Prep Baseball: Northeastern baseball finding its stride at right time

Northeastern High School senior Jake Nichols runs towards home plate as Fairbanks catcher Evan Blumenschein waits for the ball during their game on Friday evening in Springfield. Nichols was safe on the play and the Jets won 6-5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
Northeastern High School senior Jake Nichols runs towards home plate as Fairbanks catcher Evan Blumenschein waits for the ball during their game on Friday evening in Springfield. Nichols was safe on the play and the Jets won 6-5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

SPRINGFIELD — It may have taken a few weeks, but the Northeastern High School baseball team is finally starting to get hot.

After starting the season 3-3, the Jets have won six straight and eight of their last nine games. Northeastern is 11-4 and 7-2 in the Ohio Heritage Conference North Division, 2.5 games back of unbeaten Mechanicsburg.

“We’ve just been trying to figure things out here at the beginning of the season,” said Jets coach Will Nichols. “It’s been tough, but I think we’ve got some things figured out.”

The Jets scored four runs in the fourth inning to beat Fairbanks 6-5 on Friday afternoon in Springfield. Northeastern had nine hits in the game.

“Top to bottom, we’ve got some pretty tough outs,” Nichols said. “We put the ball in play. The last two games were tight games and we had a breakout inning. We accumulated some runs and ended up with two run rules against two pretty decent teams.”

The Jets are led by senior Jake Nichols, who is off to a strong start both at the plate and on the mound. Nichols leads with Ohio Heritage Conference in batting average (.575) and ranks third in RBIs (22). On the mound, the senior is 4-1 with a 2.56 earned run average and a league-best 46 strikeouts.

Northeastern junior Preston Graves ranks third in the OHC with a .489 batting average and ranks second in RBIs with 23. Senior shortstop Sam Franzen is hitting .407 with 22 hits and six doubles. Jets junior lefty Colton Moone is 5-0 on the season with a 1.85 ERA and 30 strikeouts.

“We have a good mix as far as seniors through sophomores in our lineup,” Will Nichols said. “I’ve got different guys who are streaky. I’ve got some who will hit well one game and then they go cold, but then two or three others will pick them up. We’re doing a good job picking each other up.”

Northeastern High School junior Colton Moone motions towards the plate during their game against Fairbanks on Friday evening in Springfield. The Jets won 6-5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
Northeastern High School junior Colton Moone motions towards the plate during their game against Fairbanks on Friday evening in Springfield. The Jets won 6-5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

Nichols admitted the first week of the season was difficult. After missing last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jets were still getting used to being back on the diamond.

“I’m taking for granted that there’s some things they should know and they don’t know,” Nichols said. “That’s the biggest thing. Our baseball intelligence isn’t where I think it should be or where I thought it should be. I think not playing is part of that reason and everybody I talk to it’s the same story. These kids are a year off. It’s like two years later, we’re playing. Some of them don’t play summer ball. They play high school ball. If you don’t play summer ball, you’re a year behind.”

Fifteen games into the season, the Jets are starting to put things together, Will Nichols said. They face a tough stretch next week with three straight road games at West Liberty-Salem, Triad and Greeneview before hosting West Jefferson on Friday.

“We’re going to have to cut our mistakes down defensively,” Will Nichols said. “If anything has been our biggest downfall, it’s been defense. We need to do a better job making plays behind our pitchers.”

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