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    HomeChagrin Valley ConferenceChagrin Falls2024 Baseball Preview: Chagrin Falls Tigers

    2024 Baseball Preview: Chagrin Falls Tigers

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    Chagrin Falls enters the 2024 season with nine returning starters from a team that finished 18-11 overall and advanced to a Division III district championship game.

    The Tigers also hope to snap a dubious streak of having their last three games ended by the eventual state champion. Last season, Waynedale defeated Chagrin Falls in a district championship on the way to a run to the Division III state title. In 2022, it was Chardon that knocked off the Tigers on the way to a Division II state title, and in 2021, it was Archbishop Hoban who used the Tigers as a springboard to the Division II state title.

    This year, 24th-year head coach Michael Sweeney believes he has the talent and experience to make another postseason run.

    “Our program has seen a lot of success over the years. Our expectations never change, and our goals never change,” he said. “Even last year, with a lot of question marks, our goals never changed. We want to win 20 games, win the CVC, and get to the regional. Last season, we missed out on all three of those goals by basically one game. We have achieved at least one of the goals every season for the past 12 years, and in some years all three, until last season. I believe that this group has a chance to achieve some of these goals this year. We have a lot of experience coming back and these players have improved quite a bit since last season.”

    Last spring, Geneva snapped Chagrin Falls’ CVC title run that spanned from 2017-2022.

    The Tigers lost three key players from that squad in outfielder Donny Hardy, second baseman/pitcher Drew Mergenhagen, and shortstop/pitcher Gavin Stevens.

    Despite the losses, the Tigers are in good shape heading into the season, both in talent and experience.

    “I like what I have seen so far,” Sweeney said. “The players are working hard. We definitely have a lot more confidence with the amount of returning players coming back. Other than the freshmen, all of the players coming back know our system and are pretty confident with what we are doing. We just need to continue to get better each day. Many of the players have done a lot of work in the offseason to get ready and I am excited for the season.”

    Sweeney is excited about his team’s depth, but he also knows a key injury could derail the season.

    “I think the biggest challenge we face is just staying healthy,” he said. “We are deeper than we were last year, but we still can’t afford any major injuries. I also think we need to score runs. We are working hard and have worked hard on our hitting. Obviously, scoring runs takes the pressure of the pitchers.”

    Sweeney will lean on senior pitcher/outfielder Will Graham, a team captain, to be consistent on the mound and at the plate, and also to lead his teammates.

    Last season, Graham went 4-2 on the mound with a 0.77 earned run average. He allowed just five earned runs and struck out 70 with just 27 walks in 45 1/3 innings of work on the way to earning first-team All-CVC and second-team all-district honors.

    “Will had a phenomenal year on the mound last season even though he had back issues for most of the season which caused him to miss a few starts,” Sweeney said. “Will could have been a top of the order hitter, but he was unable to hit most of the season due to his back. So far, so good as he feels healthy this season. If Will stays healthy, he could have a monster year both on the mound and at the plate. He has nasty stuff on the mound and gives us a legit No. 1 who can dominate the game.”

    Charlie Reeder, Jack Watson, Finn Johnson, and Brandt Stevens also will start games on the mound for the Tigers.

    Reeder, a senior tri-captain, will pitch and play third base.

    Last spring, Reeder, who earned honorable mention All-CVC honors, was 2-2 on the hill with a 2.47 ERA and struck out 25 in 22 2/3 innings. He also batted .326 with 29 hits, 17 runs batted in, and 23 runs scored with 32 stolen bases.

    “Charlie Reeder gives us a little bit of everything,” Sweeney said. “Charlie gives us a player with speed who can pitch, hit, and play defense. Last season was his first full season as a starter, and he had a few ups and downs. This season, I expect Charlie to be one of our leaders in all areas. Charlie has a chance to have a very good year and lead us in a lot of areas.”

    Watson, a sophomore, earned honorable mention All-CVC honors as a pitcher last spring. He’ll also catch and play third or shortstop.

