The OCC, regardless of the division, is one of the top conferences in the state.
Big Walnut coach Jack Schone’s been around long enough to know that fact, and his team’s plan to take down OCC-Capital Division foes it’ll confront this spring is to minimize mistakes and make opponents earn every run they get.
“Keys for us this year are to pitch to contact and play solid defense,” he said. “Errors will happen, we all realize that. Minimizing those will be so important. We can’t walk opponents … we must give them the opportunity to put the ball in play or it could be a tough year in the OCC.”
There aren’t many gimmie games in the Capital.
“Every team is tough,” Schone said. “I will not put one over another. I know the teams that finished in the top three last year all have returning players that were key for them to be successful. This league will be a test.”
He’s preparing his guys for the mental matchups as well as the physical ones, too.
“The OCC has so many good pitchers, the challenge for us will be how we will challenge ourselves at each at-bat,” Schone said. “As Ted Williams said, ‘The hardest thing to do in baseball is to hit a round baseball with a round bat, squarely’. We have been swinging since January, some longer. Putting it all together is something different — in front of opponents who are trying to keep you off-balanced — it will not be easy.”
Those looking to help the Golden Eagles bounce back from last season’s 9-11 campaign include seniors Carson Leasure and Owen Unterbrink and juniors Cam Gladden, Drew Gaskins and Ethan and Noah Clawson.
“Carson will be our go-to guy on the mound while Unterbrink will have duties on the infield,” Schone said of his senior returners. “Cam will again be a tough out this year and will secure our centerfield position; Drew, a University of Oakland commit, will play shortstop; and Ethan’s an outfielder and his brother Noah is expected to see time on the mound as well as the infield.”
Schone said newcomer Eli Couser, a sophomore, will see some playing time in the infield and get the ball on the mound while the team is expecting big things from junior catcher Lorne Anderson.
Unterbrink and Jameson Welker will join Leasure, Couser and Noah Clawson in looking to lead on the mound, along with several others, Schone said.
“Going around the field, Lorne and Jameson will provide leadership behind the plate,” he said. “First base looks to be Noah Clawson and Brad Kildoo. At second base, Owen, Landon Duhl and Josh Mason could see time there. Drew, Cam and Owen also provide strength at short and, at third, Brad, Eli and Prescott (Hartzler).”
Ethan Clawson and Christian Takitch could see time in left field, Schone added. Center field will see Gladden and Mason. Finally, in right field, Leasure, Josh Shick and Hartzler could all see time.
“We have played well in the infield over the last three scrimmages,” Schone said. “Again, we will have to see how they perform in pressure situations.”