Baseball: Worthington Kilbourne Wolves working to build winning culture
Being a good player is important to first-year Worthington Kilbourne baseball coach Ryan Sparks, but it’s not enough.
Sparks and his coaching staff have focused on building a culture of accountability with the Wolves both on and off the field. He believes that system will translate into success throughout the season.
“A lot of the big things we’re working on as a staff is the culture and the expectations and what we as a staff believe is the recipe for winning baseball,” Sparks said. “It’s so much more than just showing up and playing on game day. It’s all those opportunities to get better that happen throughout the week.
“That’s been a huge focus – establishing expectations and trying to establish a culture, and all of that is very important.”
Kilbourne’s 15-player roster has been open to the coaching staff's expectations of striving for your best both on and off the field, Sparks said, despite the unpredictability of the past year.
“They’ve been through a lot,” he said. “They didn’t play (last) spring, they had a late coaching change and then at Worthington we were not able to do anything until Jan. 11. But in terms of the mindset, they’re just a really good group.
“So far they’ve been really receptive and really eager to buy in. You can tell they’re willing and wanting to learn, and they’re wanting to be a good baseball team.”
Senior Brady Struewing and juniors Andrew Oh and Jackson Judy will play in the middle infield, with Oh and Judy rotating at shortstop. On the corners, junior McKay Whitaker will play first and senior Nathan Zinn is at third.
Junior Cole Archual will play left field, with seniors Macain Eldridge, Wesley Frank and Brian Wilson in center and right.
Wilson and senior Mike Lashuk are at catcher.
“Right now, it’s kind of an open competition (behind the plate),” Sparks said. “I would say they’ve both done very well, but not necessarily either one has solidified a starting, everyday role.
“Also, (catching) is very hard on your body, so it’s good to have two seniors back there. Both are serviceable and do well for us.”
The rotation will feature Oh as the ace and Judy as the No. 2 starter. Sparks said junior Sam Knuth and Zinn are other options.
Kilbourne opened March 29 with an 11-1 loss at Olentangy.
INSIDE THE WOLVES
•Coach: Ryan Sparks, first year
•Next game: April 8 at St. Charles
•Key athletes: Cole Archual, Andrew Oh, McKay Whitaker and Brian Wilson
for strong start
Fourth-year coach Chris Olson and his players wanted to start off better than two years ago when Thomas lost its first eight games.
The Cardinals opened March 27 with a 5-3 loss to Bay Village Bay before beating Delaware 10-0 on March 29 and Chillicothe 9-1 on March 31.
“I want to get off to a much better start than we did in 2019,” Olson said. “As we start to get toward league play we want to be in a much better position record-wise to allow us to compete.
“And I think when you have this many new faces – we have three freshmen that are with us right now – I think them getting acquainted to how to win ballgames at the varsity level is going to benefit us.”
Olson said his 2019 team, which finished 6-20, played its best down the stretch. If the Cardinals do that this season, “I think the potential for this group of guys is pretty high,” he said.
Senior second baseman Patrick Shirey is the ranking member of an infield that also features junior Caleb Kirker at first and two freshmen in Logan Graves at shortstop and Jerens Sanchez at third.
Senior Brayden Lanter and junior Gannon Wentz will rotate at catcher.
Senior Nick Moore and junior Josh Rock will play right and left field, respectively, with senior Khalil Vazquez in center.
Wentz will lead the pitching rotation, ahead of Rock and freshman Nick Clay. Olson said Vazquez, Shirey and senior Daley Overstreet also will compete for innings.
INSIDE THE CARDINALS
•Coach: Chris Olson, fourth season
•Next game: April 9 vs. Pickerington Central
•Key athletes: Logan Graves, Caleb Kirker, Nick Moore, Josh Rock and Gannon Wentz