Division II Team Of The Week: Week 2 - Defiance


Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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Division II Team Of The Week: Week 2 - Defiance

DEFIANCE - Pitching and defense have been known to win a lot of baseball games over the years. That has been the formula in 2021 for Defiance High School, this week’s Prep Baseball Report Division II Team of the Week.

“Pitching and defense have been a little better than we expected, especially the pitching being so young,” noted Defiance head coach Tom Held. “Those two things, pitching and defense, have stood out. Plus, the guys have found ways to win. Outside of one game, every game has been in doubt until late in the game.”

The Bulldogs have won six in a row, including four low-scoring affairs last week, to move to 9-1 on the year prior to a loss to Tinora on Monday.

A 2-0 victory over Lima Central Catholic behind the two-hit pitching of Bradyn Shaw opened the week before a pair of wins over two of the top teams in the Western Buckeye League, Van Wert and Lima Shawnee. Jayden Jerger won a pitching duel over VW’s Owen Treece in a 5-3 victory and Jacob Howard tossed a five-hitter in a 5-2 win against Shawnee. Shaw and Jerger then combined on a three-hit 10-inning shutout to lead Defiance past Norwalk 1-0 on Saturday in a game Shaw pounded out four hits..

“The guys really gutted it out,” Held reflected. “The LCC game went down to the wire and then we beat Owen Treeece, one of the better athletes to ever come out of the WBL as far as competing and winning. We beat Shawnee with (Jarin) Bertke (the 150th-rated 2021 RHP) and Logan Maxwell (TCU commit ranked third in Ohio’s 2021 class), one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen in the WBL, and then it was a 1-0 10-inning game. The guys have just been mentally tough and finding ways to win.”

A 1.56 team ERA has definitely helped the cause. Shaw, a promising sophomore, is 1-0 with a 0.37 ERA, striking out 27 in 19 innings on the mound, while Jerger, the 46th-rated junior right-handed pitcher in Ohio, stands 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA, fanning 23 in 21 frames. Howard, the 32nd-ranked 2022 left-handed pitcher in the state in his third season of varsity, is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA.

“The pitching has been a little of a surprise,” Held admitted. “We didn’t know how Bradyn Shaw would handle varsity as a sophomore and how Jayden Jerger would handle the mental side of varsity sports.”

There has also been the issue of dealing with injuries. Wade Liffick was expected to help on the mound but an injury has relegated the junior left-hander to hitting and playing first base. Additionally, David Jimenez, a highly-regarded sophomore and the team’s leadoff hitter, missed six games with a foot injury before returning to action the last two outings.

“It’s been a weird year,” explained Held, who has led Defiance to three state championships (2013, 2015, 2016) and 14 WBL titles since taking over as head coach in 1999. “Nobody knew anything about anyone else. You knew who had great players, but two of them in the WBL are out for the year.”

It did not change the outlook at Defiance, which has made five state Final Four appearances (2002, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016) under Held.

“Expectations at Defiance are to compete for the WBL title and go from there, try to get better,” Held said. “We don’t really discuss it, it’s what people put on us. We did have a little advantage over some others, we played 30 games last summer (with ACME baseball) so that gave us a little advantage knowing what to expect.”

Shaw, a shortstop when not pitching, leads the team in batting at .455 with Camden Roth at .412. Dade Robinson (.353) and Howard (.314) are others averaging better than .300 for a squad averaging .285 as a team.

“Camden Roth has been one of our most consistent players,” Held said of the uncommitted 6-2 170-pound senior. “His play behind the plate has been a surprise. We converted him into a catcher last summer, he’d never caught in his life. He competed for the job in the summer and won it in the spring.”

The next six games are at home for the Bulldogs, including a Saturday matchup with Stow-Munroe Falls in the PBR Ohio Spring Classic at Defiance.

“Pitching and defense give you the best chance of winning,” Held assessed about the upcoming week and remainder of the season. “If that continues and we stay consistent we should be okay. But offensively we’ve got to get better. In our four scrimmages we hit the heck out of the ball, so we hope this is a temporary slump right now.”

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