Walsh Jesuit baseball seeks to return to Ohio's top tier

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Walsh Jesuit's Henry Kaczmar sprints to third base during the third inning vs. Alliance at Canal Park at Saturday in Akron.

When Walsh Jesuit last played baseball, the Warriors fell one win short of returning to the state final four in 2019.

Then the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Warriors lost some talent from the Class of 2020, Walsh coach Chris Kaczmar is optimistic as he enters his 23rd year in charge of the program.

"This year's team, we've got a solid mix," Kaczmar said. "We have a lot of guys coming back from the 2019 team. It's a good blend/ Our sophomore class is one of the better classes that we've had."

Walsh lost five seniors to graduation, including Kaczmar's son, Stanley Kaczmar,

"We had 21 players returning letter winners," Kaczmar said. "It's an exciting time. I came into this season with a lot of energy.  It's great to be back in the conference. We're having a lot of fun playing the team. I think we've got great leadership."

While it's not official yet, Kaczmar said Walsh will play many of its future Crown Conference opponents this spring: Padua Franciscan, Lake Catholic, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and Villa Angela-St. Joesph.

"We booked a difficult schedule," Kaczmar said "We want to try to prepare for the postseason."

Walsh's coaching staff was buoyed by the return of former pitching coach John "Ace" Ventura, who will coach third base this year. Joe Bowers is back as Walsh's pitching coach with Michael Palange as first base coach and Steve Grescovich as bench coach.

Walsh has a deep pitching staff with senior Ohio University recruit Bobby Perebzak and senior lefty Erik Stern vying for the No. 1 spot.

Stern, Perebzak, senior Henry Kaczmar and senior Jake Armey will serve as Walsh's captains this spring.

Sophomore pitcher Ryan Piech has already committed to Xavier, while sophomore Drew Erdmann also could push for starting time.

Walsh's bullpen includes juniors Andrew Gormley, Logan Oaks and Jackson Phelps and sophomore John Simecek

Sophomore catcher Mason Eckleman has already committed to the University of Michigan. Kaczmar's nephew has a ton of talent behind the plate and with the bat.

Behind him, senior Sam Krakowski has committed to play catcher at Walsh University, while junior Kasey Kish also could see time.

When not on the mound, the 6-foot-8 Stern will serve as Walsh's first baseman.

"He's a very talented player to have at first base," Kaczmar said. "He does it all for us. He can pitch. He plays a great first base. He will be our No. 4 hitter his year."

Senior Mark Serdinak also will see time at first base.

Senior Jake Armsey returns to start at second base, as he has committed to the University of South Carolina-Upstate.

"He was the conference player of the year his sophomore year," Kaczmar said. "He batted over the .500 mark."

Also back at shortstop is senior Henry Kaczmar, who could be Walsh's lead-off hitter this year. The younger Kaczmar brother has committed to Michigan.

Simechek will get the starting nod at third base, while sophomore Joey Canzoni will play a utility infield role for the Warriors.

Coach Kaczmar notes "a wide range of guys" are in the mix for the starting outfield slots, including senior Mike Pollard, who committed to play at St. Peters University in New Jersey March 22.

Oaks, Gormley, junior Will Harding, sophomores Alex Covas and Justin Bremner and freshman Sam Pece all are in the mix to play in the outfield.

Walsh will open the season Monday at Berea-Midpark 4:30 p.m. before hosting University School Tuesday at 5 p.m.