Baseball: Downton, Spegal were set to lead Grove City Christian

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Grove City Christian graduates Cameron Downton (pictured) and Jake Spegal were looking forward to their final season with the Eagles baseball team before spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Thanks to the game of baseball, Cameron Downton and Jake Spegal share a brotherhood.

The 2020 Grove City Christian graduates formed a close friendship at age 12 as teammates on the Grove City Titans travel team. They also played travel ball together for the Ohio Surge at age 13 and have been teammates on the Midwest Marlins travel team -- as well as for Grove City Christian -- the last four years.

"We went to school together since kindergarten and it wasn't until the fifth or sixth grade that we both put it together that we both love baseball," Spegal said. "We've been really good friends since. We hung around the same friends in school. It's always been great to have him as a friend. We played together on varsity since we were freshmen."

Downton and Spegal were primed for their senior season with Grove City Christian before spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

However, both are playing for the U-18 Marlins this summer.

"I love playing with him and all my other brothers," Downton said. "That's what they are. We practice so much together. We're all like brothers, we're real tight. It's amazing getting to play with them one more time and one more season."

"As soon as (the OHSAA) canceled the high school season, I just hoped I could play summer ball so I could have one last season (with Downton)," Spegal said.

Last year, Downton and Spegal helped lead Grove City Christian, which finished 11-10.

"Both of these guys were four-year starters and even at a smaller school like ours, that's still saying something," Eagles coach A.J. McCampbell said. "It's going to be really difficult to replace them."

As a junior, Downton, an outfielder and pitcher, led the Eagles in batting average (.511) and home runs (2) and was second on the team in RBI (23) and third in runs scored (22). On the mound, he had 28 strikeouts and 21 walks in 26 1/3 innings. He was named first-team all-district in Division III and all-MSL-Cardinal Division.

"I loved playing at Grove City Christian," Downton said. "I got to go under the leadership of the upperclassmen my freshman year. They taught me a lot about the culture and the environment. They got me more knowledgeable about the game. It was a great opportunity."

Spegal, a shortstop and pitcher, batted .379 with 12 RBI and 25 runs and was 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA, 67 strikeouts and 38 walks in 34 2/3 innings as a junior. He was second-team all-district and all-league.

"Jake was a natural leader," McCampbell said. "He was one of those guys that led both by example, but probably was also our most vocal leader. He was one of those guys that you want up there when the game was close or at the end. He was also one of our top pitchers."

Downton will attend Ohio State and plans to major in criminal justice. He also is considering trying out for the Buckeyes' baseball team as a walk-on.

Spegal will be attending Otterbein and plans to major in business with a minor in journalism and communications. His brother, Luke, is a second baseman for the Cardinals, but Spegal has yet to decide if he will pursue a playing career at the college level.

"I want to make sure I can balance my time with studying," he said.

Among the highlights for Downton and Spegal during their careers at Grove City Christian was helping the Eagles win the MSL-Cardinal title in 2018.

"That was super fun," Spegal said. "I loved high school ball. That's why I was devastated when this season got canceled. I loved playing high school baseball because we had a great team and we had a great coach. It was fun to be with all my friends every day after school at practice."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank