By CHUCK RIDENOUR
Daily Globe Sports Editor
Along the banks of the Black Fork, the Shelby Bombers quietly go about their business at Siegfried Park during the spring and summer months.
The local baseball program, with an emphasis on homegrown players, was making a bang around the state with their performances on the diamond in 10U, 11U and 12U state tournaments.
The loudest showing by the Bombers came from their 10U team which captured a championship during play held at Cedar Point’s Sports Force Park in Sandusky.
The 10U squad came out on top against 27 other teams and logged a record of 5-0. The 12U’s were third and the 11U’s were 11th in state tournaments.
“I’m really proud of the boys for the whole weekend,” summed up coach Marc Hartz, who with a number of parents, guides the program. “One of the big accomplishments is we have nine boys from Shelby and two from Madison who went out and competed against Division I team and pure travel teams that recruit from all over the place.
“That says a lot for the boys and the hard work they put in. They played some really good competition. Nobody thought we’d win the whole thing, including us.”
En route to the title, the Bombers knocked off the No. 1 ranked Pickerington Big Katz and also owned a pair of wins over the Canton Spikes Baseball Club which was rated seventh in the state.
The local 10U team routed the Spikes 9-0 in the first game behind a one-hitter by Conner Hartz, who threw 40 of 49 pitches for strikes. Brady Bowman sparked the offense with three hits.
After racing out to an 11-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Bombers coach changed up the pitching rotation and put Jon Mahon on the mound. He responded with a no-hitter and after allowing a walk to the first batter, no other player from the Solon Stampede reached base in a 25-0 runaway.
Friday the Bombers squared off again versus the Spikes and squeezed out a 9-8 win. Mike Shepherd and Bowman teamed up on the mound. Quinton Albert, Shepherd, Mahon and Kaleb Stairs all had two hits.
Saturday the pitching duo of Conner Hartz and Bowman limited the Pickerington Big Katz to just four hits in a 6-0 triumph in the semifinals. Bowman and Albert each had two hits.
“Conner shut them out the first four innings and Brady finished up against a Pickerington team that has been beating some teams pretty good this year,” said Marc Hartz.
In the championship game Sunday, the Bombers downed the Strongsville Stallions Baseball Club 11-8 and in come-from-behind fashion.
The 10U team was down 4-0 in the top of the first and eventually won it in the bottom of the fifth on a bases-loaded double by Stairs.
“We had some nerves in the first inning and got down quick 4-0. We scored a run in the bottom of the first and that calmed things down,” noted the Shelby coach. “We battled back and in the bottom of the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded, Kaleb hit a bases-clearing double.
“A couple of months ago, Kaleb’s mom died from cancer. That was a special moment for him, it was special for all of us,” said Marc Hartz.
For the weekend, the Bombers batted .512 and their team earned run average was under 2.00.
“We had kids come up with clutch hits and all our pitchers came up big and really stepped up this weekend. We fielded the ball well with the exception of the last game. We had a little bit of everything, it was a total team effort,” said the coach, who is assisted by Jeff Albert.
12U Bombers are third
The Shelby program saw its 12U squad place third in the state tournament held over the weekend in Massillon.
The Bombers posted a record of 4-2 in their 16-team field.
The 12U’s bounced the Brecksville Bees (10-2), lost to the Aces Elite (14-7), defeated the Lake Erie Warhawks Elite (6-5), bested the Licking County Settlers (12-4), tripped up the Aces Elite (4-1) and fell in the semifinals to the Lake Erie Warhawks (7-6).
Coach Aaron Bruskotter noted some highlights from the weekend. They included Jax LaPata’s walk-off single to cap a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth in the win over Lake Erie as well as strong pitching performances by Casey Lantz and Landon Campbell in pool play.
“Canden Dorsey was tough behind the plate all weekend as he caught every inning of the weekend,” said the coach.
“The team played great defense all weekend. We, as coaches, were so proud of the enthusiasm and effort the kids played with all weekend,” added Bruskotter.
11U Bombers place 11th
The 11U Shelby Bombers wound up 11th during the state tournament held at Carter Park in Bowling Green.
Out of 33 teams, the 11U’s were 3-2 for the weekend.
Bomber wins were against Copley (8-2), Mayfield (10-5) and Bedford Blast (12-5). Losses were to the Jackson Bears (13-8) and Findlay Diamond Dawgs (5-3).
“The team really came together this weekend and showed what they are capable of achieving as a team,” said coach Wes Mahon. “Each game was a test and the kids rose to the challenge.
“A lot of teams in the state know who the Shelby Bombers are now. It’s a true testament to how hard these kids have prepared for this event. I couldn’t be more proud as a coach this season.”
Sixth year of existence
The Bombers are in their sixth season and were started in order to give young Shelby baseball players an opportunity to play in community all-star tournaments around the area.
“We put 11-12 Shelby kids together to play. Looking back to the very first tournament we entered in Crestline, we got whooped on pretty good,” remembered Marc Hartz.
The program then advanced to travel baseball and picked up some other ball players when 11 to 12 Shelby players couldn’t be found.
“It’s a big commitment when you consider six weekends we’re playing somewhere out of town,” said Hartz.
Whippet varsity baseball coach Jon Amicone has attended a number of home games and Hartz says their program appreciates that kind of support from the high school coach.
“I hope this parlays into success at the high school level. That’s what this is all about. It’s great to win a 10U state championship, but it will be better to see these kids win conference and district championships when they’re in high school,” said Hartz.
The Bombers home base is Siegfried Park, the two-field facility located on Smiley Avenue.
Besides the three Bombers teams, the field is also utilized by two Johnny Appleseed Baseball Club squads and a number of Little League teams who practice there.
“The field is scheduled out all week and up to about 150 kids are there throughout the week using the fields.
Hartz called Siegfried Park “a blessing to have” in the community.
During the winter months, starting in December, the Bombers go indoors once a week to hone their skills at the House of Home Runs owned by Brad Bowman on Plymouth Springmill Road.