Young Woodridge baseball team led by pitching
PENINSULA — With a number of young players learning on the job this season, Woodridge baseball head coach Dennis Dever said his team “got better each day.”
“I’m proud of how hard the guys played,” he said. “We were a young team, with only four seniors.”
The Bulldogs finished the season with a 15-13 overall record.
“We had big wins vs. St. Vincent-St. Mary, Ravenna and Rootstown,” Dever said.
The seniors on this year’s squad were right-handed pitcher John Weniger, closer/shortstop Dan Rice, second baseman Seth Bills and outfielder Luke Christopher.
“They are good leaders, and they had solid, solid seasons,” Dever said.
The coach described each of the seniors as follows:
• Weniger: “He had an outstanding season. It was one of the best pitching performances we’ve ever had. Over the course of the year, he pitched in a lot of big games and won eight games.”
• Rice: “Danny was our closer. He actually tied the school record for saves in a season with four. He was solid for us. Danny was also our starting shortstop, and he was solid at the plate for us as well.”
• Bills: “Seth was a very good second baseman, defensively, and he had a solid season hitting the baseball.”
• Christopher: “Luke was our main pinch-runner, and he did an outstanding job doing that. He had a great attitude all season long, and it rubbed off on his teammates.”
The team’s primary strength this season, Dever said, was its pitching.
“Our pitching was excellent, with a 2.64 ERA,” he said.
According to Dever, Weniger anchored the staff, but a number of other pitchers had strong performances this season.
“Junior Brad Snyder ended up winning five games. He is a left-handed pitcher and he did real well. He won a lot of key games, especially against good teams,” the coach said. “Our No. 3 pitcher, [sophomore] Kevin Kelleher, was very solid. He was 1-3 overall, but his record doesn’t indicate how well he pitched. He kept us in pretty much every game he threw. And then we have a few other guys — like Tommy Finegan, Jeff Laux and Tommy Morehouse — who threw well when they came into games late.”
Despite the loss of the two senior hurdlers next year, Dever said, Woodridge has enough depth to maintain pitching as a strength.
“We have quite a bit coming back,” he stated. “It will be really tough losing those two, because they gave us a lot of quality innings, but I think our pitching staff will be just fine next year.”
Dever said he expects the team to make a leap forward at the plate next season.
“Up and down the lineup, most of our top hitters return,” he said. “Freshman Michael Walter, our first baseman, led our team in hitting, and I’m sure he’ll only get better. Another freshman, third baseman Christian Owens, is our second-leading hitter. And then everybody else is kind of all stacked together. Sophomore right-fielder Justin Whitely was right in the mix average-wise, along with sophomore Anthony Yacobucci, our starting left-fielder, who hit real well.”
With a .233 team batting average and “difficulty in scoring runs,” Dever said the team’s hitting was a work in progress this year. However, the coach said he could see improvement at the plate as the season progressed, especially amongst the younger players on the team.
“We worked hard every day, and I think the work in practice started to rub off on them,” he said. “And I think there was a maturation process as they adjusted to varsity-level pitching. We hit the ball better recently. A lot of guys learned a lot about the game of baseball.”
Dever said he believes his team should be even better next season.
“We’ve got a lot of good kids coming back,” he said. “A lot of kids that were young got a lot of experience, so I’m sure we’ll be much improved next year because of the [number] of kids we have returning.”
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