Prep Baseball Report

Division II Team Of The Week: Week 4 - Defiance

Bruce Hefflinger and Dylan Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer and Editor in Chief/NW Scout

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Division II Team Of The Week: Week 4 - Defiance

DEFIANCE - Bad news for opponents of Defiance. The pitching could be getting better.

Jayden Jerger, the ace of the Bulldogs, is now back from a broken finger adding more depth to a staff that currently has a 0.96 team ERA en route to a 13-0 record and the honor of being the Prep Baseball Report Division II Team of the Week.

“Jayden has been back for two starts,” pointed out Defiance head coach Tom Held about the senior RHP who is a preferred walk-on at Ohio University. “He pitched against Norwalk on Saturday but didn’t have good stuff. He didn’t have great command but what I liked is he only gave up two hits and one walk. By tournament time he should be back where he was before breaking his finger.”

David Jimenez has picked up the slack in a big way on the mound as the top pitcher to date, not allowing an earned run in 21 innings with 25 strikeouts, six walks and a 4-0 record. The junior right-hander has thrown two no-hitters and only allowed three hits on the season.

Brayden Shaw, another junior, is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 18 innings on the hill with senior left-hander Jacob Howard 2-0 with a 1.79 ERA in 15.2 frames.

“This is our deepest pitching staff we’ve ever had,” noted Held, who has led Defiance to state titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016. “But the thing is you can have a good regular season but in the tournament you need a stud one and two.”

All four pitchers have produced at the plate as well this season with Howard, a Findlay commit who hits second and plays center field, batting .526 with 17 runs scored. Jerger is averaging .500 in 28 plate appearances with Shaw at .378 and Jimenez .333. Shaw, the shortstop and three-hole hitter, has a team-high 14 RBIs while Jimenez, the leadoff batter who plays center, short and third, has scored 17 times.

“Jacob Howard has had an unbelievable start,” Held said. “He’s been good in center field and really good at the top of the order and also thrown for us really consistently. DJ has been productive with the bat and defensively we can put him anywhere. Shaw, our leader on the field and now number three (pitcher), has settled in at shortstop and getting hot with the bat.”

This past week Defiance recorded wins over Lima Shawnee, Maumee, Kenton and Norwalk by a combined 36-3 total.

“This is a very tight group,” Held pointed out. “The seniors all hang out together and the juniors hang out with them. The leaders are liked by their teammates. It’s a pretty good mix, it reminds me of the 2013 team which had a couple talented seniors and the juniors were the grinders, the workers. We have guys that are happy to be there and guys that really want to win. It’s a good mix. They really enjoy baseball, that’s what makes it fun.”

Tyler Frederick (.412), Drew Kellermyer (.385), Gavino Gomez (.346), Christian Commisso (.333) and Kam Ron Rivera (.333) are all averaging better than .300. Senior Wade Liffick, an Adrian commit, is the first baseman and also adds another left-handed arm to the pitching staff while Aidan Kiessling is batting .296 while not permitting an earned run in two appearances on the mound. Mark Butler and Kam Brown share catching duties.

“The thing that’s unique this year, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad, is we have 13 starters,” Held said. “We don’t know which to start. There’s a lot of competition. Every day the three coaches put out a lineup who should play and then we sort it out. I don’t know that we’ve had the same lineup all year.”

Of late, the bats have been hot for the top-ranked D-II team in the state which is averaging .353 as a team while opponents are at .157.

“We’re swinging it a lot better the last five games,” Held related. “We were at .250 and now it’s .350. We were scoring early strictly by running bases and getting key hits. Now we’re swinging it and the offense is much better. We’ve pitched, played defense and ran the bases well all year.”

Games ahead this week are with Elida, Toledo Central Catholic and Lima Bath before taking on Tallmadge in the Prep Baseball Report Classic on Saturday at Defiance.

“The key to a tournament run is definitely pitching and defense,” Held concluded. “This is why we got beat in the district finals last year. Our defense was terrible.”

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