Baseball roundup: Area teams poised for big spring


If you bought stock in the Delaware Hayes baseball team last season, you’re probably pretty happy with the return so far.

Last year’s 15-11 squad put together one of the best seasons in years and, despite losing a slew of senior leaders, returns nine starters this spring.

The Pacers are certainly trending in the right direction.

“Last year’s finish, with a couple of big wins against good teams, really helped give our young roster confidence,” Hayes coach Dave Meikrantz said. “The senior class will be tough to replace as they always put the team success over their own, and brought contagious enthusiasm to the field every day regardless of their roles.”

In an effort to build on that culture, the team used the offseason to work on leadership — a critical attribute for a program on the rise.

“This offseason, we worked on leadership and accountability on and off the field,” the coach said. “While in our small groups, we had a large focus on offense … cutting back on strikeouts, situational hitting, barrel control, improving our bunting abilities, etc.

“Our players have high expectations for this season, and we’ve talked a lot about how to manage those expectations and perform in the big moment.”

Returning standouts include seniors Bryden Decaminada, James Bowman, Colin Milligan, and Preston Simon.

Decaminada, a four-year starter, will anchor the middle infield and pitch while Bowman (Olive Harvey commit), Milligan (Eastern Michigan commit) and Simon will play pivotal roles on the mound and at the plate.

Other returners include junior Eyan Teegardin and sophomores Lucas Flack, Landon Green, Caleb Rowe and Tank Tompkins — five guys Meikrantz said return with a ton of confidence thanks to having a varsity season already under their belt. Flack, the everyday designated hitter a season ago, will move behind the plate.

Others looking to contribute include juniors Cayden Camphorst, Matt Forsythe, KJ Gibson, Mitch Laaksonen, Kyle Sanson, and Kelby Young. Sophomore Noah Miller will see time on the mound while freshman catcher/infielder Cole Keeler will see time as well.

“I believe team offense will be one of our main strengths this year as we have no holes in our lineup,” Meikrantz said. “We return about 90 percent of innings pitched from last year as well, so I believe we will compete at a high level on the mound and give ourselves a chance every night.”

That’ll be key as, according to Meikrantz, the OCC-Capital Division is more wide open than it’s been in the past.

“In the OCC this year, I don’t think there is a clear-cut frontrunner as in recent years, but instead 4-5 teams with a legitimate shot at winning the league,” he said. “I think as a whole this will be the most competitive our league has been top to bottom in the past couple of years.”


The Olentangy Berlin baseball team had a banner season last spring, compiling a program-record 21 wins on the way the first league title in its history.

Better yet, a lot of the guys from that team return to the fold this time around, complete with the experience and leadership that comes with it.

The Bears return a stable of solid pitchers while the defense behind them shouldn’t be too shabby, either.

Senior catcher Parker McDaniels, a four-year stater and UC commit, will anchor the operation at catcher. Senior Ascher Dent, a four-year starter and OSU commit, will play first base; senior Maddox Pulliam, who will play at Lake Erie College at the next level, will play third; senior Baret Spencer, a Muskingum College commit, will play second; and senior Daniel Barreca, a Anderson College commit, will play centerfield.

Alejandro Aguilar, a junior, will play left, while other potential starters include senior Drew Bruner and juniors Lucas Patrick and Robbie Sheppard.

“This is a group that brings back a ton of experience and leadership,” Olentangy Berlin coach Mike Weaver said. “We feel like defense will be one of our strengths this year.”

Pitching-wise, the Bears return two key starters and two relievers.

Senior Kyle Hagg returns after nabbing OCC-Cardinal Division Player of the Year honors a season ago. The senior and Lake Erie College commit will be joined in the starting rotation by senior Akron commit Taylor Bednar and junior Jack Showalter.

Bruner will handle some of the relief duties while transfer and Lake Erie commit Carson Repp and junior Nick Gemienhardt will add depth.

As good as last season was, Weaver said the last game — an eight-inning district semifinal loss to Gahanna — motivated the guys throughout the offseason.

