/OF), Jason Cooper (OF/P/1B), Cameron Mullins (C) and Brayan Perez Saldivar (IB/OF), juniors Robert Chadwick (OF/INF/P) and Blake Schoonover (1B/OF), sophomores Dillon Brock (2B/SS/P) and Dean Curtiss (OF) and freshman Samuel Schneider (SS/2B/P).
Shannon, who is in his second season, said Schneider has had success at the club level and should contribute.
“He’s very talented,” Shannon said. “He’s probably one of the most developed kids I’ve seen come in as a freshman. As he continues to progress, he’ll be really good for us.”
Shannon said Ramirez Lara should lead the pitching staff.
“We’re four or five deep in the rotation and that’s what you need to be a good ball team,” Shannon said.
Westland is now competing in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westerville Central. The Cougars open league play April 12 at home against Gahanna.
“It’s a good division, but I think we’re going to be able to make some noise,” Shannon said.
The schedule includes non-league games against Central Crossing on April 6 and Franklin Heights on March 30, April 10 and April 22.
“I think I’ve done a really good job of laying the groundwork for a year or two and the guys have really responded and they’ve taken leadership,” said Shannon, who was an assistant coach in the program in 2018. “They’ve made practices easier. They’ve made the teaching easier because they do a lot of it to help me out with the younger guys. We’ve been rolling.”
•Coach: Brent Shannon, second season
•Next game: March 29, at Grandview
•Key athletes: Drew Curtiss and Franklin Ramirez Lara