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CVCA baseball team overcomes injuries, has winning record

6/6/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Head coach Kevin Gross called the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) baseball team’s 2013 season “a building year.”

“I don’t know that you [would] call it a rebuilding year in any way,” he said. “We had a number of younger guys, juniors and sophomores, without much experience who built up experience and gained confidence from getting that experience. So I think we really built a lot in different ways throughout the year.”

CVCA finished 14-13 overall and 8-6 in the Principals Athletic Conference (third place). Following a first-round sectionals win over East High School by a score of 18-3, the Royals lost 8-1 to Tallmadge High School in the sectional finals.

“These guys faced a lot of adversity and learned a lot through that, I think,” Gross said. “We had a number of injuries along the way and so we had some open spots to fill.”

According to the coach, injuries had a significant impact on the team’s performance.

“[Senior] Elijah Brook has been our top pitcher for the last couple of years, and he just had surgery for a torn labrum. He didn’t pitch an inning for us all year, so that was surprising and certainly not what we would have anticipated,” Gross said. “Casey Claflin is a senior, as well, and he caught for us the past two years. He ended up catching only eight games for us this year before he had a bone chip that lodged in his elbow and shut him down.”

With Brook out, senior Ryan Starcher took over as the team’s ace this season.

“Ryan did a fantastic job for us. He finished the year at 6-3, giving him 13 career wins, which puts him fifth all time at CVCA,” the coach stated. “We used him in our toughest games. He is a kid who is incredibly consistent and unflappable on the mound. I can’t say enough great things about Ryan.”

In addition, Gross said, two sophomore pitchers stepped up and contributed to the team on the mound.

“Duke Maley finished at 3-2 with a 3.26 ERA and did some really good stuff for us as a sophomore, which is really encouraging for the future,” he said. “And Steven Chalet is one of those young guys who came in in a relief role and made a lot of big strides this year.”

At the plate, Gross noted, CVCA improved as the season progressed.

“We started slow, which was a little bit of a surprise for us, but we ended with a .308 batting average,” he said. “I would say we were swinging the bats really well toward the end of the year.”

One of the team’s top hitters this season was junior outfielder Mark Miller, who hit .427.

“Mark had an excellent season for us,” Gross stated. “He moved into our leadoff spot and scored 28 runs. He battled a few injuries early on, but really came through for us. He was our most consistent hitter and our main offensive threat.”

According to the coach, Starcher also had a strong season at the plate.

“Ryan kept coming on strong and ended the year hitting .352,” he said. “Ryan scored 27 runs in the No. 2 spot. He had a great all-around year.”

Gross said Miller and Starcher were named to the all-league team this year. Brooks, who played a bit this season at second base and designated hitter, was named honorable mention on the all-league team.

Overall, Gross said, the team’s performance at the plate was a “collective group effort.”

“That’s what we expected coming in,” he said. “We felt it would be a one through nine team effort, and it was. We had a slow start, but different guys jumped in on different days. A lot of guys contributed in different ways.”

Gross said he saw his team improve throughout the season, especially in terms of “their mentality,” and he expects that will help the program going forward.

“Whether we dealt with injuries or disappointment or adversity, their ability to handle that and stay focused was something that I was proud of,” he said. “With the young guys who needed to step up and with the influence of this year’s seniors, I think there’s a lot to be excited for in the future. This season was a jump-start for a lot of guys.”

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