Occasionally and purely by accident, Findlay High School baseball coach Jeff Stutzman will spell Connor Curlis’s first name with an “er” instead of an “or” at the end.
Before the 2014 season is over, though, that likely won’t be an issue.
In the field and especially on the mound, Stutzman will be writing Curlis’s name down a lot this season. Not only is Curlis one of just six letter winners back from a 20-9 team, he is also Stutzman’s most experienced pitcher.
“We lost all of our pitchers with experience except one: Conner (sic) Curlis,” Stutzman said in his preseason analysis of the 2014 season.
“When he is on the mound we can compete with anyone, but we’re hoping to reload on the mound.”
Curlis, who has made a verbal commitment to Ohio State, was 3-0 last season with a 1.62 earned run average and 28 strikeouts in 251/3 inning work. He also had a team-high four saves.
Graduation cost the Trojans a well-armed staff, though, including Jimmy Orwick, Nolan Atwood, Anthony Tong and Nick Bowden.
An arm injury limited Orwick’s time on the mound last season, but he is now pitching for Notre Dame and has appeared in relief in 12 of 22 games for the Fighting Irish. Bowden was 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 44 innings and Atwood 6-3 with a 1.21 ERA and 63 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 572/3 innings. Tong, who no-hit Lima Senior and struck out 16 in a TRAC tournament game, had a 2.20 ERA and 35 total strikeouts.
Orwick was also one of Findlay’s top hitters, batting .409 with 15 RBI, 22 runs scored and a team-leading 11 stolen bases. The Trojans also graduated top-RBI man Dietrich Hinesman (.352, 28 RBI), outfielder Wyatt Krupp (.256) and third baseman Tim Koch, along with Austin Powell, Tyler Tomlins and Brad Johnson.
Orwick and Hinesman (first team), Atwood and Rodman (second team) and Bowden and Krupp (honorable mention) all earned all-Three Rivers Athletic Conference honors.
Stutzman has consistently turned out winners, though, compiling a 108-89 career record in his eight seasons as FHS head coach. And he has a number of veterans back to continue that trend.
In addition to Curlis, who will man a spot in the outfield when he’s not on the mound, Stutzman also welcomes back senior catcher Nolan Rodman, last year’s top hitter with a .429 average. Clay Rice returns on the corner, either at first or third, and Ryan Golden will DH and play outfield. Rice and Golden both hit around .250 last season.
Nick Kiffemeyer, who saw some varsity time in 2013, will take over at short this season, Sam Maghee will be in left and Grant Akin, a speedy sophomore, will likely start in center and possibly lead off.
Joining Curlis in Findlay’s rotation will be senior Jackson Geyer, juniors Desmond Lino and Dakota Feay, and sophomore Chandler Stillings.
“I think if we can score some runs we’ll be able to have a very good season,” Stutzman said.
“The big key will be our pitching.”
Findlay is scheduled to open the 2014 season Tuesday at Lima Bath. On Thursday, Findlay will host Defiance, a perennial prep baseball power that last year went 31-1 and won Ohio’s Division II state championship.
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