“The guys are using that as motivation to build off … and win the last game of the season,” he said.

This year’s schedule will feature more than a few big-time games. Defending the OCC-Cardinal crown won’t be a cakewalk, either.

“The OCC is a grind,” Weaver said. “The Cardinal doesn’t have any easy games with Thomas Worthington, Marysville, Jerome, Darby and Olentangy all returning key pieces. Goal No. 1 is to win the OCC.”


While the batting order and pitching rotation are wide open, with juniors, sophomores and even a freshman or two competing for starting spots, the Buckeye Valley baseball team will be anchored by its senior class this spring.

“We have strong leadership from our senior class,” Buckeye Valley coach Johnny DeRing said. “They’ve been with me now for three years and we have a strong bond, another one of our strengths.”

The Barons finished 16-9 a season ago, falling to Jonathan Alder in the second round of the Division II district tournament. The seniors, though, were around for the recent regional final run … and will be looked to help bring the newcomers along.

“We have experience … we just need to execute,” DeRing said.

Returning starters included seniors Jaxson Stried, Bryson Shumate and Nate Pierson, junior Evan Lang and sophomore Liam Popovich.

Stried, a first-team all-district honoree, hit over .400 as the third batter in the order last season. He’ll anchor the lineup again, as well as pitch and catch.

Shumate, a second-team all-district performer, hit cleanup last year and will play first base this time around. Pierson will pitch and handle designated-hitter duties, Lang will patrol the outfield and Popovich will play shortstop after starting on the infield as a freshman.

Others looking to contribute include seniors Alex Brockett, who can perform in a variety of roles, and reliever Ryan Spurlock. Newcomers include seniors Connor Osborn, who should contribute on the mound after missing all of last season due to injury, infielder Parker Allen and outfielder Dom Kashmiry, who transferred into the district over the offseason.

DeRing said team camaraderie is a strength.

“We are very close,” he said. “We spend a ton of time together both in baseball and outside of baseball. Our lifting program has really paid off, too. We saw major increases across the board and had our best participation in my three years. We work out in the morning and my seniors have paved the way … they even prefer our early-morning workouts.”

The Barons will play in the recently formed Central Buckeye League, meaning they’ll get familiar faces in Worthington Christian, Bexley and Columbus Academy.

“Our schedule is tough from the get-go … our league will be a meat grinder and our non-league schedule is tough,” DeRing said.


Experiences are everything to the Olentangy Orange baseball team.

Last season, the Pioneers experienced a run like none other, advancing all the way to the Division I state championship game.

They experienced some tough losses, too, with early-season injuries sidelining a slew of key starters. Those experiences, though, turned them into the the team they were down the stretch.

“Throughout the course of the year, it became more and more apparent how important it is to truly embrace every experience,” Orange coach Tom Marker said. “We had some invaluable ‘losses’ throughout the year that helped us grow as a unit. Losing Charlie Scholvin, Luke Shearer, Luca DiMeo and Gabe Miller early on in the season made it important for others to step into unconventional roles. But, through each experience, the group grew tighter.”

While most of last year’s starters were lost to graduation, Orange returns three key cogs in senior catcher Casey Covert and junior infielders James Wimsatt (shortstop) and Keegan Knupp (third base).

All three were everyday starers while junior outfielder Wyatt Lidke (centerfield) and sophomore infielder Zane Konczak (second base) also return after starting some last season.

Marker said others who could crack the opening day starting lineup include senior Will Callaghan (right field), junior Nick Liberati (DH), sophomore Griffin Zavislak (left field) and freshman Maverick Scholvin (first base).

“That group of potential starters has a ton of speed and I think the experience of Keegan (also a basketball starter), Wyatt, Casey and James will be invaluable,” Marker said.

While the team is looking to build off of last season’s experiences, Marker said it is not anything like last year’s team.

“I’m drawn to the idea of making it vitally important that the coaching staff and players understand that 2024 will be about writing our own story,” he said. “While the eye of the past is always on you and success definitely leaves clues, this team is different and will have many different successes and many different challenges.”

