Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual degrees in music from Ohio State University.

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On the final week of the Best of Ohio Tourney series, some thoughts about who improved in the past two months…and how?

Pleasant Hill, OH – It’s the final weekend of the Best of Ohio summer tourney series for 15, 16, 17 and 18-year olds this weekend. And to those who believe that playing summer baseball only subtracts from conditioning and valuable repetitions for fall football…you can breathe easier.

“Hey, two of our best players aren’t here today,” said Lancaster Cyclones coach Jason Polan. “We got some kids who had to go to football.”

He didn’t say about whether they “had” to go, or “wanted” to go. Only, from the tone of voice, that the Cyclones were disadvantaged in their game with the 18u Miami Valley Prospects because they weren’t there. By the third inning his concern was justified.

The Prospects scored early in the first on a trio of walks and an unearned run and rode their obvious ‘advantage’ to an eventual 8-0 shutout win.

The obvious question after 30 or so games of summer baseball for kids who assumedly aspire to play college baseball…is who has made the biggest strides in improvement? The old back-to-school theme for a writing assignment: What I did on my summer vacation.

Miami Valley Prospects’ Kaden Echeman (Butler) scores on a sacrifice fly in the third inning of Thursday’s 8-0 win over the Cyclones.  (Photos by Julie Wright)

For Lancaster coach Jason Polan, the issue is a bit more complex as to who has made the greatest strides on his team.

“We have to share a lot of athletes,” he said.

A lot of teams do.

“So it’s not so easy to pick just one off the roster. But our third baseman today – Zach Gallimore – has probably had as good a summer as anyone I could name. He’s matured, he’s a really good teammate, and he’s very conscientious. Yeah, he’s had a very good summer.”

In the other dugout Miami Valley Prospects coach Chris Jones, himself a college player at Miami (Hamilton), took some time to consider a group largely comprised of high school graduates – many of them playing at Edison Community College in the fall.

“Hard question,” said Jones. “We have some nice players. Kaden Echeman (Butler, going go Lakeland JC), Seth Hale (Tecumseh, going to Cedarville), and Steve Jones (Brookville, going to Indianapolis) have all had good summers…but I might say Jaren Slusher (Northmont, going to Edison).

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Slusher is a tall, lanky right-hander that we saw in last year’s Best of Ohio tourney, who impressive then, and simply overpowered the Cyclones, striking out the first six outs of the game.

“He’s had some elbow pain this summer, so we’ve been kinda’ careful with him,” says Jones. “But he’s impressive, the way he goes right at the hitters.”

Slusher features fastball in the mid to upper 80s from a buggy-whip delivery, at times an out-and-out sidearm delivery. It’s very tough for right-handers to stand in against, and Slusher obviously pitches with some attitude.”

Prospects pitcher Jaren Slusher had an impressive start, striking out the first six outs of the game.

On a hot, humid Thursday when it wasn’t hard to get loose and throw with some extension, he gave the Cyclone hitters little chance, striking out nine in his shutout effort.

“The most important thing about playing like this in the summer is simply getting more opportunity to play,” said a coach from the Columbus Arsenal team recently.

“Because of weather in high school you lose so many games on some years. That’s developmental time that you can’t make up…unless you play in the summer. Yes, there is competition for athletes because so many of them play basketball and football, but when you play in this series you know you’re going to being playing every weekend for six weeks, Thursday through Sunday, and that helps make up for high school.”

This weekend is the wrap-up of the Best of Ohio Series, without pool play, where teams pretty much put up or or put ‘em up for the final time this summer – a final official tuneup before playing college fall baseball in September.

“And for some of them it might be the last weekend they play organized baseball if they’re not signed to play at the next level,” said Tipp City assistant coach Eddie Meyers.

For the high schoolers beneath the 189u level, an opportunity to separate themselves from competition for playing time next spring. Their respective coaches will know soon enough…what they’ve done during summer vacation.

Greenville Federal Bank supports area sports coverage on Press Pros Magazine.com.

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