BY MIKE URSERY
The 2017 Fayette baseball Falcons had a consistent mixture of players from all four grade levels.
The team roster had five seniors, four juniors, five sophomores and four freshman.
That mixture spilled out onto the diamond, where the starting lineup on any given day was comprised of both upper and lower classmen. consistently throughout the season.
Head coach Garth Menees said that his veterans did a nice job of helping the younger players come along throughout the year.
“We had a lot of good leadership at the top,” Menees said. “With the younger guys, they took to it really well.”
Menees said his freshman played a lot of baseball games during the recent season, and that they are going to play a lot more in the futue.
“They got a lot of experience at the varsity level,” Menees said. “Hopefully that will help us in the years to come, as well as a good mixture of sophomores and juniors in there that saw a lot of playing time.”
When that near future becomes the present, next season, five familiar faces will have moved on: Mason Stornello, Robby Robinson, Aaron Wilder, Babrack Tarakai and Hunter Heath.
“The group of seniors we had this year were a great group of seniors,’ Menees said. “They all contributed in some way to the team at various spots throughout the season. They all will be missed a lot. But with all high school teams, those guys are gone. We appreciate what they did for us. We won’t forget them, but we have to start building with the younger guys to fill those roles for next year.”
Stornello and Robinson were named All-District for the 2017 season, with Stornello named to the first team and Robinson to the second team.
Stornello led the team offensively with a .425 batting average. He was the leader in hits, extra-base hits and RBIs with 17. He hit one home run, against Jamestown on April 25.
Robinson was the Falcons’ top pitcher, posting a 2-4 win-loss record with 39 strikeouts and a 5.76 ERA. Offensively, he had a .375 batting average with four RBIs.
Wilder finished the season with a .262 batting average and five RBIs.
Some of the team’s underclassmen made significant contributions on offense.
Freshman Jack Kindle spent most of the season in the leadoff spot in the lineup.
“He did a nice job of putting the ball in play and getting on base,” Menees said. “He had the ability to use his speed to get around and create some problems on the basepaths for the other team..”
Kindle finished his freshman season with a .256 batting average. He was a perfect 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts.
Kindle didn’t play in every game this season, due to him running track along with playing baseball this spring.
Menees said that freshman Quess Frerking moved up and down the lineup during the season, primarily between the fourth spot and the seventh spot. He made himself a staple in the middle of the lineup because of his power, Menees said.
Frerking finished with a .225 batting average, but hit several deep balls to the outfield.
“I hope to see those guys improve upon their batting averages for next season,” Menees said. “High school varsity baseball was a little bit of a transition, I think, for them. I look for them to get better.”
Menees said that sophomore Cameron Stornello played a role as the team’s designated hitter near the end of the season.
He had 13 plate appearances, putting the ball in play and getting on base in 10 of those times.
“We always say we want to put the ball in play and force the other team to make mistakes,” Menees said. “Cameron did a real nice job of doing that. Hopefully we can improve upon some things for him, and he will find himself in a starting position on the field next year.”
Stornello had a .400 batting average at the season’s end.
The Falcons finished the season with a 4-10 record. The inexperience on the field was prevalent, as defense was the main weakness that stuck out with this group.
The team committed 71 errors and posted an .840 fielding percentage. Menees said that with baseball, improving the defense comes down to repetition, grit and determination.
“I don’t think they lack any of that,” Menees said. “They just have to want it more. They have to want more of it, and keep on getting better as we progress through our years in high school. We can’t just be satisfied that we got to play as young guys. We have to get better every year, and I think that young group is going to do that.”
Robinson and Mason Stornello were the team’s starting pitchers this past season. With those two moving on, Menees said he’s unsure who his starting pitchers next season will be.
Kindle and Cale Polson took the mound in relief situations, with Kindle making six appearances and Polson making five.
Freshman Grant Himmelman made an appearance on the mound this season, as did sophomores Cameron Stornello and Kolby Skaggs.
“We’re still developing arms,” Menees said. “The great thing about having young guys is theyre going to turn into older guys and get bigger, faster and stronger. That will help us at the pitching position, especially.”
Along with fighting the lack of experience, the Falcons battled the weather. Seven games on the scheduled were cancelled due either to rain or wet field conditions after a rain shower passed through.
My first three seasons as head coach, I think we played a minimum of 17 games,” Menees said. “This season, we played 14 games. Like everyone else, we had several games that were canceled due to weather that we feel we could have been a competitive baseball club in. Everyone in the state can say the exact same thing. We’re not going to hang our hat on that. We know we have to come out, and whoever the opponent is that day, we have to give it our best to be able to win that baseball game. That’s a mindset we have to adapt to, knowing we’ve got to go out and play no matter what. Whoever it is, we’re going to go our and compete at the highest level we can.”
Wilder was the team’s first baseman this past season. Mason Stornello played at shortstop when he wasn’t in the game as a pitcher. When Robinson wasn’t on the mound, he patrolled center field. Going forward, Menees will have to fill those holes before next season.
Kindle spent time in center field this season, Menees said. Cameron Stornello played on game at first base, he said.
“Shortstop is kind of up for grabs,” Menees said. “I have a couple of guys who I think want that position, but you have to earn that one. That’s a pretty important position. I need somebody I can rely on there. Somebody with some range and a little bit of an arm that can make those plays, and who can communicate to the outfield, and to the second baseman, and to the pitcher and the catcher, and who can be the infield leader.”
Menees said the catcher controls everyone on the field, but if he misses something, the shortstop needs to be able to pick that up.
“Hopefully we find that guy, and they own it and they run with it,” Menees said.
As for the catcher position, junior Joe Geha was the primary person there this season. He was charged with five passes balls during the year. He caught three runners trying to steal in 25 chances.
Offensively, Geha led the team in stolen bases. He was a perfect 13-for-13 on the basepaths. He also led the team in runs scored with 13.
The Falcons will have three seniors next year: Geha, Nick Lembke and Andrew Cropp. Menees said his hope is that those three step up and take on a big part of the leadership role. He said that each of them been with the baseball program for three years, and each will enter their fourth year next season.
“The same can be said for some of the younger guys who played a lot,” Menees said. “They may step into those positions, and not necessarily be the leaders, but be guys that other people can depend on and count on, and be good role models for the younger guys who are coming up.”