With a lot of returning players, Stow baseball aims high
A spring without baseball is like a spring without sunshine for Stow-Munroe Falls coach Aaron DeBord.
Yet that's what he and the entire Ohio high school baseball community had to endure. Besides one showcase for its outgoing seniors at Canal Park in July, the Bulldogs didn't suit up in 2020.
To say anticipation is at fever pitch in the Stow camp is an understatement.
"We're excited that we've got some guys that have varsity experience," DeBord said. "We're in a tough league where everyone else is reloading. Just because they lost a lot of players doesn't mean they're not going to be good teams."
While Stow lost a six-member senior class last year — led by Otterbein University recruit Adam Folk and Mount Union recruit Nick Maione — the Bulldogs have a sizeable core back from its 2019 squad.
"We have seven players with starting experience back," DeBord said. "We've got our No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers back. To have four guys back in the infield who started, it makes you feel good."
DeBord is looking for Stow to bounce back, after the 2019 team underachieved in his eyes.
"We were disappointed with our group a couple of years ago," DeBord said. "We ran into a buzzsaw in the second round of the playoffs.
"We very much made our schedule the toughest it's been in years," he added. "This year, we're playing some of the top teams in the state. We hope that will get us ready for the postseason."
Stow was set to open the season with a trip to Olentangy Liberty Saturday. The Bulldogs will play Liberty at 10:30 a.m. before taking on Tallmadge at 12:30 p.m.
Stow will travel to Berea-Midpark March 31 at 5 p.m.
DeBord believes the Suburban League National Conference will be a rigorous as ever, despite several teams losing large senior classes from last season.
Stow's pitching staff will be anchored by a pair of senior aces in right-hander Mark Wilbur and right-hander Pat Ciccantelli.
Wilbur returns after working his way into the No. 1 starting spot in 2019, while Ciccantelli is the lone four-year letter winner for the Bulldogs.
Senior Nate Martin is the lone left-hander on the Bulldogs' staff. He will be joined by seniors Connor McCartney, Aidan Vober and Chase Booker on the mound, along with juniors Braden Murphy Ryan Orosz, Tommy Croyle and Jonah Guinto. Sophomores Frank Miller and Dan Jambor round out the staff.
Stow has another returning starter behind the plate in senior Riley Cesnak.
In his sophomore year, senior Caleb Shorter was limited to designated hitter duties due to a shoulder injury. Fully healthy now, Shorter returns with a big bat to start at first base.
Sophomore Nick Sackett will get a look at second base this spring.
Senior Brandon Beck returns to start at shortstop after committing to play golf at Walsh University next year.
Ciccantelli has started at third base since his freshman year and also will be back.
When Beck or Ciccantelli pitch, sophomore utility player Jake Holmes will fill the spot, while junior Connor Dunlap also provides infield depth.
DeBord noted Stow's outfield is not set yet, though senior Cale Marconi is likely to see starting time after a solid basketball season. Junior Zac Fuller also is in the mix, along with Vober, Orosz, junior Josh Kupetz, Miller and Jambor.