Still flying high
Eagles have big expectations next season
For the first time in program history, the John F. Kennedy baseball team was the last team standing at the end of the season after beating Van Wert Lincolnview 4-0 in the Division IV state final Sunday at Canal Park in Akron.
With one state championship in the book and a young roster returning all but one player next season, the Eagles are poised to prove that they are not just a flash in the pan, but one of the freshest area powerhouses.
“Well we have 10 coming back, and obviously we’re going to try to do this again,” first-year coach Jim Ciambotti said. “We’re trying to build a culture, so we want to do this year-in and year-out if possible. We bid (senior) Cam (Hollobaugh) farewell, but the expectations start now for the next group.”
There may only be one departure from Kennedy’s roster, but it’s a sizable one. Hollobaugh was a guiding force for not only the baseball team, but the football and basketball teams as well.
While the Eagles are going to miss a player of Hollobaugh’s caliber, junior Gavin Shrum, who threw seven strikeouts in the team’s state championship victory, is already thinking about what the team can achieve in 2022.
“We lose one senior, but a great senior,” Shrum said. “But we’re reloading. We’ve got a lot of freshmen on our team. We’ve heard it all year. We’re gonna rebuild next year and hopefully we’ll be right back here.”
With a team that will primarily be underclassmen next season once again, the leadership will fall to the senior class of Shrum, Alex DeSalvo and Michael Mauro.
Shrum says he is looking forward to it.
“I feel great,” Shrum said. “Honestly, I’d love to cap it off with another one. I just can’t wait to get back at it. Summer ball is next. I can’t wait to lead my team and hopefully win a couple more games and maybe another state championship.”
The team’s returning pieces are nothing to scoff at. Catcher Caleb Hadley, who will be a sophomore next season, sparked the team in the 3-2 state semifinal win against Fort Loramie. He hit a two-RBI double. Freshman third baseman Michael Condoleon secured the game winning out in that game as well.
While it’s too early to speculate who will be playing what positions 10 months from now, both of Kennedy’s No. 2-options on the mound next season are returning in Shrum and Jaden Rishel. Shrum won that battle and after his performance in the state title game, could very well be the team’s ace next year.
“It was kind of a toss-up the whole year between Jaden Rishel and Shrum as our No. 2, but we felt that with the certain conditions that we were going to go with the older upperclassmen, and it worked out,” Ciambotti said. “He’s a bulldog, he’s been talking about this all year.
“He’s a baseball rat. He loves to play, loves to hit, can’t take enough swings, can’t take enough ground balls. He was never satisfied. It was huge.”
It’s not just the baseball team that’s had success this academic year. The football team placed second in the state after dropping the state title game to New Bremen and the basketball team reached a regional final. Both the football team and baseball team had new coaches in Dom Prologo and Ciambotti, as well as a first-year athletic director in Al Gregos.
There’s a school-wide culture that has spread throughout the halls of John F. Kennedy High School, and the baseball team is hoping to continue to grow that culture.