Prep Baseball Report

Division II Team Of The Week: Week 2 - Bishop Watterson

Bruce Hefflinger
Ohio Senior Writer

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Division II Team Of The Week: Week 2 - Bishop Watterson

COLUMBUS - A no-hitter, a perfect game and an extra-inning win kept Bishop Watterson unbeaten on the season through six games and with it recognition as the Prep Baseball Division II Team of the Week.

“Coming into the season we were very excited about our pitching depth and our ability to play defense,” noted head coach Jeff Boulware. “So far that has been a major strength for our ballclub. We've only given up six total runs (one earned).”

A 10-0 five-inning victory over Centennial started the week. Up next was the Prep Baseball Classic at Chillicothe and the Eagles came up big with a 12-0 blanking of Chaminade-Julienne in six innings before a narrow 4-3 nine-inning win over Tippecanoe. Nate Henderson, the top-ranked freshman left-handed pitcher in Ohio, tossed a no-hitter against Centennial before a perfect game by A.J. McAninch against Chaminade-Julienne.

“That was as dominant as I’ve seen a high school pitcher against a very talented Chaminade-Julienne lineup,” Boulware said of the performance by McAninch, a Marshall commit who struck out 13 in his 77-pitch outing.

Boulware also singled out Ben Burleson’s efforts on the mound for the Eagles, the top-rated Division II team in Ohio and the eighth-ranked squad in the Power 25.

“Ben has settled into our closer role and finished out the game with Tippecanoe after catching the first game of the day,” Boulware said of the sophomore, who had three hits against C-J and is batting .700 on the young season.

Anthony Leasure also had three hits against C-J, including a two-out two-run single and Nick Kudika had an RBI triple and a pair of hits. Wittenberg commit Elliott Schmidt belted a two-out run-scoring triple against Tippecanoe and is now batting .571 with a double and two triples.

“We're blessed with incredible leadership,” Boulware pointed out. “Nick Kudika and A.J. McAninch are four-year guys and captains along with Elliott Schmidt and junior Chance Strausbaugh. There was no panic when we headed into extras against a really good Tippecanoe team. It was a fun atmosphere early on in the season and our leadership with these guys has been a difference-maker so far.”

McAninch, the 27th-rated senior right-handed pitcher in Ohio, and Kudika, the 84th-ranked 2024 RHP in the state, are both now 2-0 without permitting an earned run. McAninch has 26 Ks and no walks while Kudika, a Baldwin-Wallace signee, is also getting it done at the plate with a .333 average.

John Baumel, the 137th-rated senior in Ohio and a Wittenberg commit, is batting .438 with three doubles, two triples and 11 walks in six games.

Junior Chance Strausbaugh is batting .368 with eight stolen bases and freshman Ben Uhlenhake has a .600 average.

“We really felt confident in our pitching and defense coming into the year, but we have several new faces in our everyday lineup, so offensive production was a bit of an unknown,” Boulware explained. “We've been very pleased with our offensive approach early on this season. Our guys are having quality at-bats, seeing lots of pitches, finding ways to get on base and putting lots of stress on opposing pitchers. John Baumel has been the leader in this regard with 11 walks through six games. We are doing a much better job staying in the strike zone offensively than we did last season.”

Just two games are on tap this week, Thursday with Pickerington Central and Saturday at Wright State against Archbishop Alter.

“We just need to keep it real simple.” concluded Boulware, whose roster includes three other college commits in Trae McAninch (Otterbein), Layne Peters (Capital) and Matt Jesse (Kent State-Tuscarawas). “We need to keep throwing strikes and making routine plays on defense. Offensively we've got to keep swinging at good pitches. We've got a brutal schedule ahead, so our depth and youth will be challenged. So far guys like sophomore Ben Burleson, freshman Ben Uhlenhake, freshman Nate Henderson (sixth-rated 2027 in Ohio) and sophomore Connor Adkins-Davidson have played big roles.”

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