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    Rangers armed for success

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    Among North’s six returning starters are three pitchers who should help the Rangers compete during the 2022 season.

    Longtime assistant coach Joe Iveljic took over the program following Kyle Stahlberg’s departure to Tri-C and he’s confident he has the arms to lead the team to a successful season.

    “We are excited about the capabilities of our pitching staff,” Iveljic said. “We are returning our top three arms from last year with some potential new arms ready to contribute. We graduated the middle of our defense, which was strong last year. However, if we can adequately fill those roles, I am excited about our possibilities to pitch and play defense, which is the recipe to compete.”

    Senior Matt Barner headlines that pitching staff.

    The Lakeland Community College recruit was 4-3 on the mound with a 2.30 earned run average last spring. He also recorded a save and is one of North’s top hitters. He recorded a .365 batting average as a junior.

    “Matt brings a bulldog mentality to the field every day,” Iveljic said. “His energy is contagious and the rest of the guys feed off that energy.”

    Seniors Logan Metz and Trent Bucy round out North’s top three starting pitchers.

    Bucy, a Baldwin Wallace recruit, was 2-1 with a 4.28 ERA last season. He also hit .333.

    “Trent is a tireless worker on and off the field,” Iveljic said. “It’s not uncommon for me to see him at the gym late at night getting in some extra work. He leads by example with his work ethic. I have been able to see him transform himself over the past four years and I am excited to see what he can accomplish his senior season.”

    Metz, who will join Barner at Lakeland next season, was 4-4 with a 4.9 ERA.

    “Logan brings some big game-winning experience back for his senior season,” Iveljic said. “He is a lefty with good command of several pitches. When Logan is on, he can be dominant.”

    Junior Bo Vinson and sophomores Andrew Gunton and Sean Register can start or come in out of the bullpen. Seniors Blane Schmidt, Jacob Henderson, Brody Spock, and Ethan Zele, and junior Nick Licursi will chew up innings in relief for the Rangers.

    “Our expectations are high with the pitching we have coming back,” Iveljic said. “I believe we have had a strong preseason and the guys have bought into the process around a ‘pitching first’ mentality. I truly believe the wins and loses take care of themselves based on how you approach the process of the offseason. The guys have bought in and will be ready to compete in every game.”

    The Rangers, who finished 14-10 overall and 7-7 in the Western Reserve Conference, have a few holes to fill in the lineup.

    Fortunately, the talent is there.

    Senior Chase Federer will catch after batting .300 last spring. Bucy is back in center field and Barner will DH.

    Senior Brody Spock will play shortstop when he isn’t pitching. He batted .250 and posted a 1.87 ERA on the hill.

    “Brody is a guy that is fun to be around and keeps the dugout loose,” Iveljic said. “He’s done some good things with his swing this offseason and he is confident. When I approached him about the possibility of playing shortstop, his response was, ‘Coach, I can play anywhere you need me.’ That’s exactly what you want to hear as a coach.”

    Senior Ethan Zelle will start at second base after batting .267 last spring as a reserve and junior Owen Hopper will take over in left field. He batted .667 in limited duty last year.

    Senior Blane Schmidt will make his varsity debut in right field and sophomores Sean Register and Andrew Gunton will play first and third base, respectively.

    “I think our biggest challenges this spring will be shoring up the middle of our defense and timely hitting,” Iveljic said. “We are looking for Brody Spock to transition from third base into the shortstop role left by John Lanning, who was brilliant for us last year. Brody is not your prototypical high school shortstop, but he has a strong baseball IQ, soft hands, and moves well laterally. We are confident that he can handle to spot. In center field, we graduated Chris Molica, who could track down just about anything hit his way. However, Trent Bucy, who will play outfield at Baldwin Wallace next year, will provide us every bit of that and more. Trent played in a lot of different spots for us last year, mainly in the infield, but he is a natural outfielder. His summer/fall coach lamented to me as to how much he is going to miss watching him play the outfield. Regarding timely hitting, we have been working a lot on situational hitting in the cages and our approach at the plate in certain counts and with runners on base.”

    North’s success hinges on its pitching staff and defense.

    “I think for any high school team, that is a recipe for success,” Iveljic said. “Couple that with our guys buying into a situational approach at the plate, and I believe we can be successful.”

     

     

    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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