Monday, June 17

    2024 Baseball Preview: Wickliffe Blue Devils

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    Wickliffe is 0-3 after Week 1 of the 2024 season but the Blue Devils have a lot to look forward to despite their tough luck start.

    The Blue Devils lost their first three games by a combined seven runs with their last two being decided by just one run.

    With six returning starters and two others with varsity experience, the Blue Devils will have to find a way to win those close games.

    “Leadership is incredibly important,” said Wickliffe coach Phil Motta. “We’ve had to have that conversation a couple of times. In baseball, you need nine, but you need everyone to know and perform their role. We have guys with varsity experience, but it is time to produce. Ultimately, it is about results regardless of class standing.”

    The Blue Devils, who finished 8-15 after a 5-1 start last spring, are dealing with low numbers in the program, which serves as another hurdle the squad will have to clear to find success.

    “Our numbers are low,” Motta said. “We want to have our JVs play when the varsity plays. We feel that is crucial to everyone’s development. It will be a day-to-day shift for some younger guys. We have pitchers, but right now, not a clear number one or two guy. However, four guys return to the mound from last season.”

    Sophomore Franke Bucar, junior lefty Nunzio Zivnoska, junior Liam Widemire, senior Brandon Henderson, sophomores Dylan Allen and Gio Moppins, and junior Noah Touschner will all see time on the mound this spring.

    Bucar, Zivnoska, Henderson, and Widemire all chewed up innings last season for the Blue Devils.

    “Frankie Bucar may only be a sophomore, but his baseball IQ is at an extremely high level and continues to improve after starting at shortstop as a freshman last year,” Motta said. “Nunzio Zivnoska had a good sophomore season. He will anchor centerfield when he is not pitching. Both will be in either the one or two spots in the order. We could push Frankie to three. Senior Brandon Henderson and Junior Liam Widemire have the potential for a good deal of success.”

    Bucar will play shortstop when he isn’t pitching, Zivnoska will patrol center field, Widemire will play first, and Henderson will play third. Touschner will DH and provide depth in the infield.

    Returning starter Bobby Plumb will start in right field while senior Chase Bonadio is in left. Sophomore Dylan Allen is projected to start at second base when Bucar pitches and junior Logan Ruscin will catch.

    “Bobby Plumb is a three-year starter in the outfield and is now a senior. He is still catching up from a preseason injury,” Motta said. “Senior Chase Bonadio has shown improvement. Logan Ruscin came up as a sophomore last season and produced well from the left side of the plate. All of our guys need to take advantage of the opportunities. For some of our sophomores, the opportunity is ripe, but they have to grasp it and take over a spot in some cases.”

    Wickliffe will use its team speed as an advantage.

    “We have some potential team speed,” Motta said. “Overall, our strengths haven’t presented themselves yet. That’s not to say they won’t, but we are pretty consistent in how we do things. We have to get better in many aspects of the game.”

    With its lack of depth, Wickliffe must focus on the fundamentals to keep the Blue Devils in games this spring.

    “We will have to do the little things, the fundamental things that make a difference, pitch by pitch,” Motta said. “We are going to have to manufacture runs and find ways to get runs across the plate even if those ways are unconventional. The challenge though is executing those things. Our defense was a disaster last season. We need to cut down on errors and stop extending innings so our pitchers can get off the mound. Our pitchers can’t play around and fall behind in counts. We have to be efficient and not just a bunch of throwers.”


    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, 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, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the 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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