BevLow to showcase young team at state tourney

Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 head coach Todd Engle wasn’t quite sure early on what to make of his young baseball team this summer.

As a matter of fact, the “Boys of Summer” came into the 2014 season as young of a baseball team as the veteran head coach has had in quite some time.

Sure Engle had a solid nucleus of players who returned from last year’s team such as Ben Barnas, Jake Ullman, Ethan Estes, Lance Schafer, Justin Hill, and Gunnar Smith.

Everyone else on the roster however saw limited time last season or are playing Legion baseball for the very first time.

The young team struggled a bit early on to find their identity as evidenced by a weekend trip in June to Troy for a tournament which netted three losses and left Post 389/750 with a less than spectacular 8-11 record.

Although it might be hard to label that trip successful, playing the level of competition they faced in Troy seemed to mature B/L as they have lost just one time since.

“It’s been a very long year, but we have just seen these kids grow and grow and grow,” said Engle, who will be leading Beverly/Lowell to the state tournament in Lancaster for the seventh time in his tenure. “We are just so young it took some time for things to come together.”

Among those young players who have stepped it up since the season began are right-handed pitchers Phillip Hoffman and Kyler Dennis.

Hoffman saw some action last season as a 14-year old before joining Engle’s rotation this season as well as serving as the team’s back-up catcher to Smith.

He was the winning pitcher in Saturday’s 11-2 district clinching win over Cambridge Post 84, allowing just one earned run in five innings of work.

“He was our opening day starter and has pitched against some awful good teams this year,” said Engle of Hoffman, who was a starting quarterback last fall as a freshman at Federal Hocking. “He has all the skills and he’s going to be a really good one.”

Dennis may be one of this years team’s biggest surprises as the sophomore to be at Warren High School has been solid on the mound all season long.

“He (Dennis) is just so competitive,” said Engle. “He doesn’t dazzle and he’s not a flame thrower, he just goes out there and competes and gets the job done.”

The right hander may have saved his best for when it mattered the most as he tossed a complete game, seven-hit shutout against Cambridge on Friday night to send BevLow to the title game.

Derek Layton will be a junior at Fort Frye High School this fall and has been Beverly/Lowell’s number one hitter in the clutch all season long.

“Derek’s just been clutch all season long at the plate and although we haven’t pitched him as much as we thought we would, everytime we have needed him on the mound he has responded,” said Engle.

Other youngsters who have seen quite a bit of time for Post 389/750 this season include outfielders Isaac Huffman, Bryce Gandee and Trent Bradford, second baseman Joel Estes and first baseman and Marietta Tiger Austin Hefter.

Trace Schafer and Engle’s son Tate also managed to get some valuable playing time as the season unfolded. “We told our kids at the very beginning of the season that is was going to take all 18 of them to make this happen and it has,” said Engle.

The youth of the squad isn’t limited to the players on the field as Evan Sawyer has done an outstanding job as pitching coach, just one year removed from being the ace pitcher of the 2013 BevLow team.

“He’s about the same age as the kids and they have really related to him,” said Engle of Sawyer. “He talks to the pitchers after each half inning and goes over the mental part of pitching and he has just been a real plus.”

While the senior team is heading to Lancaster next weekend, the junior version wrapped up its season this past weekend by placing second in their own district tournament.

“They just had an incredible run in the Junior District tournament over in Lancaster,” said Engle, whose son Trey, coached the junior squad. “We will have those 18 kids wanting to play up here next season and we only lose three off of this year’s team so it may be real interesting next season.”

Beverly/Lowell is scheduled to open state tournament play against Pickerington Wednesday night at 4 p.m.