CONVOY – It’s been quite a year for Crestview.
Over the last 12 months the Knights reached the baseball state semifinals, won the Division IV boys basketball state title and now return to the state baseball tournament.
One of the players at the heart of the state tournament runs has been center fielder Cam Etzler.
“We couldn’t have scripted this any better,” Etzler said. “It’s insane, but it’s great to see this community out here (at the regional finals) with us. We’re looking forward to Huntington Park.”
Crestview (20-6) will meet Tinora (23-4) in the Division IV baseball state semifinals at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Columbus Clippers’ Huntington Park. Tinora lost in the state semifinals last year to New Middletown Springfield, 13-7.
Crestview lost in the state semifinals last year to Newark Catholic, 9-1. It marks the Knights’ third trip to state (1993, 2013, 2014).
“In ACME (last summer) we got back to the state and finished in the final six and got beat by a good Defiance team and a good Coldwater team,” Etzler said. “I thought we had a lot of confidence then. So we were pretty optimistic coming into this year, but obviously, we got a slow start based off of (state) basketball.”
Added Crestview pitcher Damian Helm, “Doing it in baseball last year, then going undefeated in basketball, it’s just awesome. We’ve had so many memories the last two years and my last four, but it never gets old. I’ll never get tired of winning.”
This year’s team had to overcome adversity and injuries to shortstop/pitcher Bryce Richardson (shoulder/broken nose) and third baseman Isaiah Simerman (back). Both returned shortly before the start of the tournament.
“With seven players returning, and six of those playing basketball, we got a three and a half week late start, then with the injuries, it was a challenge,” Crestview coach Jim Wharton said. “I’m very proud of the kids.”
Etzler is an all-out hustler and loves to dive for balls, no matter the sport. He’s the point guard in basketball and covers plenty of ground in baseball as the team’s center fielder.
Etzler leads the team in average (.395), on-base percentage (.462) and doubles (nine). He also leads the team in stolen bases (19) and walks (10).
Etzler, a former shortstop, made a diving grab in center in the seventh inning this year to help preserve a 5-3 win over Bath.
“I love it (diving for balls) and stealing bases,” Etzler said. “I just try to do what I can.”
Etzler felt that the team’s state experience in two sports will help the baseball team this time around.
“We were at Huntington Park, which is a huge facility, and then we got to the Schottenstein Center, which is another huge place,” Etzler said. “We can’t really get much bigger than that. I think that’s going to calm our nerves because we were a little jittery last year. … But we know Tinora’s been there, too.”
The senior Etzler has already announced he’ll play basketball at Anderson University next year.
“I’ve been basketball since Day 1, but I love baseball and I love playing out here with these guys,” Etzler said. “I’ve had it in the back of my mind to play both, but right now it’s just basketball (in college).”
But, first there’s the matter of another state tournament.
“This is definitely icing on the cake for us,” Etzler said. “We have six basketball guys on here and our goal coming into the year was to make it a double championship year. Right now we have two NWC (Northwest Conference) championships, two sectionals, two districts and two regional championships. We have one state championship, so we’re trying to make it deuces across the board.”
Crestview by the numbers
After Cam Etzler’s .395 average, Jordan Roop is batting .385, while Damian Helm is hitting .382. Nate Owens is at .338. In 35 at-bats, Isaiah Simerman is hitting .400. Etzler has 19 stolen bases.
On the mound, Helm is 7-1 with two saves and a 1.03 ERA. In 47 1/3 innings, he has 68 strikeouts and seven walks. He’s given up 27 hits.
Helm, who is headed to Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, earned both the win and the save in the 7-4 regional semifinal win over Fort Loramie. He threw 6 2-3 innings and gave up no runs on two hits. He struck out seven and walked none.
Adrian Camp is 6-2 with a 2.37 ERA. Camp tossed a five-hit, complete game in the Knights’ 8-2 regional finals win over Cincinnati Country Day. He struck out eight and walked three.
This marks Tinora’s fourth straight trip to the state tournament and those account for all four of its appearances. The Rams lost in the state semifinals the last three years.
Clay Pittman is the team’s No. 1 pitcher. He’s 7-1 with a 0.16 ERA, giving up just one earned run in 43 innings. He has 49 strikeouts and eight walks. He’s given up 18 hits. Pittman has signed with San Jacinto Junior College.
Pittman also leads the team in hitting (.506) with 16 doubles and 37 RBIs. Drew Drewes is batting .494 with two home runs and 41 RBIs. Reid Renollet is hitting .420, while E.J. Kissel is batting .410. Brevin Renollet is batting .342.
The Rams are hitting .352 as a team.