Some of those challenges come with a loaded schedule.

“Moeller, Elder, Centerville, Walsh Jesuit and Strongsville are the teams outside the Central District that will provide us with the opportunity to see diverse styles that will hopefully prepare us for the tournament,” Marker said. “We think of the regular season as 27 glorified scrimmages that you want to win, but you must develop because of who you play and how you prepare and respond.”


The Olentangy basebeball team enters the season with plenty of experience, including seven returning starters from last spring’s team.

The Braves will have more than a little inexperience in the starting lineup, too.

“We’re excited for the season,” Olentangy coach Ryan Lucas said. “We’re led by six seniors with talented younger players that make up our roster. Our depth at every position has improved … we have a combination of experience and younger players that’ll be thrown into the mix without any varsity experience.”

Seniors who’ll be looked at to lead the way include Andrew Leech (utility), Andrew O’Rielley (outfield/infield) and Tyler Moreland (outfield/pitcher). All three started on last year’s 13-16 team.

Other returning starters include juniors Cameron Birch (infield/pitcher) and Carter Hire (infield) and sophomores Luke Chilicki (first base/pitcher) and Kaden Gebhardt (outfield/pitcher).

Others looking to contribute include senior Ethan Tuma, juniors Cooper Tracy and Max Rhoads and Everett Robinson and freshman Rocco Bucci.

Chilicki, Rhoads, Birch and Bucci will smooth out the starting rotation, Lucas said, while Tuma, Tracy, Robinson, Leech, Moreland, Gebhardt, Camden Brogdon and Owen Andel will handle the relief duties.

The Braves finished third in the always-competitive OCC-Cardinal Division — a finish they’re looking to improve upon this season.

“We play in a competitive OCC-Cardinal Division that will test us throughout the spring,” Lucas said. “Our goal is to put ourselves in a position to compete for a league title in May. We will compete against some big-time arms from our opponents … it will be a great challenge.”


The Olentangy Liberty baseball team won 27 games last season on the way to an OCC-Central Division championship.

The Patriots’ postseason push hit a speed bump in the form of division rival Olentangy Orange, though, which rallied for a 7-6 Division I regional final win on the way to state runner-up honors.

That said, the offseason was all about growth — on and off the field.

“We had a great offseason of growth,” Liberty coach Ty Brenning said. “We’re looking forward to seeing these athletes continue to grow and shine. Leadership keeps improving every single day and there are a lot of hungry athletes who are waiting to get on the field.”

Top returners from a year ago include senior outfielder Brady Schnierer (a Thomas More commit), senior catcher Zach Meyer (a Wittenberg commit) and sophomore ace Parker Van Engelenhoven (a Louisville commit).

Van Engelenhoven was 8-0 last season, finishing with an ERA of 1.54 to go with 70 strikeouts in 54.1 innings of work. Schnierer, meanwhile, returns as the team’s top hitter (.271 average with two doubles, three triples and a homer) is the team’s top returner at the dish.

Others looking to make noise include seniors Max O’Rourke (a Findlay commit), Brock Lemons (a North Carolina Wesleyan commit), Nicholas Vittorini, McCafrey Tatum and Spencer Jackson.

The junior, which includeds Griffin Galbreath (catcher/pitcher), Andrew Leonard (infield), Brady Bonacci (pitcher/outfield), Evan Alvarez (infield), Gavin Susany (pitcher), Dylan Dielman (pitcher), Aydin Deen (infield/outfield) and Jared Thacker (pitcher).

The sophomore class, with pre-season all-state selection Van Engelenhoven set to headline the rotation, is also deep. Ohio State commit Drew Hauenstein can pitch, play on the infield and handle himself in the outfield. AJ Goldmeyer (outfield), Ryan Stickel (infield), AJ Clymer (infield/catcher) and Gavin Jennings (outfield) are also looking to burst onto the scene.

Freshman Louie Santangelo and Grayson Davis will also compete for playing time.

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