If Clayton Ruch had his way, he would be in Owens' lineup every day. The Eastwood graduate enjoys punishing other pitchers more than he does pitching himself.
But Ruch is also a realist. He knows why several coaches from four-year colleges have expressed interest in signing him for next season.
"My abilities are better in pitching," he said, smiling, "so that's what I'll stick with."
Not a bad choice.
In his first year at Owens, Ruch saved a school-record seven games while leading the Express with a 2.57 ERA.
Though hardly in the mold of the traditional power-armed reliever -- he throws submarine-style between 65 and 78 miles per hour -- Ruch volunteered for the team's ninth-inning vacancy and never relinquished his spot.
"I just love that pressure being on me," said Ruch, a starting pitcher in high school. "When I'm on the mound, I think I'm the best out here. That's the mentality I have out there."
He also has the right stuff. What Ruch lacks in velocity he makes up for with a darting array of pitches that leave his hand only inches off the ground. The 6-foot-6 right-hander allowed only eight hits and struck out 13 in 14 innings this season.
"In that last inning when everything counts, you're trying to hit off a guy where the ball is now coming from an upward angle, and going left and right," said Owens coach Del Young. "It's tough."
For Ruch, success has been the one constant in an itinerant career.
He will play for his fourth team in four years next season. The three-spot star at Eastwood spent his first year at Cleveland State, where he led the Vikings in a 3.93 ERA in 25 appearances. But the program disbanded for budget reasons last May.
"We were all crushed," said Ruch, who planned to play out his career in Cleveland. "Guys were in tears sitting in that locker room. We all loved each other. Nobody wanted to leave."
But Ruch and CSU teammate Chris Ward found a new home in Perrysburg. Together, the exiled Vikings duo form the Express' top starter, top closer and, in Ruch's case, a reserve corner outfielder. Ward was 2-3 with a 4.07 ERA in nine starts. Ruch, who came to Owens in part because Young promised him an opportunity to pitch and hit, batted .233 with eight RBIs in 27 games this year.
Ruch, though, is ready to settle down at his next stop. Wayne State in Michigan is among the schools recruiting him as a closer. He will make his college choice after the season. Owens (19-35) ended its season Saturday with a 7-1 loss to Cuyahoga.
"He relishes the closer role," Young said. "He wants the ball in that situation."
Contact David Briggs at firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.