Clay’s seniors go ‘5-for-5’ signing at the next level

J. Patrick Eaken

Whether you are batting, stealing bases, or fielding, 5-for-5 is darn good in baseball.

Baseball is often described as a game of failure — where even a good batter fails to get a hit seven of ten times.

Clay baseball was 5-for-5 this year, but it’s a different kind of 5-for-5. All five seniors have signed to play college baseball. That is likely more of a statistical anomaly than a batter going 5-for-5.

Andrew Collins will play NCAA Division I baseball at the University of Akron, Derek Bolander is headed to Ohio Dominican University, and the other three seniors, Skylar Mays, Brendan Cannon and Ty Szymczak will play for Owens Community College.

“These five seniors, they are some of my best friends,” Bolander said. “It’s kind of cool that all five of us are going to play college ball. You don’t really see that all that often on a high school team around here, where every senior is signed.”

For coach Jim Phillips, who played at Youngstown State University, it is a reflection on his program. However, with that kind of talent it was hard to see their senior year not playing out on the field.

“With this year’s group, we were kind of building over the last two years and this group of seniors was special,” Phillips said. “Some years you have seniors and you might have a lot of numbers, but they don’t necessarily contribute a ton. All five of these guys were going to contribute a lot to this year’s team and how much success we had and those kinds of things.”

The players felt the sky was the limit for this year’s team.

“I think this year would have been really special,” Bolander said. “In the offseason, we were all committed. We were all showing up to all of our offseason workouts, BP (batting practice) sessions and pitching sessions. I think it would have been a real good and fun season for us five seniors.

“At one point in time, I played with all four seniors during travel ball, during my high school career, or before in eighth grade or seventh grade. It was always fun to play travel ball with them before high school and coming into high school to actually play with them on the Clay baseball team, and even that summer you get to play with them, too. They are some of my best friends and I love hanging around them. It’s always fun to get to go out and compete together.”

Of course, none of the five are done playing baseball yet.

“That was definitely one of the silver linings,” Phillips said. “Had even one of these five guys, or three of them not be going on, it would have been kind of a bigger pill to swallow. Yes, I’m disappointed for them that they didn’t get to have their senior year and all their work that they put in come to a culmination, so to speak. With all five of them going on, to know that they get an opportunity to play, this won’t be their last experience with baseball as a player,” Phillips continued. 

“It gives you some hope. It makes you feel like it wasn’t a complete loss because they all have a landing spot. Like I told them, it’s a game-changer. You remember your high school stuff, absolutely, but you remember your college stuff I think even more if you make it all four years. It’s just the people that you meet and the doors that open, and those types of things. I’m happy that all five of them will get to experience definitely something all of them are worthy of and deserve, for sure.”

Phillips is hoping he can find a way to honor the five seniors in person—do more than give them media attention that they have already gotten. The other question is, how prepared will they be heading to play college baseball if there is no summer baseball.

“We may try and do something after all of this gets lifted. It’s just kind of tough right now with all the restrictions and uncertainty of what is going on. I think a lot of it now is fringed on who is going to enforce all of these rules that they handed out and those types of things,” Phillips said. 

“It’ll be interesting to see and I think a lot of these counties are going to have to adopt rules, too. If some of these health departments say no, then there might not be baseball in some counties but baseball in other counties. I think it’s going to be a mess here for a little while even after they open some things up for baseball.”




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