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Borders a difference-maker for Springfield

Rob Cassell is counting on pitching and defense to carry his Springfield High School baseball team this spring, and the player he’s counting on the most is senior Riley Borders.

Borders on the mound means a proven No. 1 starter. He was second team All-Miami Valley Baseball Coaches Association in Division I last year with a 5-3 record and 1.17 ERA.

Borders at the plate means a threat to hit .500. He batted .450 last year, which was good enough for fourth best in the Greater Western Ohio Conference.

“He’s definitely the kind of guy that when the game’s on the line you want at the plate or you want on the mound,” Cassell said.

Borders is only 5-foot-9 with a slight build, so he hasn’t gotten the kind of college attention one might expect with the kind of numbers he has produced in the GWOC. He struck out only 28 in 54 innings, but Cassell doesn’t mind because Borders thrives on mixing his pitches and control.

Borders threw a shutout in the sectional opener last year to lead the Wildcats to their first tournament victory since the consolidation of North and South high schools.

After a 14-13 season, Cassell said he wasn’t sure how confident he would be going into this season with a lineup full of non-seniors other than Borders. But Cassell sees strong pitching headed by Borders and junior Jeff Mefford, as well as strong defense led by Mefford at shortstop and Sam Grayson at second base.

“It’s all going to come down to offense for us,” Cassell said. “I’m pretty confident in saying we’ll have a better year than we had last year.”

  • Kenton Ridge senior Michael Knotts had back surgery in July to repair a vertebrae that he broke in his sophomore season, and he’s back with plans to pitch a lot more than the 19 innings he was limited to last year.

“It will really help us if we get him back throwing the way he’s supposed to throw,” Cougars coach Aaron Shaffer said.

Knotts, who is interested in playing college ball at either Division III power Marietta or Division II Carson-Newman in Tennessee, will form a 1A/1B top of the starting rotation with senior Kendall Colvin, who has signed with Division I Oakland University in Michigan. Shaffer is also counting on senior Patrick McCaughy to be a good starter.

“We’ve got the pitching and a bunch of seniors who think they can do better than 8-8,” Shaffer said.

  • Tecumseh lost ace J.T. Brubaker, now a top starter at Akron, but Roger Culbertson sees promise in his pitching staff.

Gabe Berner, a senior, is expected to be the No.1 starter, and backed by juniors Bubba Cantrell and Jake Nicewaner and senior Alex High. And an offense led by shortstop and college prospect Tony Evans means the Arrows should contend again in the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division.

“I think we can have a pretty good year,” Culbertson said.

  • After winning a Division III sectional last year, Northwestern’s goal is to win the CBC Mad River Division and a district championship for the first time.

“We haven’t won a league title since 1975, and that’s our expectation and goal,” coach Jordan Shumaker said.

Shumaker will count on ace Austin Marshall, No. 2 starter Frank Robinette (transfer from Shawnee), outfielder and closer Danny Skiles (transfer from Springfield), catcher Jaden Cleland (signed with Cedarville), Cody Circle and Hunter Houseman to lead an experienced team.

  • Triad is the Ohio Heritage Conference favorite with the return of ace Doug Lowe, top hitter Tre McIntyre and No. 2 starter Colton Young.

Lowe was 9-2 with 100 strikeouts and leads a staff that returns all but one inning pitched from last year. Coach Will Nichols said timely hitting will be the key to the Cardinals’ bid to win the league again and advance to the Division III district tournament.

  • Southeastern is under the direction of Jack Dalie. He takes over for Greg Bonifay, who led the Trojans to a district title before falling to eventual Division IV state champion Minster in the regional semifinals.

Dalie was the Trojans’ JV coach from 2008-11, has been a high school bowling coach, and was a high school baseball and softball umpire for 20 years.

  • Mechanicsburg also has a new coach in Bryan Eiynk, who moved up from junior varsity to replace Dave Lough. Eiynk said he hopes the return of senior Austin Black from a shoulder injury will kick start the rebuilding process.
  • Cedarville has a new school building but new ball fields won’t be ready until next year, so the Indians will be playing at the community park again. The all-dirt infield is a bit of a home-field advantage. And the outfield fence that measures approximately 300 feet from right to left fields is an advantage for any hitter with a little power.

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