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Highland baseball team strong in pitching, experience this season

3/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

GRANGER — First-year Highland baseball head coach Jay Grissom said he is eager to see his pitching staff in action this season.

“We have a number of pitchers with varsity experience and we expect this to be the strength of this year’s team,” he stated. “I think our two biggest strengths will be our pitching staff and our experience.”

Grissom said he also likes what he is seeing out of his hitters heading into the season.

“We are very excited about the way our lineup is coming together,” he said. “I think we will have a nice combination of speed and strength that will give us the ability to score runs in a variety of ways. We will be very aggressive offensively.”

Last season, Highland finished 22-6 overall. The team was 12-2 in the Suburban League and won the Suburban League title.

“Coming off a Suburban League championship and this being my first year as a head coach, this is a huge challenge,” the coach said. “The program is in a great position as far as talent and depth — we just need to work even harder in order to defend the league title.”

Six players graduated following last season, but Grissom said his team has plenty of returning experience.

“I think we have a nice mix of veterans and young players ready for their first shot to play at the varsity level,” he said. “We have 12 returning lettermen and a talented group of juniors and sophomores to complement them.”

According to Grissom, this year’s team features a strong senior class. Those seniors, with comments on each player by the coach, are:

  • Luke Raley (first baseman, outfielder, pitcher): “A two-time letter winner, Luke is a versatile defender and a very productive hitter. He was first-team all-Suburban League in 2012 and honorable mention all-Suburban League in 2011. He is committed to play baseball at Division II Lake Erie College next year.”
  • Jacob Pries (pitcher): “Jacob is a two-time letter-winner. He was first team all-Suburban League in 2012 and has won a Scholar Athlete Award. He is our No. 1 starter.”
  • Ricky Esker (shortstop, pitcher): “He was second team all-Suburban League in 2012. Ricky is a top of the lineup type of hitter and very good defensively.”
  • Kenny Sanford (pitcher): “He is a big lefty. We are looking for big things out of him this year as a starter.”
  • Dylan McVay (pitcher): “Dylan has a big arm. We expect him to be a part of the starting rotation. Dylan has signed a full scholarship to play football at Alderson-Broaddus University in West Virginia.”
  • Zach Garcia (outfielder): “He is making a position change from catcher to the outfield. Zach is maybe the fastest player we have.”
  • Ryan Miller (outfielder, pitcher): “Ryan will help add depth to the outfield as well as out of the bullpen.”
  • Clay Condon (outfielder): “He has worked very hard to come back from an elbow surgery. Clay will compete for an outfield position.”
  • Anthony Ondrejcak (first baseman, pitcher): “Anthony was second team all-Suburban League in 2012. He is a very productive hitter in the middle of the lineup.”
  • Steve Demczuk (outfielder): “He did not play during the 2012 season due to a broken arm, but he adds to our overall team speed.”

Highland’s season will get under way April 2 at 4:30 p.m. at Green High School.

“Our goals include defending the league title and setting ourselves up to make some noise in the state tournament at the end of the year,” said Grissom, who is in his first season as Highland’s varsity head coach. He was a freshman coach in 2007 and 2008 and the school’s varsity assistant from 2009 through 2011.

His staff is comprised of: Mike Weyand (pitching coach and varsity assistant); Jordan Bialosky (varsity assistant); John Depiore (junior varsity coach); and Erik Bell (freshmen coach).

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