Wapakoneta baseball coach Jason Brandt knew pitching wasn’t going to be a problem in the leadup to the 2012 season.
Hitting? Now that was a question mark.
The Redskins returned just three players with a combined 100 varsity at bats. The new bat standards only added to the suspense.
As Wapakoneta (24-5) prepares for its first trip to the state baseball tournament, that question has been answered.
The Redskins are batting .320 as a team and have scored 29 runs in five tournament games.
They will need to bring their bats when they take on the West Holmes Knights (23-6) in a Division II semifinal at 10 a.m. Thursday at Huntington Park in Columbus.
“It’s been attributable to our guys working hard in the cages, working hard in BP, any little time,” Wapak coach Jason Brandt said. “I’ve come by the field at other times and we have guys up here hitting, throwing to each other. Their dads are up there soft-tossing to them, tee work, any little thing they can do to get better.
“Those are the things you like as a coach, guys who are willing to put in a little extra time on their own to get better.”
West Holmes will counter on the mound with 6-foot-6 left hander Gabe Snyder.
Snyder is 9-0 with a 0.86 ERA in 11 appearances. He has allowed 31 hits in 56 2/3 innings with 56 strikeouts and 30 walks.
He tossed a one-hit shutout in a 12-0 five-inning run rule win over Miami Trace in the regional semifinals.
“He throws mid-80’s with a big looping curveball,” Brandt said.
Snyder became the Knights No. 1 starter after Dillon Baird suffered a shoulder injury in early May.
Baird, also a lefty, has worked his way back into the lineup. The former Ohio Cardinal Conference pitcher of the year, pitched three innings in relief to earn the win in a 3-1 regional final triumph over Richmond Edison.
Offensively, the Knights are led by senior center fielder Joey Gonzalez, who is batting .511.
Gonzales is one of four seniors on the team. West Holmes is in its third year under coach Kurt McDowell. In his first year, McDowell’s squad compiled a 10-14 record. The Knights were 14-11 last year.
West Holmes is making its second trip to state and its first since 1966.
With no seniors on its roster, the temptation for Wapak might be to take this trip to Columbus lightly, thinking there’s always next year.
But Brandt said he has tried to emphasize there is no time like the present.
“We’ve tried to stress all along that there might not be a next year,” he said. “In the game of baseball, anything and everything can and will happen. On any given day, another pitcher can shut you down, you can have a key error here or there that can cost you a run or two, which could be the game.
“So you can never look ahead in that aspect. We just have to look at what we have here in the present and try to take it just like we have every other game.”
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