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Firestone baseball team looking for pitchers to lead way to title

3/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

WEST AKRON — According to second-year head coach Aaron DeBord, this year’s Firestone High School baseball team is looking to improve on last season’s results across the board.

“We have a great group of hard-working kids who have really stepped up to a new effort level over the past year,” he said. “The kids are really starting to buy into what we want to do and have the belief that they can win. We have focused on mentally getting the kids more prepared to play this year — challenging them to push themselves individually to better the group. We are focusing in on a ‘one pitch at a time’ philosophy.”

In 2013, Firestone finished 14-14 overall and 11-1 in league play.

“We lost in the City [Series] championship game to Ellet and in the first round of the playoffs to Stow,” DeBord said. “We lost five seniors from last season’s team. The biggest hole to fill from that group is catcher Tom Lehman. He was the heart and soul of last year’s team.”

There are four seniors on this year’s squad: Ben Hayes, Jacob Eberly, Damien Goostree and Richard Burroughs.

“Ben will be the leader of our offense and play centerfield this season,” the coach said. “Jacob has taken over for Tom and become the unquestioned leader of our group. He has done an excellent job in trying to take our kids to the next level. Jacob will play shortstop and is the ace of the pitching staff. Damien and Richard have grown a lot since last season, and we are counting on both to start in the outfield. Richard will also see significant innings on the hill.”

Outside of the seniors, DeBord said, the team will have a number of players who will be earning their first major varsity-level experience this season.

“This year’s team is very young and inexperienced, defensively and at the plate,” he said. “We are returning seven players from last year’s varsity team, but only three that were consistent starters (Eberly, Hayes and Kody VonStein). We feel that even though we have a team with little experience, we are on the right track to a successful season.”

DeBord said the team will be relying on a number of underclassmen this season.

“We are looking to have a major impact from sophomore Anthony Terrell and freshman Dustin James. Anthony will play second base and outfield, while Dustin will be a key pitcher and will be a utility guy for us out of the gate. Both have shown us that they are ready to be impact players at the varsity level,” he said. “We have two sophomores — Terrell and first baseman Alex Erisey — and two freshmen — James and catcher Matt Dies — that will start for us most days, and we are very eager to get them out on the field.”

The strength of this year’s team, DeBord said, is its experienced pitching.

“We are very confident in our pitching for this season,” he said. “The staff will be anchored by seniors Jacob Eberly and Richard Burroughs, juniors Corbin White and Alex Cole, and freshman Dustin James. Jacob Eberly and Corbin White were our big game pitchers last year that stepped up in big moments. Alex Cole had six wins last year against city teams and is eager to see what he can do outside of the city. We’re looking for Dustin James to have a major impact on the hill this season as well. I see him as a top three pitcher on our staff right out of the gate.”

At the plate, DeBord said, Firestone has “a few experienced bats returning and some big holes to fill” from last season.

“We will look to Ben Hayes (.397, 29 RBIs and 12 steals), Jacob Eberly (.377 and 26 RBIs) and Kody VonStein (.300 and 25 RBIs) to lead our offense this season,” he said. “One of the keys to our season will be how our younger guys adapt to the speed of varsity baseball. We have been working on having quality at bats and making the most out of each pitch.”

Firestone’s first game is scheduled for March 29 at 11 a.m. against Springfield High School at home. The Falcons then will take on Ellet High School March 31 at 4:30 p.m. at home and April 1 at 4:30 p.m. at Ellet.

“The goal for this season is to win the City Series and to improve upon last year’s record outside of the city,” the coach stated. “We have a young team, but we are confident in them and eager to see what they can do.”

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