Rockets baseball program back to its winning ways

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

The victories over Bellevue, Edison, Genoa and Fremont Ross early in the spring and the walk-off wins over Huron and Margaretta highlighted the season for the Oak Harbor baseball team.
The Rockets, after underachieving a bit last year, had a good season, finishing 19-7 and falling to the Chargers, 2-0, in a Division III district final. It was the farthest Oak Harbor had advanced in the postseasons since 2011.
It was a wonderful mix of talent and experience with this group, one that featured Brayden Butzin, Michael LaLonde and Hayden Craig.
Craig, one of the seven seniors, along with Karson Lajti, Karter Lajti, Keegan Witt, Kayden Burroughs, Tyler Shadoan and Trent Wills, hit .429 to go with 17 RBIs and 16 runs. Butzin, the catcher, hit .451 to go with 19 RBIs and 17 runs, and LaLonde, who pitches when he’s not playing shortstop, hit .411 with a home run, 11 RBIs and 16 runs. “Those seniors gave us good leadership,” said Oak Harbor coach Nick Lance. “They showed the underclassmen what it means to be a part of this program.”
LaLonde, who is just a sophomore and excels as the quarterback of the football team and the point guard of the basketball team, talked about Lance, a Ross graduate who played baseball at the University of Toledo, and what he brings to the table.
“He pushes us very hard. He makes us tremendously better. He always finds something that needs to be better, but at the same time, he’s always getting us up and being supportive, but finding the details that need to be fine-tuned, and that puts us above other teams,” said LaLonde. “But he’s got a funny side and is great to be around.”
The infield is patrolled by Karter Lajti at first base, Brayden Myerholtz at second, LaLonde at shortstop and Tim Marquette at third. Cooper Schultz is the center fielder, Keegan Witt is out in left with Karson Lajti in right and Craig is the utility player.
The batting order has Schultz leading off, followed by LaLonde, Butzin, Craig, Witt, the Lajti twins, Marquette and Myerholtz.
“Myerholtz did a good job of getting us back to the top,” said Lance. “Cooper Schultz did a good job of getting on base and setting the table. Karson started hitting well late in the year and Karter did a good job of getting on base.
Karson Lajti credited Craig, LaLonde and Butzin for their intangibles.
“The unsung hero on this team is Hayden Craig. He’s been with the bat and comes through in the clutch when we need him,” said Lajti. “I would also say Keegan Witt for many of the same reasons, as they both lead the team in RBIs. “Mike and Brayden Butzin are the two I’d consider the leaders on the team. They’re always keeping the team motivated to succeed against adversity,” he said.
The rotation included LaLonde, Marquette, Craig and Karson Lajti.
“Our staff was amazing. The strikeout-to-walk ratio was fantastic. They pounded the zone and gave our defense a chance to make plays behind them,” Lance said. “You can’t defend a walk, and I think our guys got that. All of them, except one, had an ERA under 3.00, if not 2.50.
“Butz always did a great job of controlling the ball and controlling the running game. That gave the pitchers confidence to do what they do best,” he said.
The Rockets, who just missed winning a Sandusky Bay Conference title for the first time in 11 years, finished just one game back of Edison, which just won its third consecutive district championship after advancing to the state championship game last year.
“It was a great season. We had the single-season win record, and they should be proud of what they accomplished,” Lance said. “It was amazing that we made it to a district final and had a chance to win it. They played a great game and fought to the end. It’s not like we beat ourselves.”
Karter Lajti carried that sentiment as well.
“I would say the season was very successful. It’s been a great comeback from last season,” he said. “We finally learned how to play as a team and win as a team. We have beaten almost every team we faced this season.”
The team will see plenty of talent and production return, but there will be some key losses, too.
“We graduate some innings and experience with the loss of Karson Lajti and Craig. But we have some young talent and more coming in,” Lance said. “It will be tough to duplicate the mound experience for next year, but we will be hungry again.”
A few former Rockets played collegiate baseball recently. Aric McAtee, who began his career at Toledo, just finished up at Florida Southern College. He went 6-5 in 14 starts with a 3.91 ERA, Ashton Schroeder went to the University of Findlay for one season but had Tommy John surgery and Gunner Gregg hit .254 with four home runs and 15 RBIs at Defiance College.


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association