NEWARK – Ryan Blessard did not know what to expect when he joined Utica Post 92 for the first time.
It certainly was not being the only graduated player and becoming one of the top pitchers, but the former Granville standout has taken the bull by the horns. Blessard and Granville’s Zach Blumling have helped Post 92 prepare to play its best baseball at the right time.
“It helps a lot having someone that was on my team previously because it helps me feel more comfortable,” Blessard said. “It’s also fun to get out here and meet some new guys and play baseball with other guys.
“It is nice to get to know some of the guys I have played against over the years and realize they are not bad people.”
Post 92 consists mostly of 17-year-old players, which has caused some growing pains, but the results have been better of late. Utica played in the Cambridge July 4 tournament this past weekend and begins play in the American Legion district tournament Saturday at Prospect.
Blessard only threw eight innings this past spring for Granville, but he has emerged as one of Utica’s most reliable arms. He recently threw a complete game in 3-2 victory against Zanesville Post 29.
“It’s cool because I didn’t get to pitch a lot for Granville this year because I was mainly our first baseman and did a lot for us at first base,” Blessard said. “I got to save my arm and do a lot of pitching for this team. … I felt like I was finding the zone really well, and my curve ball was working really well, too (against Zanesville).”
Blessard and Blumling, who plays center field, also have been immediate contributors in the batting order. Both players hit over .400 during the spring for the Blue Aces.
Blumling hit a game-changing home run earlier this summer in a victory against perennial power Pickerington Post 283.
“During school ball, I didn’t hit one out, so as soon as you get one, you are going to be happy about it,” he said.
Blumling is hoping to carry over momentum from this summer into next spring as Granville hopes to build on a strong finish to 2015. Hitting at the top of the order, he helped the Blue Aces climb to second place in the Licking County League standings.
“That gave the guys a winning mentality, I guess,” Blumling said. “We finally got back into winning and started liking it and wanting to play these good teams. Hopefully, that drives people to want to win more.”
One of the biggest obstacles Post 92 has faced this summer has been the weather. Utica entered July with just 10 games played because of the consistent rain during the second half of the month of June.
“You kind of feel like you lose all of your ability if you don’t play for a while,” Blessard said. “It’s kind of annoying to just come in cold.”
The schedule, however, has picked up of late heading into this weekend’s postseason.
“So far, it has been a good experience,” Blumling said. “I like the guys. We haven’t gotten in very many games, but hopefully there is good stuff to come.”
The Utica Post 92 Juniors also had a strong Granville contingent. Listed on the Juniors roster are Alex Strouse, Grant Foster, Daniel Bellofatto, Grant Porterfield, Sean Bossart and T.J. Carney-DeBord.