    He was 3-1 with one save with a 2.24 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings.

    “Jack had a solid freshman season, especially on the mound and defensively,” Sweeney said. “I expect Jack to take a step forward with all aspects of his game.”

    Chagrin’s relief pitchers are senior tri-captain Sven Nielsen, Oliver Tepper, Henry Myers, Mason Hart, and Nathaniel Newton.

    When they’re not pitching, Reeder will play third, Nielsen will play first, Stevens will play left field, Watson will catch, and Johnson will play shortstop.

    Nielsen enters his third year as the starting first baseman.

    “He has worked hard in the offseason on all aspects of his game and could make significant contributions both at the plate and on the mound. He could be a middle-of-the-order hitter,” Sweeney said. “Sven has always been an excellent first baseman, but he spent the offseason getting stronger and working on his hitting. I believe that Sven could have an excellent year at the plate as well and could help to supply some power to the lineup.”

    Stevens, a junior, hit .283 last sprint with 12 RBI and six runs scored.

    “Brandt worked extremely hard last season to get into the lineup,” Sweeney said. “Once he got in, he never left. He has improved his outfield play immensely since the start of last year.”

    Johnson, a junior, spent most of his time as a catcher last season.

    “Finn made huge improvements last year as he was one of our main catchers. By the end of the season, he was a tremendous all-around catcher,” Sweeney said. “He was framing well, blocking everything, and throwing out runners. This year, Finn may get some time at shortstop as well as pitching. He also should help us at the plate this season as he has worked hard to improve his hitting.”

    Sophomore Henry Cimperman will start in center field. He recorded 16 hits, 12 runs scored, seven stolen bases, and four RBI last season.

    “Henry started off hot once he got inserted into the lineup last season,” Sweeney said. “He struggled a little bit after that, but he should have plenty of confidence going into this season after having a year of varsity baseball under his belt. Henry did an outstanding job defensively last season.”

    Senior Oliver Tepper moves from right field to second base. He recorded 16 hits with two doubles, 13 runs scored, and nine RBI as a junior.

    “Oliver has also worked hard in the offseason to improve his overall game,” Sweeney said. “Last season, Oliver started in RF. This season, he will transition to 2B. Oliver had 16 hits including 2 doubles last season to go along with 9 RBI and 12 runs. Oliver could make a big jump at the plate this season and possibly help us on the mound as well.

    Senior Aiden Cabic will DH and play first. He recorded nine hits with two doubles and a triple to go along with six RBI.

    “Aiden showed flashes of power as he was the DH for many of the games last season,” Sweeney said. “Aiden possesses a lot of power. The potential is there to put up some big power numbers if he can consistently put up good at-bats.”

    Senior Drew Blair, juniors Nathaniel Newton, Mason Hart, and Henry Myers, and freshmen Ash Martin and Will Murray will provide the Tigers with depth.

    “Drew was injured at the beginning of the season in a scrimmage and was unable to play last season. Drew will give us depth in the outfield and challenge for playing time. He has worked hard to get back on the field,” Sweeney said. “Nathaniel can play most of the positions on the field and continues to improve. Nathaniel will give us depth everywhere and will push for playing time. Mason gives us some power off of the bench. He continues to get better swinging the bat and could help us as a relief pitcher. Henry has a chance to help us at second base this season and on the mound. He has a solid bat and brings energy to the field. Ash is a talented freshman who is pushing for a varsity spot. He could see time this season. Will is another talented freshman who is pushing for a varsity spot. He could see time this season.”

    With their talent and experience, coupled with their work ethic, baseball IQ, and pitching prowess, the Tigers have the potential to achieve all of their goals this season.

    “This experience should help out quite a bit. We shouldn’t make a lot of mental mistakes, which is always something young teams have to go through, like we did last season,” Sweeney said. “I also think we should be able to pitch and play defense. This has been a staple of our program for years and this year should be no different. We try to make the routine plays and make other teams beat us without beating ourselves.”

     

     

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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