Shawnee has been kept off the baseball field because of nearly three inches of rain the first five days of April, nearly matching the month’s annual average.
But the topic of discussion for first-year coach Brad Olinger was a drought. The high school program’s last Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division title came in 2004. Olinger isn’t guaranteeing a CBC title this season or even next. But he would like to see the Braves, well, reign atop the CBC.
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“We’re trying to come back and say here’s where we are, where do we need to go?” said Olinger, who takes over the program after spending four seasons as the JV coach at Northwestern. “We have some good teams in the conference so it makes it a tough division. We’re trying to bring Shawnee baseball back to where we can compete and get in one of those top two spots in the league.”
The Braves took a good first step. Shawnee beat Tecumseh 3-0 behind a complete game from senior Kolby Wooten on Monday. The senior is expected to be one of the Braves’ top pitchers after going 3-3 with 30 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA in 33 innings last season.
“He’s the one we’re probably going to lean on quite a bit,” Olinger said. “He’s got a good fastball and can come back with a good breaking ball.”
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Senior Wyatt Meyer and freshman Luke Myers join Wooten in Shawnee’s rotation. Meyer was 2-1 with 17 strikeouts and a 4.67 ERA in 18 innings last season.
“We do have a couple pitchers that when they’re throwing we have a good opportunity to win,” Olinger said.
Getting them on the mound, however, has been a struggle. Olinger said his team should be preparing for about its 10th game. Instead they’ve played four, going 3-1.
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Offensively, the Braves are hitting .329 as a team. Shawnee hit .277 a season ago as just one team, Benjamin Logan, finished the season hitting better than .300 in the CBC at .355.
Junior second baseman and pitcher Ben Ross finished second on the team last season with a .371 average. Senior first baseman and DH Tanner Vanvelzor hit .354 with nine extra base hits. Junior catcher Bryce Cox hit .221 and senior first baseman and DH Austin Frederick hit .204.
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Senior infielder and outfielder Camden Vanvelzor, who appeared in four varsity games last season, will be counted on more as one of the four seniors on the roster.
“I know it’s early but we’ve got 26 hits in three games,” Olinger said. “You’re averaging eight hits per game in high school and that’s not bad. We’ve tried to bring in an approach of what’s my mindset? I have to be thinking like a hitter and be thinking about what I want to accomplish.”
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Shawnee was scheduled to play Tecumseh on Friday and Kenton Ridge on consecutive days Monday at KR and Tuesday at Shawnee. From there the Braves enter the heart of the CBC schedule against Bellefontaine, Jonathan Alder, KR and Tecumseh in the Kenton Trail Division. Non-league games with Bellbrook, Fairmont, Tippecanoe and Wayne are also on a challenging schedule.
“For us this year, if my guys compete I’m happy,” Olinger said.
“I know sometimes when Shawnee goes to Kenton Ridge, just because it’s Kenton Ridge and they’ve won the league every year for like 10 years or something, there’s a little bit of we don’t compete very well. When we leave I want Kenton Ridge to say that team is different than the team we’ve played in the past. … When you get into the (Greater Western Ohio Conference), those schools aren’t messing around either.”
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