Shortstop Tyler Saneholtz flips the ball to second base. He's hitting .361 with seven HRs and owns an 8-1 pitching record.
With seven of nine starters returning from last year's 21-5 baseball team that advanced to the Division I regional, the Anthony Wayne Generals figured to be a powerhouse this season.
But with former Bowling Green State University assistant coach Mark Nell coming on board as the Generals' third head coach in three years, getting acclimated to yet another new coaching style proved to be a challenge for the veteran AW squad.
The result was an up-and-down start as the Generals had as many losses after nine games (4-5) as they did in all of 2000.
After April 14 losses on the road to Lima Bath and Bryan, however, AW has found some consistency with wins in 10 of its last 13 games.
The Generals (14-8) are tied with Perrysburg for first place in the Northern Lakes League at 8-1, and are still alive in tournament play.
Anthony Wayne faces Whitmer (16-8) Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in a Division I district semifinal at Northview. The winner plays the winner of Monday's semifinal between Central Catholic (9-13) and Maumee (14-9) for the district championship at Skeldon Stadium May 19 at noon.
“Hopefully we're peaking at the right time,” a cautiously optimistic Nell said, “but with baseball, if you have one bad day you're out. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. You just hope the kids come to play and play hard.”
The district's top four seeds were eliminated in sectional play.
Top-seeded Clay lost its tourney opener 3-0 to Northview; No. 2 Start lost 7-3 to Central in its opener; No. 3 St. John's Jesuit fell 8-1 to Maumee in a sectional final and No. 4 Waite lost 9-2 to Southview in the first round.
That leaves AW as the team with the most returning tourney experience - the Generals reached the regional semifinals last season and lost 5-1 to second-ranked Mansfield Madison.
“It is valuable to have experience,” Nell said of his seven returning starters. “But on the other hand, sometimes when you have a good year the year before it's difficult to repeat. We've played a very competitive schedule, and I think we've seen about everybody's No.1 (pitcher). People don't realize that when they look at our record.”
Two blots on that record came in a doubleheader loss to Tuesday's district semifinal opponent Whitmer (10-7 and 4-0) on April 28. AW senior ace Tyler Saneholtz didn't pitch in either game, but his expected Tuesday counterpart, Whitmer junior Derek Kozlowski, threw a five-hitter in the second game.
Last year's regional game also was played without the services of Saneholtz, who was diagnosed with a blood clot just days before and was not cleared to play.
But like his slow-starting teammates this season, Saneholtz is back in a big way.
The BGSU-bound senior pitcher/shortstop is 8-1 with a 1.40 earned-run average, 71 strikeouts and just 37 hits allowed in 60 innings. He is also hitting .361 with team highs of seven home runs and 28 RBIs.
“You've got to take what you get right now,” said Saneholtz, who had a rib removed in an effort to prevent future clotting; the rib and his clavicle had been pinching an artery. “Fortunately for us right now, our bats are starting to come alive. Early in the year they were kind of dead.
“I think there was some overconfidence coming in, since we had seven of nine starters back. After about five or six games it just finally hit us, `Hey, we can't live off of last year.'”
Topping the batting list for the Generals is senior third baseman Brant Carroll, a 5-10, 225-pounder who will play football at the University of Findlay next year. Carroll is hitting .443 with two homers and 22 RBIs.
“Getting to know the new coaches was probably the biggest reason for the slow start,” said Carroll. “Once we got to know them, we got on a roll. This team's been playing good as a unit.”
Junior catcher Jeff Telmanik is hitting .348 to go with solid defense, which includes throwing out 50 percent of would-be base stealers.
Junior second baseman Derek Wojciekowski has shaken off a slow start to lift his average to .329; senior center fielder Blake Krononvich has mixed .313 hitting with fine defensive play, and senior designated hitter Randy Carter has contributed a .409 average in limited action (9 for 22).
“Now that we're in the tournament it's given us more incentive,” Krononvich said. “We did well last year and we want to beat that this year.”
Saneholtz gets mound help from senior right-hander Steve Sadowski (4-3, 4.41 ERA). Senior Mike Hildebrand, junior Jay Persinger and sophomore Joe Saneholtz (Tyler's brother) have also hurled effectively.
WHITMER RETURNS: Under first-year coach Gary O'Connor, the 16-8 Panthers (5-5 in the Great Lakes League) are looking to avoid their jinx in one-run games. Five of Whitmer's eight losses have been by one run, including four where the opponent scored the winning run in the last inning.
Whitmer won a doubleheader at Anthony Wayne on April 28, and hopes to make it a three-game sweep in Tuesday's 4:30 district semifinal against the Generals at Northview. But O'Connor knows things will be tougher this time with AW's Saneholtz pitching.
“They're a very good team,” O'Connor said. “They hit and they're solid in the field. I expect a very good, low-scoring game where the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins.”
Junior right-hander Kozlowski (5-4) will start for the Panthers, who are led in hitting by senior third baseman Danny Vincent (.484), senior shortstop Adam Dunn (.379) and junior outfielder Scott Zaciewski (.340).
CENTRAL VS. MAUMEE: Coming off its surprising 8-1 win over third-seeded St. John's Jesuit in the sectional finals last Saturday, Maumee (14-9, 5-5 NLL) faces another surprise team in Monday's 4:30 p.m. district semifinal at Northview.
Central Catholic (9-13, 5-3 City League) ousted defending Division I state champion Start with a 7-3 first-round win on April 28, then dispatched Woodward 7-2 in the sectional finals last Saturday.
Maumee coach Dave DuGai - who plans to relinquish his post at the conclusion of the season after 18 years - will start junior left-hander Ed Garcia (6-2, 1.36 ERA), while Fighting Irish coach Jeff Mielcarek counters with senior righty Todd Tscherne (3-3).
“It's kind of funny with no seeds left at this stage,” DuGai said, “but that's what's funny about baseball. You get some hot bats and a pitcher or two that can keep you in the ballgame, and just about anything can happen.”
Senior right fielder Tristan Ladd (.475), Garcia (.370), and junior third baseman Dan Noward (.300) top the Panther hitting attack. Senior right fielder Aaron Schuster (.439), senior first baseman Eric Kirkpatrick (.381), and Tscherne (.373) pace Central.