A chance to get better

By: 
Seth Kinker
Sports Editor

COVID-19 began to effect prep sports in the state of Ohio in early March. 

At that time, winter post season games were postponed, and eventually cancelled, with the spring sport season officially being cancelled on Apr. 20. 

After the long drawn out process through the months of March and April,  it remained to be seen whether there would be any spring sports. 

Once that decision to cancel prep sports for the spring season came down the pipeline, discussions for softball and baseball teams turned to the summer and if games were to be played. 

For seniors, the end of their school year and a last chance at a sport season was taken away. But for some programs, like Fort Loramie baseball, this season would have been critical to their development. 

“It’s even more important for us,” said Fort Loramie head coach Jeff Sanders on being able to play baseball this summer. “We had almost zero varsity experience coming in this year, it was almost paramount for us to have baseball this summer so these guys can compete in pressure tournament situations and ball games.”

 

 

“We have a pretty good junior and sophomore class,” added Sanders. “We always felt once the 2019 class graduated, we never felt the cabinet would be bare. We have some very talented, baseball loving, hardworking kids in that junior and senior to be class. We’re optimistic the talent is there; they just need to get game exp and get those reps.” 

Through the majority of their summer schedule as of Jun. 29, the Redskins boasted a 10-4-1 record with a few games remaining 

Next year, the team will have just one returning starter in catcher Darren Hoying, who won a state title as a freshman and would have missed this year while recovering from surgery to an injury obtained last summer during the legion baseball. 

“I haven’t played with these guys in two years,” said Hoying before their game eon Jun. 24 against Coldwater. “Our team camaraderie is just amazing. We're all best friends on the team, I think that’s honestly what’s pushed us forward thru these tough times.”

Hoying was thrown into the fire as an underclassmen on a team loaded with upperclassmen talent in 2018, when Fort Loramie won the state title. 

“I learned to never give up,” said Hoying on his experience on that team as a freshman. “Jared Middendorf, he threw an 85-mph fastball with a 72-mph curveball that broke about a foot.  My team in 8th grade, we never had a lefty curveball and then all of a sudden I’m introduced to this lefty curveball that’s amazing.” 

Now, Hoying is to be reunited with his class that will be guys he’s been playing with since the youth leagues. 

“I just forgot how fun it was to play with them,” said Hoying, who plans to resume throwing in the fall while he continues to rehab. “We just won a tournament at Newton (last week), that just shows how fun it is with each other. Baseball is one of those sports, if you’re not having fun, you’re not playing good at all. When you’re having fun and cheering on your teammates it makes the game that much better and fun.”

Jake Sanders, an infielder who spent the majority of time on JV last year, was one of many JV players slated to step up into a bigger role had the spring season not been cancelled. 

After working on his hitting this offseason in preparation for the jump to varsity, he told The Community Post he has seen the fruits of his labor this summer against varsity caliber opponents or better. 

“It was devastating,” said Sanders on this year being canceled. “ I just knew I had to keep working because next year we’d be playing and I figured we’d be playing some summer ball which we are now. We had to keep going because this year being done doesn’t mean it won’t be back next season, we have to keep preparing.”

“I just didn’t think we’d have fans but I think what they did was right with the outbreak,” added Sanders. “I thought for sure we would have a season, there's not many close quarter interactions with baseball but it happens, just got to work with it and keep going. I think summer ball has been really good for us.”

Sanders also plays for the Tri-County Stars out of Sidney when he’s not suiting up for Fort Loramie and knew how critical these games this summer could be. 

“You can only do so much in practice, I think this will be really good for us because it’s just summer ball,” said Sanders. “It matters, but you can’t compete for state title like we wanted, it’ll be really good for next season when we want to make a run. None of us have had a true varsity experience yet. Getting that experience in this year under our belts will be really good for next year.” 

Grant Albers, the leadoff hitter and centerfielder for Fort Loramie this summer, is another JV player that was to step into a bigger role this spring. 

Albers was called up as a pinch runner on the 2018 state title team. 

“It was a great time,” said Albers. “That atmosphere, it’s kind of contagious, it’s a ‘you want to get back there’ type of thing, it was awesome.” 

Albers was busy during baseball’s offseason, playing for the basketball team that made it to regionals, but didn’t think COVID-19 would be as serious as it turned out to be. 

“Coach had us have partners and throw through May just in case,” said Albers. "Sure enough, we were allowed. I was excited, I’d hate to lose an entire season. I was excited to play, it’s fun playing baseball here especially in this weather.”

“I think we have a pretty good team this year,” said Albers before their game on Jun. 24. “It’s a lot of fun when you’re winning and joking around with buddies. Great atmosphere and fans.

“It’s very important,” added Albers on the importance of summer baseball this year. “I don't want to waste any time and want to continue to build because we are getting a whole summer in. It’ll show next year, the experience. In tournaments, and faster play for next season.”