Keegan Fish has returned to his familiar spot behind the plate for Lakota West High School’s baseball team. And he feels just fine.
The Ohio State University recruit missed the entire 2017 season except for one at-bat, a walk in the last inning of the 5-1 Division I state semifinal loss to eventual champion Massillon Jackson at Huntington Park in Columbus.
Fish, a starter as a sophomore, is showing some of his old form after recovering from the knee surgery that made him a spectator last year. The senior catcher went 2-for-2 with a walk and three RBIs on Monday as the defending Greater Miami Conference champion Firebirds topped visiting Colerain 5-3.
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“It’s all good, man. All good,” Fish said. “Not being able to play last year, it gave me a new appreciation of just being out here playing high school ball with all of my best buds that I’ve known forever.
“I saw the game from a new perspective, and I think it really helped me become a better player not only on the field, but off the field. I think I’m a better leader because of it.”
West coach Greg Leurck said he’s not surprised that Fish has worked his way back.
“He played all last summer and last fall, so we’re relying on him to go back behind the plate every game,” Leurck said. “He’s worked very hard. He’s done a good job of dedicating himself to getting back in our lineup and playing every day.”
The Firebirds defeated Colerain with a solid mound performance from two guys who saw no varsity time last year.
Sophomore Alex Jarboe and junior Nicolas Wiles, a pair of right-handers, combined on an eight-hitter. Jarboe threw the first six innings to get his second win, then Wiles finished for his first save.
Leurck said West doesn’t really have an ace right now following the graduation of Jacob Kates, who’s now pitching for High Point University.
“We’re feeling our way through it,” Leurck said. “Honestly, we may be deeper in the bullpen and pitching-wise, but it’s hard to replace a Jake Kates. He’s a guy you knew was going to throw close to a complete game and give you a very good chance of winning.”
Jarboe allowed four hits and two runs in the top of the first inning, but only gave up three hits and an unearned run in his remaining five frames.
“They were good,” Fish said of the Cardinals, who fell to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the GMC. “They were jumping on some early fastballs in that first inning, so I wanted to mix it up and start throwing them some early-in-the-count offspeed pitches.
“Alex Jarboe was tossing that curveball in there and locating it, so I kept going to it. I think it messed with them a little bit, and then obviously Wiles came in and shut the door on them. If we just continue to have these young guys keep the ball in the zone, we can rely on them to get some wins.”
K’sahn Worrell had three singles and drove in a run for Colerain, and Luke Murray was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Cameron Foster also delivered a run-scoring single.
West (4-1, 3-0) touched the Cardinals’ Braeden Ferneding for a run in the first inning and followed that with a four-run outburst in the second, all with two outs. A.J. Petersen (2-for-4, two runs) had a two-run single and Fish launched a two-run double for the hosts.
Colerain coach Justin Yeary replaced Ferneding with fellow righty Nathan Payne in the third inning, and Payne didn’t give up a hit the rest of the way.
“He was leaving it up a little bit and it was straight, so with the way they were putting the bat on it, it was time to try something different,” Yeary said of Ferneding, who allowed five hits. “I felt like we needed to get a guy out there that could throw a little change at ’em, and Payne did absolutely what we asked him to do. We just couldn’t score enough runs.
“They made more plays than we did today. We hit the ball well, but they made some plays on balls that took away hits, and that ultimately was the difference on the scoreboard.”
The teams are scheduled to meet again Tuesday at Colerain. Yeary said he wasn’t sure who would get the mound start for the Cardinals, who have never won a GMC crown. Leurck said Joey Gelter is set to be the Firebirds’ starter.
“We don’t have guys that we’re going to say, ‘He’s 1, he’s 2, he’s 3,’ ” Yeary said. “That’s the kind of staff we have right now. We’re going to play it day by day.”
West has some experienced position players back this year, including center fielder Bryce Johnson, shortstop Petersen, Fish, corner infielder/designated hitter Michael Medley and right fielder Aiden Reverman.
Leurck said Monday’s performance wasn’t a great one, “but good teams win even when they’re not at their best. We competed and pulled one out.”
“We’ve got a lot of fight in us,” Fish said. “I like where this team is at right now.”
Lakota West 140-000-x—5-5-1
WP – Alex Jarboe (2-0); LP – Braeden Ferneding (0-1); S – Nicolas Wiles (1). Records: C 4-1, 2-1 GMC; LW 4-1, 3-0 GMC
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