We wait all year for the sights and sounds of spring. We wait for the
chirping of the birds. We wait for that first crocus to sprout its head
through the ground. We wait for the sound of a bat meeting a ball, and
we wait for the sweet smell of hot dogs cooking on the grill.
Unfortunately, here in northwest Ohio, even though the calendar states
that spring has arrived we are still waiting for the sights and sounds
that confirm it.
We wait all year for the sights and sounds of spring. We wait for the chirping of the birds. We wait for that first crocus to sprout its head through the ground. We wait for the sound of a bat meeting a ball, and we wait for the sweet smell of hot dogs cooking on the grill. Unfortunately, here in northwest Ohio, even though the calendar states that spring has arrived we are still waiting for the sights and sounds that confirm it.
Hoping that eventually we will be able to sit comfortably in the stands and enjoy a game or two, it is time to take a quick look at who might be the teams and players to watch in the next several weeks.
The Northwest Conference will again be highly competitive with Columbus Grove and Delphos Jefferson being the likely frontrunners for the conference title. Both squads return nearly their entire team from last year and, in the case of Delphos Jefferson, that means a team that advanced all the way to the regional finals in last year’s state playoffs.
For Columbus Grove, their fortunes depend heavily upon the shoulders of Nate Bogart (P, SS). Bogart was Honorable Mention All-State last year and he will have to have a great season if the Bulldogs are to be successful.
Paulding and Lima Central Catholic are rebuilding after tying for the title last season while Crestview and Bluffton are both quite young.
Lima Shawnee made a good run at the tail end of last season and appear poised, with seven returning players from that District Champion team, to continue that run this season and, therefore, to be at the top of the Western Buckeye League. The arm of Cody Kopilchack will be an essential part of that effort. Kopilchack won nine games last season and is being looked upon to improve on that mark. Offensively, Kopilchack, Tyler Gallant and David Gerard will be the nucleus of the Indians’ attack.
Looking to challenge Lima Shawnee are teams from Defiance, Lima Bath, Ottawa-Glandorf, Kenton and Wapakoneta. These five teams all return a significant number of players from last year and could use this experience to rise to the top of the heap.
Defiance is historically one of the best teams in the Western Buckeye League and are currently riding a 23-game league win streak. Until they are beaten, they must be considered the league’s best. Significantly, Kenton returns two of their starting pitchers (Cody Barker and Mark Fackler) which is the good news but the bad news is that they return from a sub-500 level team (10-12). Ottawa-Glandorf has a solid nucleus but must hope that their younger players develop quickly. Wapakoneta has numbers but needs two or three performers to have great seasons and Bath must have overall team improvement.
In the Midwest Athletic Conference, Coldwater again appears to be the frontrunner. Coldwater, who advanced last season all the way to the state semi-finals, return nine letterwinners from that squad. The Cavaliers remain strong up the middle with Cory Klenke at shortstop and Alex Geier at second and, with four pitchers returning, they should be solid all season.
The rest of the league, outside of St. Henry, appears to be young so the Redskins are the team that is most likely to challenge Coldwater. St. Henry posted a respectable, 19-7, record last season and are hoping to improve on that performance and, hopefully, push Coldwater for the league title and, afterwards, make a run in the state tournament.
Playing in two separate leagues, Columbus Grove is hoping to add the Putnam County League title to its treasure chest as well. As defending champions, the Bulldogs look unbeatable as the remainder of the league is young and inexperienced. Look for Miller City to provide the greatest challenge.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Katelyn Schiefer and Chelcie Rutter, Fostoria St. Wendelin, softball: The weather has been the real story this week in northwest Ohio. Most events have been cancelled and, therefore, the number of candidates for player of the week honors is limited. Two players, however, from the same team, Fostoria St. Wendelin’s, had performances that deserve recognition.
This past Saturday, Schiefer and Rutter, struck out 17 and 14 hitters respectively in their team’s double-header blanking of Liberty-Benton. With the weather conditions being less than ideal, the performances of Schiefer and Rutter are particularly note-worthy.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
Liberty-Benton, girls track: Although the Liberty-Benton softball team was on the losing end of the performances of this week’s Players of the Week, their track team was far more successful in being named as this week’s Team of the Week. The Lady Eagles ran away with the their own track event this past week, the Ralphie Relays, by capturing 12 separate events, and easily outdistancing the field. The Lady Eagles posted 138 points which was 46 more than the 92 points posted by meet runner-up Eastwood. Paige Vaupel led the way for the Lady Eagles by participating in and winning four different events.
NEWS, NOTES AND NUGGETS
New Coach: The Rossford Lady Bulldogs are seeking a new coach for their basketball program as Lorie Pietrasz has resigned her position. Pietrasz, who has held the position for the past three seasons, cited personal reasons as the cause for her resignation. Although her win/loss record at Rossford has been less than spectacular (2-20 this past season), Pietrasz was well-respected in the coaching community.
Changes at St. Mary’s Memorial: The St. Mary’s Memorial football program is also seeking a new coach as Doug Frye recently stepped down after 11 seasons at the helm. Over those 11 seasons, Frye’s teams captured three Western Buckeye titles and appeared in six state playoffs. Frye’s overall record while coaching at St. Mary’s Memorial is 89-35.
Clay vs. St. John’s Jesuit, Wednesday, Baseball. This is a match-up that will go a long way to determining who captures the City League number one seed in the post-season playoffs and who eventually wins the regular season championship as well. Clay’s starting strong starting nine will try to overcome the Titan’s team depth.
Start vs. Central Catholic, Wednesday, Baseball. While Clay and St. John’s are battling it out in the south end of town, the Start Spartans and Central Catholic Fighting Irish will be battling out in the west. Like the Clay/St. John’s contest, the Start/Central Catholic game is equally as important. The winner will gain a significant advantage in the league race.
Kenton vs. Ottawa-Glandorf, Thursday, Baseball. Two teams battling to establish themselves as contenders in the Western Buckeye League. It will be Kenton’s starting pitching against OG’s overall team depth.
Defiance vs. Celina, Thursday, Baseball. This game features Defiance’s 23 game league winning streak on the line against one of the league’s better teams.
Lima Bath vs. Delphos Jefferson, Saturday, Baseball. A Saturday double-header involving two teams that figure to be near the top of their respective leagues.