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The Suburbanite
  • Lake Center Christian baseball able to end season on a hopeful note

  • One number immediately jumps out in contrasting the 2012 season for Lake Center Christian baseball with its 2011 counterpart: 22. That is the number of games the Tigers played this season, contrasted with just 12 in a rain-soaked 2011 campaign.

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  • One number immediately jumps out in contrasting the 2012 season for Lake Center Christian baseball with its 2011 counterpart: 22. That is the number of games the Tigers played this season, contrasted with just 12 in a rain-soaked 2011 campaign.
    Those 22 games were an adventure for a team that had no seniors, plenty of freshmen and no shortage of talented opponents. The final mark was 7-15 and the year ended with a 12-2 Barberton Div. IV sectional tournament loss to Windham, but the Tigers had more than a few victories, moral and otherwise, on their ledger.
    The high point of the season for the Tigers was a 9-7, five-inning win over Rittman on April 21, with junior Alex Armstrong and sophomore Jon Wittmer each driving in two runs to help the Tigers best a team ranked seventh in the state.
    "The win over Rittman was definitely our high point of the year,even though it came in a rain-shortened five-inning game," LCCS coach Tim Hefty said.  "But the second one was against Central Christian, which we won win in bottom of the seventh."
    The Central Christian was an 11-10 slugfest in which Racco DiLauro started and gave up all 10 runs in 4 2/3 innings, only to see LCCS rally back and win with a late offensive burst fueled by patience at the plate as the Tigers drew eight walks to go with their eight base hits. Wittmer pitched the final 2 2/3 innings for the win and LCCS improved to 5-9.
    While the Tigers did not reach their goals of winning 60 percent of their games and winning three tournament games, Hefty insisted the year was not a failure by any definition.
    "I think overall we did OK, even though we set some goals for ourselves and didn't quite get there," the second-year coach said.
    One factor working against LCCS was the loss of junior pitcher/infielder Nate Raymondi after seven games. Raymondi broke his wrist and his year ended with a .348 batting average and five RBI in seven games.
    "When Nate broke his wrist, he was hitting almost .350 and that was a tough loss for us, especially on the mound," Hefty said. "Still, without him we played some good teams tough, including the 2-0 loss to Tuscarawas Central Catholic and the win over Rittman."
    Theres were tough moments along the way. Northwest pitcher Matt Heitger hurled a perfect game in a 10-0 win on March 29, holding the Tigers in check in their third game of the season. Struggles were bound to occur with a team comprised of four juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen, many of them gaining their first varsity experience. Part of the youth was having just four players back from last season and one of them, Raymondi, gone just one-third of the way through the season. Battling along with just 11 players made for long afternoons for the Tigers against some of their better opponents.
    Page 2 of 2 - "It would be nice to add a couple more guys (for next season," Tim Hefty said. "Going into this year, some guys moved, others went back to their old schools. We just struggled to score runs at times this season."
    On the flip side, defensive miscues plagued the Tigers. Of the 178 runs they allowed, 68 were unearned, a high total that underscores how much their defense struggled at times. An outfield populated by freshmen was uneven, but the adversity also taught the Tigers how to battle. Freshman pitcher Collin Floyd embodied that spirit, posting an 0-7 record despite having a 4.74 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 34 innings, including 16 punch outs in the loss to TCC.
    "Collin was the best 0-7 pitcher in county," Hefty joked.
    Floyd also led the team in doubles (five), home runs (two) and RBI (18) and batting average (.365). Freshman Michael Swartzentruber, who clubbed a two-run home run in the tournament loss, was second with a .356 average and had a team-high 21 hits while Witmer was tops in runs scored with 15. On the mound, junior Scott Hefty was the No. 1 option, posting a 4-3 record, 3.68 ERA and one save. Combined with his defensive versatility, which saw him play catcher and multiple positions in the field, he was a valuable weapon all year long.
    The Tigers should benefit from a doubleheader split with Akron Garfield to conclude their season following their tournament loss.
    "Everybody can see as year rolled on we grew and the end of the year was a pretty good feeling, splitting the doubleheader with Akron Garfield," Tim Hefty pointed out. "Mostly though, we just need to play because for most of our guys, baseball is their second sport. I'm encouraging them play this summer or fall and get some experience."
    Looking over the entire landscape of the season, Hefty pulled a number of positive points from the year and sees building blocks being put in place after two years at the helm of the program. "We did some good things, like having the last-inning win against Rootstown, and we learned to battle and what it took to win," he said. "We also learned to tighten up our defense and playing more is going to be the key for us to gain more experience."
    With that experience and their knowledge of what winning baseball against good teams looks like, this spring's (relatively) improved weather may not be the only sunny portion of the forecast for the Tigers.