By Garth Shanklin
In between the normal high school duties, such as classes and homework, the New Richmond Lions’ baseball team has spent most of the spring season dodging raindrops and winning baseball games.
Head coach Brian Benzinger summed up the Lions’ start to the season in just two words.
“Really good,” Bengzinger said. “We’re 13-1, we’ve played six of our 10 league games and we’re 6-0 in the league with a two game lead. It’s been frustrating with the weather being what it was, but hopefully we’ve turned the corner.”
As Benzinger said that, rain drops in New Richmond caused the Lions to postpone not only the April 23 game against Villa Madonna but also the team’s April 24 game against Little Miami.
When the team does get on the field, more often than not they emerge victorious. The team’s only loss this season came to a Kentucky squad that Benzinger said the Lions still should have beaten.
“That Brossert game was probably a game we should have won, honestly,” Benzinger said. “We jumped off to a 4-0 lead, and I think we relaxed for a second and before you know it, we’re losing. We also had Lebanon on the schedule, and we went up there for a doubleheader. We were beating them 7-0 and the rain came before the fifth inning, so we aren’t able to count that game. We’ve got a lot of pieces in place to have a really good season and to hopefully make a strong tournament run.”
Balance is key for any team looking to make a tournament push, and the Lions certainly have that. In the past three games, against Batavia, Mariemont and Taylor, New Richmond flexed their offensive muscles while also shutting their opponent down offensively.
“I think this past weekend, we scored 35 runs and allowed five against some pretty good teams,” Benzinger said.
Scoring runs is not difficult for teams who have two batters hitting over .485. Lane Flamm leads the city in batting as of this writing with a .537 average, and teammate Zade Richardson is batting .489 on the season. Layton Hicks (.432) and Brett Benzinger (.404) are also over .400 on the season.
Domination over several games like that requires depth in the pitching rotation, which the Lions have.
“I’ve been proud of the whole pitching staff,” Benzinger said. “You have to have someone besides your number one pitcher win a lot of games. Senior Austin Ewing has been really good, I think he’s 3-0 right now with a 1.17 ERA. Josh Cavanaugh’s pitching well. Some of these guys have pitched in games but they don’t have wins. Cavanaugh’s record is 1-0 but he’s got a couple of no decisions. Austin Suttle, a freshman, has a 1.37 ERA. He’s still looking for his first varsity win. He started against Batavia and when we pulled him out the game was tied.”
Prior to the Batavia game, another Lion player had an interesting on-field experience. Senior outfielder Tristan Smith signed with the United States Marines in an on-field ceremony during the Lions’ win over Williamsburg on Wednesday, April 18.
“That was cool,” Benzinger said. “That was a really good experience, not just for him obviously, it was a great experience for him. It was during the game, it stopped the game briefly. The Williamsburg coach and people were very, very classy about understanding the game was going to be interrupted. Our team was standing there and t after he signed everyone hugged him. It was kind of a emotional moment. It was a good thing to be a part of.”
The Lions have nine regular-season games left on their schedule, but with the sectional tournament draw coming up this weekend, the team has to maintain focus on their goals if they want to make a deep postseason run.
“We knew it was going be a good year going into this and it is turning out to be just that,” Benzinger said. “My whole idea was to not let them take things for granted. They have to go out and play, they can’t just go out there and show up. Nobody is going to lay down for them, we have to be ready.”
New Richmond is scheduled to host Clermont Northeastern on Thursday, April 26 before traveling to Wilmington on April 27. The team then battles St. Bernard at the Reds Urban Youth Academy on April 28 at 11 a.m. as part of the Reds High School Showcase.