Providing a spark at the top of the lineup

Providing a spark at the top of the lineup


Providing a spark at the top of the lineup


Adena's Eli Kunkel is just one of the area’s great leadoff hitters who serve as catalysts for their team’s offenses.

Adena’s Eli Kunkel is just one of the area’s great leadoff hitters who serve as catalysts for their team’s offenses.

There’s a first time for everything.

For instance, this is the first time Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ has invaded my thoughts while writing a column.

The hit single off Jackson’s 1982 record selling album entitled Thriller — you may have heard of it — just so happens to have a correlation with the baseball diamond.

This week’s “10 to Comprehend” focuses on the area’s best lead-off hitters who are always indeed looking to start something.

If you’ve been sleeping on Zane Trace’s Trey Davis, it’s time to wake up. Davis, the Pioneers’ second basemen and part time catcher, has been hitting the cover off the ball. Davis’ hot start this spring has includes a .375 batting average (6-16), a home run and an area leading seven RBI. If the Pioneers hope to compete for an SVC title this season, they’ll be counting on Davis to keep igniting their offense at the top.

Chillicothe’s Tori Bettendorf doesn’t run, she flies. She can lay down a bunt, slap a ball the other way or push single into center. However, no matter where the ball goes off her bat, she turns into a flash on the base paths. Bettendorf’s main objective will be to get on base this season and so far, she’s done that. She enters this week with a .444 average.

In just one game this season, Adena’s Eli Kunkel is 1-4 with a run scored. But you can expect those numbers to rise significantly, extremely soon. Last year, Kunkel hit .483 and was tied for seventh in the SVC in runs scored (19). This year, he’s an even better player and will contend for Player of the Year honors.

Speaking of Player of the Year, Gina Wright is no stranger to the award. Wright, Unioto’s center fielder and lead-off hitter, won the honor in 2013 as a sophomore to go along with an All-Southeast District Player of the Year award and a First Team All-Ohio selection. This season, she’s off to another great start, batting .667 (4-6), with two doubles and three runs. That torrid pace will be a continuous one.

Starting an offensive fire doesn’t always involve base knocks. As long as you get on base, no matter the fashion, that gets the job done. Huntington sophomore Brian Smith is the epitome of getting the job done. In two contests this season, Smith is 3-5 with three walks in eight plate appearances. That all equals up to a staggering .750 on-base percentage, cementing Smith as the ringleader of the Huntsmen’ offense.

Junior Madison Smith continues to claw and scratch her way on base for the Bearcats. Paint Valley’s center fielder, one of its three returning starters from last year’s D-IV regional championship team, owns the second highest batting average on the team (.400) and will be depended upon to continue to play at a high level. She’ll meet that expectation.

Senior Spotlight: A new weekly category in our weekly ’10 to Comprehend’, senior spotlight aims to recognize seniors for not just their play on the field but their actions off it as well. This week’s attention shifts to Huntington’s Alayna Lytle. While she’s an extremely gifted player in the pitcher’s circle night in and night out, she’s also an extremely personable young lady when she’s not sending batters back to the dugout with nothing to show for. Lytle is one of the best pitchers in the SVC but she’d never tell you that. As humble as they come, Huntington will miss Lytle, not as a player, but as a person come 2016.

Performance of the Week: Piketon’s softball team glided by Lynchburg Clay in its 2015 opener by a final score of 10-1. Senior Adrien Dunn, the Redstreaks’ pitcher, had a career day in the contest going 4-4 at the plate with two homeruns — including a grand slam — and knocked in six runs. She also pitched all seven innings for Piketon, allowing just two hits and striking out 15.

SVC Baseball Player of the Year Watch: Zane Trace’s Trey Davis leads the pack, followed by Adena’s Jonathan Thomas and Huntington’s Logan Carroll. Honorable mention? Piketon’s Talon Osborne and Westfall’s Austin Nunemaker are close behind.

SVC Softball Player of the Year Watch: Mikayla Newland of Paint Valley, Morgan Geno of Zane Trace and Adrien Dunn of Piketon, in that order. All pitchers, all the centerpieces of their respective teams.

Derrick Webb is a Gazette sportswriter and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @dw1509.

Power Rankings

Baseball: Adena (1-0), Westfall (3-0), Paint Valley (2-0), Zane Trace (3-2), Southeastern (1-0), Chillicothe (1-1), Huntington (1-1), Unioto (0-2), Piketon (0-3), Waverly (1-3)

Softball: Zane Trace (2-0), Westfall (1-1), Unioto (2-0), Paint Valley (1-1), Waverly (1-0), Huntington (1-0), Piketon (1-0), Chillicothe (0-3), Adena (0-0), Southeastern (0-1)


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