WORTHINGTON CHRISTIAN WARRIORS LOOKING TO BUILD ON BREAKTHROUGH SEASON
By Jarrod Ulrey, email@example.com
Other than the ending, Connor Hendrickson wouldn’t have traded much about how last season transpired for the Worthington Christian baseball team.
Hendrickson found immediate success in what was his first season on varsity after his freshman season didn’t take place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, producing a 1.37 ERA with 33 strikeouts and a 4-0 record in eight appearances.
He had to be shut down for the season’s final three weeks because of a right elbow injury, but the Warriors continued their breakthrough season in his absence, winning a share of the MSL-Ohio Division title and receiving the No. 1 seed for the Division III district tournament.
Worthington Christian’s season ended earlier than it had hoped, falling 1-0 to sixth-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek in a district semifinal, but the 21-3 record represented the most victories in any season under coach Tim Kraynak.
Now in their 18th season under Kraynak, the Warriors previously earned district runner-up finishes in 2007, 2008 and 2013.
“We put a lot of time into it,” Hendrickson said. “Even though we lost (in a district semifinal) and it was a bad ending to the season, it was still a lot of fun with a great group of guys.”
Worthington Christian went 18-10 in 2017 for what had been its most wins under Kraynak, but followed with finishes of 9-14 in 2018 and 10-13 in 2019 before last year’s breakthrough.
The success came despite the Warriors having just three seniors.
“I would have never guessed last year that we would have stumbled onto the success we did, but I think a lot had to do with our preparation in the offseason,” Kraynak said. “We’ve really committed over the last four or five years to being more intentional about offseason stuff and it’s hard to do in high school when you’ve got a lot of crossover athletes. But the No. 1 reason for our success was our chemistry. No doubt we had talent.”
Hendrickson, who returned to baseball activities in late June, should be among the keys to whether the Warriors can take the next step. A first-team all-league honoree, he will serve as the No. 1 starter.
The Warriors lost senior Ashton Fulkerson to a preseason injury that will keep him out for the season after he went 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 35 2/3 innings last spring. The Lake Erie commit was honorable mention all-league.
The only other seniors are Grant Woodfin (CF/LF), who hadn’t played since seventh grade but batted .400 and was first-team all-league in his return last season, and Caden Leidich (1B/C), who also was first-team all-league.
The other player who was first-team all-league is junior catcher David Murawski, who led in home runs (5) and RBI (30) and batted .372.
Sophomore Hobie Raikes, who was second-team all-league along with 2021 graduates Levi Hammond (P) and Ethan Kraynak (OF), batted .355 with 18 RBI and will play in the middle infield as well as provide depth to the pitching staff.
“We only have a couple seniors, so a lot of guys have to step up and lead the team,” Hendrickson said. “Stepping up and filling that leadership role is hard sometimes, but you have to do what you have to do. We have a lot of depth and it’s going to bring us pretty far.”
Juniors Ethan Albert (P/OF) and Alex Wrobbel (OF) and sophomore Sam Blank (3B) also are key returnees.
Freshman Hunter Doran is expected to play second base and left field in addition to providing pitching depth.
Another newcomer who should make an impact is junior Brandon Hale, a transfer from Olentangy Orange who should see time at third base, left field and pitcher.
Freshman Jameson Colley, who has been battling leukemia the last two years, has enough hitting skills to make an impact, according to coach Kraynak.
“We had probably more baseball players at each position than we’ve ever had before at Worthington Christian, but just with the preparation in the offseason, we had really good leadership last season,” coach Kraynak said. “This year what I would say is that we’re more talented than we were last year. I don’t know if we’ll win as many games and I don’t really think that’s important, but these guys are a resilient bunch, a gritty bunch and they love to compete. The mix is there for us to have a good year.”