Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Let’s go ahead and expose the elephant in the room … absolutely nobody could’ve predicted the situation that spring sports is in right now.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not only delayed the start of the season but it’s also threatened it as a whole, and continues to do so. Having said that, it would simply be unfair to let the Coronavirus take away attention from some of our area’s top talents on the diamond.
Here’s a list of 10 players in our coverage area, and in no particular order, to keep an eye on this spring if they get the chance to compete.
NOTE: This list does not include players from the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. SOSA did not cover the SHAC last spring. However, that will change if there is a season this spring.
Lane Mettler, Paint Valley
When Mettler takes the hill, the Bearcats almost always have the upper hand. While his Bearcats went 18-11 last season, Mettler led the SVC with 60 strikeouts. His fastball is lethal and misses most swings, his offspeed stuff is next level, and he also has a significant presence at the plate. Paint Valley looks ready to compete for a league title. Mettler is a big reason why.
Clay Cottle, Clay
Cottle is a classic example of a five-tool player. The junior led the SOC I champion Panthers last season with a .488 batting average and put on a leather show in the field. That was after a freshman season where he hit .309. In other words, he simply keeps getting better. Cottle, among others, has Clay ready to defend its conference title before a likely deep tourney run.
Derek Eblin, Waverly
You have your team aces and then you have Waverly’s Derek Eblin, who is an absolute machine when the ball is in his hand. Eblin’s fastball reaches nearly 90 miles per hour and he mixes it with a solid change-up and a devastating curveball. When the Tigers needed a win last season, they looked to Eblin to get the job done. That trend will continue into his junior year.
Elijah Vogelsong, Minford
What can you say about Vogelsong that’s not already been said? The Marshall University commit was electric for the SOC II champion Falcons last season. He hit .426 alongside three home runs, 38 RBIs, 36 runs scored and pieced together an 8-1 record on the rubber with a 1.41 ERA in 54 ⅓ innings of work. All in all, he may be the best player in our coverage area.
Kaden Riffe, Chillicothe
Riffe quickly made a name for himself at the top of Chillicothe’s lineup last spring. The sophomore pounded out 26 hits to bat .388 and added seven RBIs and 19 runs to that number. His speed also showed on numerous occasions as he swiped 11 bases. As he continues to develop under new head coach Tom Barr, Riffe should be better than ever.
Connor Spohn, Westfall
After last season’s success, Spohn committed to continue his baseball career at Ashland University. If you’ve seen him play, you know exactly why he’ll have success at the next level. While doing his part for a team that won its first district title since 2010, Spohn hit .400 and added seven doubles, eight stolen bases and 14 runs to his resumes. He’s the real deal.
Cameron DeBord, Unioto
On the mound or at the plate, DeBord has always been dominant. The lefty led the SVC in pitching wins last season at 7-2, alongside a 1.25 ERA and 49 strikeouts, while hitting .361 with 23 runs and eight RBIs. And when he’s not pitching, there’s not many fly balls he doesn’t track down in center field. If health allows it, he’s the clear frontrunner to win the SVC POY award.
Cole Ratcliff, Wheelersburg
It’s no secret that the Pirates were forced to say goodbye to a talented senior class. But that doesn’t change the standard at Wheelersburg. Enter Cole Ratcliff, who will emerge as one of the dugout’s leaders going forward. As a junior, he was an honorable mention all-district selection and earned second-team all-SOC honors. He’s poised for a breakout year.
Seth Beeler, Huntington
Huntington won its first-ever district title last year and, if you watched the Huntsmen, you know Beeler was an imperative piece to that puzzle. Beeler will now be asked to take on an even larger role, specifically on the mound. At the top of the lineup, he brings speed and a quick bat. In the field, he rarely makes errors. And, on the hill, he’ll be one of Huntington’s top options.
Jarrett Garrison, Adena
As a sophomore, Garrison tossed 53 innings and sported 6-3 record with a 1.32 ERA and 28 strikeouts. He also contributed at the plate, posting a .289 batting average with 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored. There’s no doubt he wants to heighten each of those numbers and he’ll have the chance to do so as the projected ace of the Warriors’ rotation. When he’s on, he’s a rare talent.