Morning Huddle: Two Ohio baseball coaches step down


JJ’s Morning Huddle: A daily dose of News, Notes & Nuggets from around the state

• Baseball’s Swenson gets call from Orioles
• Poland’s Gabriel earns spot on USA Softball national team

• Colleges increasingly turn to Facebook for recruiting

• MLB pitcher Niese comes back to Ohio for game against Cleveland

• More controversy over All-Ohio picks

Moving on: Garfield Heights baseball coach Dennis Markiewicz announced his retirement after 15 seasons out of the hopes of landing an assistant coaching spot on the college level. Markiewicz put together a 201-157 record. “There comes a time when you feel it’s time [to go] and I feel this is the time,” he said. After 29 seasons, Lee Day – the baseball coach at Lebanon High School – also announced his retirement. “I don’t have the energy that I had 10, 15 or 20 years ago to deal with all of the things that you have to deal with as a varsity baseball coach in Ohio,” he says.

Free agent: Former Youngstown State University pitcher Aaron Swenson was passed over in the recent Major League Baseball draft, so he made up his mind to join an independent league that might turn into a spot on a minor league team. Turns out, he didn’t even have to do that. Tuesday night he got a call from the Baltimore Orioles. “It’s all happened so fast, I haven’t really got a chance to think about it, but I’m very excited,” said Swenson, who spoke by phone Tuesday evening while waiting for his flight at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. “This kind of came to me at the last minute and I’m just going to do the best I can.”

From Poland to Bogata: Poland High School sophomore Erin Gabriel is the first softball player in Ohio history to land a spot on the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team. She’s one of 17 softball players from across the country who made the roster. “I don’t think a lot of people realize the significance of this — there never has been a girl from the state in Ohio who has made this national team,” says her coach, Reid Lamport. Her team’s first game will be in Bogota, Colombia. “Joy just took over,” Gabriel said.

Got Facebook? Area athletes are increasingly using social networking sites to land scholarships – and, it seems, schools are using sites like Facebook to make offers. That’s how Lebanon High School wide receiver Chase Cochran found out Ohio U. wanted to make him an offer. “Ohio U. hooked me up with their Facebook page when they first started recruiting me, and they decided they wanted to offer me a scholarship during a no-call period,” he says. Ohio Bobcat assistant coach Kevin Lightner calls it the norm. “I think everyone does it now,” he says.

On the mound: Defiance’s Jon Niese is back in rare form after a stint on the disabled list for the New York Mets. He brought his arm to Cleveland for a game against the Indians. “My hamstring isn’t bothering me anymore, so it’s a lot easier for me to stay balanced,” he says. “When I do that, I feel like I can throw strikes.” Indeed, he’s won his last three starts (including the game against the Indians) with 15 strikeouts and a 1.57 ERA.

All-stars? Mayfield baseball coach Don Ramer dropped me a line yesterday to say thanks for mentioning how slanted the All-Ohio baseball selections seem to be. He was careful to point out that he’s not knocking the players who received the honor: “Those players worked hard to get where they are at.” Still, he argues that Mayfield’s Lee Longo and Tim Wetzel were unfairly passed up. “My 4 hitter (Longo) had 60 RBIs and is headed to Eastern Michigan on scholarship, and my centerfielder who hit .560 with 46 RBIs, 23 steals and is on scholarship to Ohio State aren’t good enough,” he says. “They carried us to the regional final two out of the last three years where we lost to St. Edward who won the state championship those two years.” He’s even more riled by that fact that St. Edward seniors Stetson Allie and Alex Lavisky were overlooked despite getting drafted by big league clubs. “I’ve been coaching Mayfield for 11 years now and have held my tonuge about the way we ridiculously select All-Ohio,” he says. Rest assured, he’s not alone.

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