BATH TOWNSHIP – Bath coach Brian Jesko has plenty of options with his pitching staff this season.
And every way he turns, his choices look pretty good.
Jesko has the luxury of rolling out four quality pitchers, including two right-handers and two left-handers.
The Wildcats have one of the top staffs in the area this year with right-handers Colin Gossard and Taren Sullivan and left-handers Eric Jordan and Hunter Weis.
Weis is the newcomer to the group, as the three others helped Bath reach the district finals last year with a 16-13 year.
Bath is off to a 3-0 start after wins over Lima Central Catholic, Findlay and Perry.
“Our first objective is to hang some numerals up here and win the Western Buckeye League,” Bath coach Brian Jesko said. “So I would think these four guys would be on call every night that we have a league game.”
Senior left-hander Hunter Weis pitched on the junior varsity team two years ago, but missed last year after undergoing back surgery in April of 2013. Weis, a middle linebacker in football, injured his back lifting weights for football.
“I ruptured my disc and my doctor said it was best for me to have surgery and everything would be back to normal,” Weis said.
Weis was able to return for football last fall and received second team all-WBL honors. Now he’s ready to return to baseball after a year off.
“Now I have my chance,” Weis said. “Ever since football ended, I’ve been working on it. … I did a lot of work on baseball because I knew it was my last sport my senior year and I had to go out with a bang.”
Weis has an 80 mph fastball, but relies heavily on his off-speed pitches, a breaking ball and change-up.
Jesko said, “Hunter’s mentality as a pitcher is exactly what we look for in our pitchers. He doesn’t mess around. He has a quick pace and he pounds the strike zone. There’s no nonsense, he’s coming right at you. … The movement on his fastball is unbelievable.”
The crafty lefty
Eric Jordan helped the Bath golf team to the state tournament in the fall, but the left-hander/first baseman has been waiting all winter for baseball.
“I still consider myself a baseball guy, first,” he said.
Jordan pounds the strike zone with three pitches. He’s gained velocity on his fastball and has been timed in the 81-82 mph range.
Last year he went 4-3 with two saves and a 2.64 ERA. In 50 innings, he had 54 strikeouts and 20 walks
“I throw a two-seam fastball, a change-up, a 12-6 curve and a slider,” Jordan said.
In the past Jordan would throw his arsenal of off-speed pitches and mix in a fastball. His approach could change this year.
“I’ve had a few miles per hour, so hopefully I can rely on my fastball more,” Jordan said. “I still like to throw in a bunch of pitches and use my tricks.”
Jesko said, “Eric misses a lot of bats as a left-handed pitcher. When Eric is on with his three pitches, he’s difficult to hit. … He’s got that slow, developing curveball that’s hard for hitters to stay back on.”
Colin Gossard threw in the 85-86 mph range last year, as he compiled an 8-2 record with two saves and a 2.20 ERA. In 54 innings, he struck out 68 and walked 24.
This year Gossard was timed at 89 mph in his first start against Perry. He also has a mid-70s breaking ball and is adding a change-up.
“Once I get that change-up down, I should be really effective on the mound,” he said.
Gossard was a key member of the basketball team that lost to eventual state champion Norwalk in the regional finals.
“I got off to a slow start, but we’re out here long tossing and trying to strengthen my arm and get in back in shape so I’m ready for season.”
Gossard grew up around the diamond watching his dad play softball.
“Transitioning now to baseball, it’s my favorite sport,” Gossard said.
Like his fellow pitchers, Gossard strives to get ahead in the count.
“It’s all that it’s about, is to get out there and throw strikes,” Gossard said. “You want to find your pitches early and whatever’s working that day, keep going at it.”
Jesko said, “Colin’s probably our most polished pitcher, in terms of velocity and control. The most impressive thing about him the other night in his first start of the year, two weeks removed from basketball, and he’s all around the strike zone. He had nine strikeouts, no walks (and no runs). The ability to command two pitches in the zone is what’s made him successful.”
Gossard and Taren Sullivan are both ranked among the top pitchers in Ohio by Prep Baseball Report.
Taren Sullivan only pitched in six games last spring for Bath because he left on the weekends to play AAU basketball.
He’s now too old for AAU and will play baseball only this spring.
Last year Sullivan went 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA. In 14 innings, he struck out 16 and walked nine.
He threw 86-87 mph last year, but in his first appearance of the year against Perry, the radar gun registered 91 mph on his fastball.
“Colin hit 89 in that game and I was thinking, ‘I’m not touching Colin right now. Then I walked over to the dugout and the coaches showed me (I hit 91) and it brought excitement to me.”
Sullivan also features a breaking ball. He’s working on a change-up and split-finger fastball.
“Taren is an athlete, who has developed into a pitcher who throws the ball really hard,” Jesko said. “He’s going to attack you with his fastball, but he’s done a good job of working on developing his breaking ball. … And we feel like he’s still got some more velocity in the tank that he hasn’t discovered yet just because he hasn’t thrown a whole lot.”
Like Gossard, Sullivan got a late start on baseball after the successful basketball campaign. Sullivan has signed to play basketball at Findlay, but still enjoys playing baseball.
“I’ve been playing baseball since the second grade and I stayed with it and I wanted to keep playing both sports,” Sullivan said. “I have an opportunity to play college basketball, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to put 100 percent into baseball season this year and help my team get as far as we can.”