Clark, Withrow baseball, softball dream of fields

Clark Montessori pitcher Michael Rowe has thrown back-to-back no-hitters this spring for the Cougars.

Clark Montessori pitcher Michael Rowe has thrown back-to-back no-hitters this spring for the Cougars.

The Clark Montessori baseball team played 14 home games this season some 35 to 40 minutes away in Winton Place. Withrow High School played all 17 of their games sitting in the visitor’s dugout or bench.

By July and for next season, that will all change. In conjunction with Major League Baseball, the Cincinnati Reds and this summer’s All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark, Clark and Withrow are being included on a $500,000-plus new baseball and softball complex project on the existing grass at Withrow High School.

Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission are also involved in the plans to bring a pair of turf-infield diamonds (one baseball and one softball) and a utility practice field to the property adjacent to the Withrow gym and football stadium parking lot.

Both schools have funding goals and are reaching out to graduates to help subsidize the project. Clark’s goal was $25,000 and they’ve currently raised around $17,500. As a younger school, the Cougars have fewer graduates to pull from than the Withrow community at the corner of Madison and Erie.

The project will eliminate the bus time and expense for the “road warrior” Withrow Tigers and will leave Clark’s Cougars with a short Hyde Park commute. Clark currently plays at Brandon Phillips Field, which the Reds Community Fund established at the old Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education property that previously housed Clark and Gamble Montessori on an interim basis.

“We’ve been playing over there as long as I know, eight or nine years, if not longer,” Clark athletic director Aaron Zupka said. “We drive over there over 30 minutes and the field is in pretty good shape. From a growth perspective for our program, this will get more kids to games and get more interest in baseball. The timing couldn’t be any better as far as our needs and having a home closer to Clark.”

Former Withrow standout and Cincinnati Red Ron Oester is also involved in the project and Tigers coach Rodney Spaulding is glad to see baseball getting same attention football and basketball has received in recent years.

“It rejuvenated the football program when we got a new football surface,” he said of the gridiron turf Withrow also shares with Clark. “Hopefully, we can begin to really build.”

Groundbreaking is expected soon and Zupka estimates the 50-50 venture will allow the various teams to at least have three days each week on the new fields during the season.

Rowe boasts consecutive no-hitters

Clark Montessori senior Michael Rowe has done his share to whet the appetite for a new baseball field in Hyde Park. In his final two mound appearances of the regular season, the righty has authored not one, but two consecutive no-hitters.

It’s been 77 years since Johnny Vander Meer pulled a similar feat for the Cincinnati Reds. In high school ball, the OHSAA record book makes Rowe one of 10 pitchers to have thrown two or more consecutive no-hitters. Cameron Varga of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy threw five no-hitters last season, but none were back-to-back.

During a late winning streak by the Cougars, Rowe no-hit North College Hill 11-1 on May 2 with six strikeouts and two walks. The only Trojan run scored when a runner advanced home after an attempted pick-off of the second base runner by the catcher.

He followed that with a May 7 no-no against St. Bernard, 26-0 where he struck out seven. Prior to the consecutive gems, Rowe had a 13-0 complete game shutout of Seven Hills 13-0 where he allowed just two singles.

“The second no-hitter against St. Bernard was easier because I only needed to pitch four innings instead of the five against North College Hill,” Rowe said. “My best pitch is currently my curve ball that starts moving up from where I release it before falling back into the zone just below the letters.”

Rowe actually threw a no-hitter last year in the team’s opener with Summit Country Day. Unfortunately, the Cougars lost 2-0 when an errant pick-off move scored runners from second and third.

At the plate, he hit .417 during the regular season driving in 19 runs with an on-base percentage of .656. However, he prefers pitching because of the control he feels on the mound.

Rowe plans on attending Rose-Hulman as engineering major. If the academics allow, he may toss the pill for the Fightin’ Engineers out of Terre Haute, Ind.

Fitting of his major, Rowe likes to dissect hitters on each plate appearance and pitch to their weak spots. On the other hand, he tries not to over-think the process.

“I still subscribe to the philosophy of when you’re just not hitting the zone, shut your brain down and let your body do the work,” he said.

Clark next faces Reading at Deer Park High School May 20.

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