Sports Talk: Warren’s baseball future looks bright

After Warren right-hander Danny Pannell was relieved on the hill by head coach Mark Farr with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Warriors had eight non-seniors on the diamond.

All are expected to return next spring.

“We’ll have a pretty good nucleus coming back,” said Warren skipper Mark Farr after the Warriors (15-10) dropped a 3-0 decision to the Cadiz Harrison Central Huskies in an Ohio Division II regional semifinal baseball game at Gant Municipal Stadium in Zanesville Thursday afternoon.

“In the starting lineup there, I think, the only two seniors were the second baseman (Riley Bobo) and our starting pitcher (Pannell).”

The only other seniors on Warren’s 2013 roster were Zach McKenna and Jacob Freeman.

The returning starters will include center fielder Lance Schafer, shortstop Ethan Estes, third baseman/pitcher Garrett Kennedy, catcher Gunnar Smith, DH/first baseman David Ryan, right fielder Blake Kidder, first baseman/pitcher Justin Hill, and left fielder Andrew Henthorn.

The non-starters in the regional game were Jacob Powell (OF), Joel Estes (INF.), Collin Welch (C), Jacob Scott (INF.).

On its journey to the “Sweet 16” tournament, Warren faced some pretty good pitchers. Marietta lefty Evan Sawyer and Gallia Academy’s Justin Bailey certainly come to mind.

But Harrison Central senior Rashaen Mitchell may have been the best of the lot. The 6-foot-7 southpaw limited the Warriors to just one hit – a second-inning single to right by Smith.

Relying mostly on his fastball, Mitchell finished with 10 strikeouts and four walks in the contest. He said he also threw a curveball, slider, and knuckle curve.

“The kid’s a good pitcher,” Farr said. “I don’t think he’s pitched from behind very much this year. They did a good job.”

Warren nearly got to Mitchell, though, in the bottom of the second inning. Trailing the Huskies 1-0, Smith led off with a clean single to right. After Ryan was plunked by a pitch, Kidder moved both Warrior baserunners over with a sacrifice bunt.

Up next, Bobo attempted a suicide squeeze, and Mitchell’s pitch appeared to get by the catcher for a wild pitch – and a run?

The ump saw it differently, and said that Bobo had fouled Mitchell’s delivery.

Mitchell then struck out Bobo, and got Hill on a comebacker to the mound to get out of the jam.

“You know, you put pressure on a good pitcher, and sometimes they’ll fold,” Farr said. “That’s the name of high school baseball – throw strikes, limit your walks and you win baseball games.

“We had an opportunity to score in the second inning on that squeeze. Sometimes when you get a little jumpstart…that was our plan all along. We wanted to get a jumpstart to see what would happen.”

Farr paused.

“It was like one of those games no matter what you did, it seemed like it went the other way,” the Warrior boss continued. “They (Harrison Central) earned it. They did a good job.”

Warren never really threatened to score again in the game, although Ethan Estes did walk and steal second in the third inning to get into scoring position.

Mind you Warren hadn’t swung the bats competitively or played since beating both Miami Trace and Washington Court House, 11-3, in the district tournament over a week ago in Athens.

“I’ve said it before, whenever you’re a hot-hitting team, you don’t like not to continue to go,” Farr said.

Thing is, with the royal blue and white group coming back next year, Warren could easily keep it going – all the way to regional again.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com