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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Orrville Spring Sports Demanding Respect

It's not meant as a slight to the spring sport athletes of Orrville High School, their coaches or fans, but it just seems when basketball/wrestling season ends in March, the town begins the countdown to another football season in the fall.

And if you've been a long-time reader of this site, you'll see that my activity dips a little (or a lot) during the spring months. Again, it's no slight, just typically my down time after a busy fall & winter sports season.

But this spring sports season seems a little different, and the combined success of the spring teams has a lot to do with it. You could argue that never before has the baseball, softball and track programs, combined, gotten off to the successful start that they have this year....and people (and bloggers) are starting to take notice.

The Red Rider softball team is off to a 14-2 start and a perfect 8-0 in OCC play.  They have what any good team has..balance, talent and timely hitting.  Their top pitcher is senior Emily Miller (7-1, 1.08 ERA) who transferred to Orrville this year from Central Christian.  She's the younger sister of Orrville alum and Kent State football player Sam Miller.  Freshman Bree Kauf is 5-0 from the circle with a 1.31 ERA.  So Kauf and Miller have a combined 12-1 record and an ERA of 1.16.  Look no further than that for the reason behind the team's success this year.

This is the first year that the OHSAA adopted a rule that moved back the pitchers mound from 40 feet to 43 feet (college distance).  It was thought that this move would decrease pitching's effect on the game, or at least improve the batter's chances of success.

But just as important has been the Riders ability to hit the ball and score runs.  There are currently 5 Riders hitting better than .400 on the season, led by Miller at a torrid .579 clip.  Mallory Pertee checks in at .515 and Maggie Johnson at .469 with a team-high 21 RBI and 3 home runs.

Their path to an OCC conference title (would be the first for softball, and just the 2nd for all spring sports since joining the OCC..girls track won the OCC in '08) includes two games this week against Lexington, two the following week with Wooster and two the final week of the season with Ashland.  They lead Ashland in conference play by 2 games, so nothing is locked up yet, but the way they've been handling their business, it looks promising.

I can't remember a time when softball has been this solid, perhaps Coach Johnson knows for sure but this has to be one of the finer teams the softball program has ever seen.

After a red-hot start, the Red Rider baseball team went 2-2 this past week, with both losses coming to conference foe Clear Fork.  Their two wins however, were quite impressive, a 9-0 win over state-ranked Tuslaw and a 9-5 win over state-ranked and defending Division 3 state champ Canton Central Catholic.

Their record sits at 9-4 on the season and 5-3 in the OCC.  The next two weeks will really define their season.  They have 2 with Lexington and a non-league game at Triway this week, then home with Central Christian and then two with Wooster next week.

Trevor Kerr has been leading the way for the Riders on the mound with a 1.72 ERA and 3 wins.  Kerr also leads the Rider hit parade, batting an even .400 on the season, followed closely by Stuart Schley at .394.  Senior AJ Perez leads the team with 12 RBI. 

The tournament draw is this Sunday the 29th.  The Riders are most likely looking at a top-4 seed along with Canton Central, Norwayne and Tuslaw.

It's been a while since the Riders have made noise in the post-season and that will ultimately be the measuring stick.  I recall the program making regionals 3 times in the mid 90's but I don't believe they've made it to that level since then.  The program's only state appearance was in 1976 when they finished as runners-up.

Of all the spring sports, the one with the most tradition lately has been track...and this season has been no different with the boys team winning every one of the four invitationals they've participated in (Fairless, McCay, Orrville and Triway Invites).

They'll participate in 2 more invites this season before the OCC meet at Lexington.  This week they'll travel to Richfield for the Revere Relays and then the Jackson Twilight Invite.  Both meets will pit the Riders against schools much bigger than Orrville, and that's on purpose to get our students athletes to begin peaking for the conference meet and the districts and onward towards the state meet in Columbus.

It was a lot of fun working the Orrville Invite two weekends ago.  It was miserable weather for the coaches and athletes, and for the kids to stay focused on doing their best in tough weather, really spoke to me about the dedication it takes to participate in track.

The boys and girls team both have some really talented athletes.  The boys are being led by senior Drew Brenner who runs both the 110 & 300m hurdles, as well as relays.  Senior Stew Turner has been hampered by injury, but is still excelling in the long jump and will be a key piece of any deep tournament run by our relay teams.  Sophomore Joel Zook has been dominant this year in the 200m run and the 3 relays he runs.  Junior Tyrone White has also been very impressive, as have juniors Brandon Johnson, Chase Infield and senior Cody Weaver.  Weaver and Infield are both running track for the first time this season.

It will be fun to watch the relay teams round into form.  If there's one area we have depth, it's there.  Anyone from Brenner, Zook, Turner, Weaver, White Brandon Johnson, Elijah Coleman, Matt Kohler and Martavius Dyson can step in and contribute.  It will be up to the coaches to put the best 4 together and work on mechanics, hand-offs and pace. 

The girls track team should be getting back to full strength in the next week or so, as several girls have missed meets due to participation in JO Volleyball.  The Jarrett sisters (senior Lexie and sophomore Maddie) will both be in the running in pole vault in districts and beyond and hurdler Nicole Greegor will look to make a return trip to Columbus.

Both the boys and girls will participate in the district tournament at Midview High School in Grafton.  Traditionally, this meet was held at Orrville, but due to the construction of the new high school, it was decided to move the tournament.  It is hoped that once the school is completed and the track resurfaced, the district meet will return to OHS.

Good luck to all the spring sports teams as they wind down their regular seasons and compete in tournament play.

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