Tallmadge baseball ready to return to state's elite
Over the last 18 years in charge of Tallmadge baseball, Kenny Linn thought he had seen it all.
However, a global pandemic eliminating the 2020 season — and ending Tallmadge's run of appearances in the Division II regionals — was something new.
The good news for Tallmadge is much of its 2019 team team returns, as Tallmadge lost only two seniors to graduation.
Andrew Ayres is now playing at Heidelburg College, while Luke Thomas is at Wittenburg University.
Linn said the Blue Devils are where he would like them to be physically.
"We have had a chance to scrimmage four times and had intersquad play as well," Linn said. "We felt that we were more mentally behind than physically. The way how we want them to approach things is where we're trying to to catch up quick."
As usual, Tallmadge's schedule will be loaded this season, as Linn wants to prepare his team for another postseason run.
"That's always the plan," Linn said. "We want to challenge them with the best competition we can find. They face a lot of adversity because of it. It gets them to work together."
The Blue Devils were set to open the season with a trip to Olentangy Liberty Saturday, where they were set to face Stow-Munroe Falls at 12:30 p.m. and Liberty at 3 p.m.
Linn expects another tough fight in the Suburban League American Conference.
"I think were going to be up there competing with Aurora and Highland and Kent Roosevelt," Linn said. "You can't rule Revere out, either."
Tallmadge coaching staff remains intact at the varsity level with pitching coach Ben Shepherd, varsity assistant Scott Campbell and first base coach Mike Barr back. Trent Dalton is Tallmadge's new head junior varsity coach.
Linn said he has five starters who were sophomores back, as as a few who others who got experience.
Tallmadge's pitching staff will be led by senior ace Devin Norton, who has committed to play baseball at Malone University.
Behind Norton, junior Jackson Schwalbach and senior Orion Kroah will see action as starters.
"[Schwalbach] just knows how to throw it," Linn said. "He knows how to hit his spots. Orion is a left-hander, who is going to Heidelburg."
Senior James Catherine is a left-hander who has committed to Baldwin Wallace, while senior Owen Jasco will be the closer after he overcomes some back issues.
Senior Jack Becks also will see time on the mound and behind the plate.
Tallmadge's starting catcher will be sophomore Seth Yacobucci.
"He's promising," Linn said. "He's very talented."
Kroah will be Tallmadge's first baseman and will hit No 3 or 4 in the Blue Devils' lineup, while senior Joey Ellis will start at second base.
Norton will start at shortstop, while Jasco recovers, but will move to third base when he does. Sophomore Beau Gromley will see time at both third base and as designated hitter.
Junior Ethan Strahan will be a utility infielder for Tallmadge.
Junior Mason Dexter gets the nod in center field after playing some time as a freshman, while junior Ryan Snyder looks to start in right field.
Becks, senior Camden Paolucci, junior Zander Boyd, senior Jacob Davis and Catherine all are in the mix to play in left, while Catherine also could play as designated hitter.
Linn had hoped senior Kent State recruit Brandon Golubski would play in the outfield, but off-season surgery has put his season into doubt.
"The best part about this group is they are willing to put the work in," Linn said. "They have this drive and desire to make their own legacy. The biggest thing is how we're able to handle adversity."
Tallmadge's home opener is set for April 1 at 4:30 p.m. vs. Solon.