BLOOMDALE - Growing pains have resulted in substantial gains for the Elmwood baseball team.
The perennially strong Royals stumbled to a 12-14 mark last season, including a 9-5 record in the Suburban Lakes League.
The down year was unusual for the Royals, who have won or shared 14 of the last 19 SLL titles. The program has captured nine outright crowns under coach Kyle Reiser who has a 442-158 record in 23 seasons.
Reiser said he has a nice mix of four seniors, three sophomores, and three juniors this season as Royals gone back to the top with at 18-3, 8-0 in the SLL.
"We had very young team last year. This year we lost only a few seniors," Reiser. "We were hoping the experience the young kids gained last year would translate into a better performance this year. They're playing with more confidence."
Elmwood has a three-game lead with four games to go in SLL play. Lake, Genoa and Eastwood all have three losses.
"It's all in front of us," Reiser said. "It's a nice position to be in."
Senior starting pitcher Adam Tyson, who has signed to play at the University of Toledo, is 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA. Tyson has 44 strikeouts and has yielded just 23 hits in 37 innings. At the plate, Tyson is hitting .327 and has 13 RBIs.
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"We are kind of surprised with the season we're having. The experience the young guys got last season is paying off," Tyson said.
Senior shortstop Reid Rothenbuhler, who has committed to play at the University of Findlay, is leading the team with a .463 average.
"We came into the season with the motivation from people doubting us," Rothenbuhler said. "We've used it as fuel."
He also leads the SLL with 10 home runs, has 35 RBIs and has scored 39 runs.
Rothenbuhler said last year's team committed a lot of untimely errors.
"We were a few errors away from being real good," he said. "We'd always have the one breakdown. Now we're making every play we need to make.
"We've had a lot of timely hitting, good pitching, and real good defense," Rothenbuhler said. "If you do that, you'll win a lot of ball games."
Clean up hitter Cody King has a .448 batting average and 24 RBIs. Rothenbuhler moved from leadoff to the third spot and has adjusted well in front of King, who has scored 23 runs.
"Every time they've walked me, King has gotten a hit," Rothenbuhler said. "Teams just don't know who to pitch to."
King, who missed last season with a broken wrist, also has been good at shortstop.
"We are able to score runs anywhere in our order, one through nine," Reiser said. "We execute well and put pressure on the defense and they all have contributed toward that."
Junior left fielder Jon Bodi is hitting .403 with 25 runs scored and has a team-high 11 stolen bases. Junior right fielder Jack Waldock has a .388 average, 18 RBIs and 27 runs scored. Sophomore center fielder Jeff Vanscoder carries a .378 average.
"They know if they have an off day there are other kids who will step up," Reiser said.
Sophomore pitcher Conlan Varty has 13 RBIs and has a .370 average, while sophomore catcher Trey Marsh has a .346 average and 15 RBIs.
Reiser said his speedy outfielders can run almost anything down. He also said Rothenbuhler has shined at short and King is solid at third, while junior Kevin Hammer has filled in nicely at second.
"We've played extremely good defense," Reiser said.
Reiser said senior first baseman Tyler Chamberlain has good footwork around the bag and can scoop the ball.
"Tyler Chamberlain might be the best first baseman I've coached defensively," Reiser said. "The kids have confidence in throwing the ball over there."
Reiser said the biggest task was finding the right players in the batting order and positions in the field.
"The kids have performed and things have fallen into place," Reiser said. "They've answered those questions and played better. Now they have a lot of trust in each other."
He also said Marsh has really stepped up and has a good arm behind the plate.
"He's handled our pitchers very well," Reiser said.
He said Varty is a good example of a young player that got experience last year and has matured mentally and physically. Varty has a 6-0 record and a 2.51 ERA. The sophomore has 38 strikeouts in 45 innings. Chamberlain is 1-1 with a 1.58 with 12 strikeouts in 13 innings.
"The pitchers are throwing strikes and giving us a chance to win every game," Tyson said. "Our defense is solid every game. Fundamentally we are sound. Whenever they hit it, I know it will be an out. It gives me a lot of confidence. I just throw strikes."
Tyson said he never worries if he falls behind in games.
"I know, any inning, we can answer back," he said.
Reiser said Tyson has good size [6-2, 175 pounds].
"He throws hard," Reiser said. "He's got a couple good pitches to go with it, a curve and change up. He is a power kid."
Rothenbuhler said Tyson and Varty have been an outstanding one-two punch.
In 2007, Elmwood reached the Division III state championship where it fell 6-3 to Heath. Rothenbuhler was a freshman on that team with his brother, Ryan, who was a senior.
"I played left field, so I know what it felt like. That has been my drive ever since," Rothenbuhler said. "I think we have all the intangibles we had that year."
The Royals have been to the regional final three times under Reiser.
"My brother [Al] played for coach Reiser a few years ago and won an SLL championship," Tyson said. "I've always wanted to be a part of one. It would be a good way to end my senior season. You want to be as good as the teams before you. You want to carry on that tradition and keep it going."
Rothenbuhler said Reiser keeps the pressure of maintaining the high standards off.
"We just have fun with it," he said.
Reiser said his staff and players also are involved in the school's youth programs at winter and summer camps.
"We stress fundamentals and teach them the basics," he said. "I was lucky to have talent early in my coaching career here and we won. Winning breeds winning. The younger kids see how much fun it is and they want to carry that tradition on.
"I've coached brothers, cousins and now I'm starting to coach the sons of fathers I coached."
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Growing pains have resulted in substantial gains for the Elmwood baseball team. The perennially strong Royals stumbled to a 12-14 mark last season, including a 9-5 record in the Suburban Lakes League.