Lake’s Tajblik having a breakout season


By Nicholas Huenefeld

Special to the Sentinel-Tribune

MILLBURY — This year’s Lake baseball team is one of just three in program history to reach the state semifinals, and a big reason for that success is the breakout year of Drew Tajblik.

“I think that Drew has embraced the fact that he’s going to be one of the most talented players on the field,” Lake head coach Casey Witt said. “But he hasn’t just stopped there. He’s allowed his hard work to add on to that, which I think has led to a lot of his success.”

Tajblik, a right-handed pitcher and shortstop, is 11-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 83.2 innings on the mound, while hitting .375 with 41 runs, 34 stolen bases and 23 RBIs. He gets on base at nearly a .500 clip and leads the team in doubles and triples, as well as several other categories.

His 34 steals, which broke Tim DeCant’s program record set in 2007, is an improvement of 19 from his sophomore year total.

That has been a concerted effort for the junior, who has also established a new program record for wins in a season.

“I’m hitting the ball harder,” Tajblik said. “I don’t think I’ve hit the ball as well as last year, but I’ve hit better in clutch situations. I’ve worked on hitting it gap-to-gap and stealing bases, which has created more runs.”

Tajblik achieved every individual goal he had entering this season as he was named the Northern Buckeye Conference Pitcher of the Year, First Team All-Northwest District and First Team All-Ohio.

“My biggest goal was to make First Team All-Ohio,” Tajblik said. “I basically wanted to play really well and break some records. I also expected big things as a team. I expected to make it past districts and anything (on top of that) would be amazing.”

Along the way, Tajblik has four games with double-digit strikeouts, including a season-best 14 in a season-opening win over Delta on March 25 and a 13-strikeout effort in a 3-2 win over Clyde on April 13.

The season-opening performance helped the Flyers get off to a hot start as a pitching staff as the team allowed just five runs over the first six games.

A few weeks later, Tajblik’s complete game in the come-from-behind win over Clyde saw him drive in his team’s first run in the fifth and then produce back-to-back strikeouts in the seventh with the potential game-tying runner on second.

“I think that to have achieved his goals on a team that has achieved so many goals really speaks volume to Drew as a player and as a leader,” Witt said.

In postseason play, Tajblik has complete game victories over Evergreen in the sectional championship, Otsego in the district semifinal and Bucyrus Wynford in the regional semifinal.

Over that span, he has allowed just 24 hits and one walk over 21 innings with 20 strikeouts.

Tajblik’s season on the mound has come after a sophomore year in which he went 4-3 with a 3.85 ERA and 62 strikeouts over 47.1 innings. He estimates he has added four or five miles per hour on his fastball and his curveball has more spin because he’s throwing it harder instead of short arming it.

“He worked his butt off in the weight room in the offseason, and I think that offensively he’s really leaned into utilizing his speed as an asset,” Witt said. “On the mound, he’s just learned how to trust his stuff and his defense more so than I thought he did last year.”

In addition to his pitching accolades, Tajblik’s ability to produce as a two-way player as a shortstop led to his commitment to the University of Toledo this past September.

The Rockets recruited him as a positional player, primarily at the middle infield, but he said it’s possible he eventually moves to the outfield at some point.

“The vibe and the coaches were amazing at Toledo,” Tajblik said after also visiting Kent State and Michigan State. “Being there felt like home. I also had a close connection with the coaches. They love me, and I love them. It’s a perfect match.”

Tajblik said committing before this season has led him to relax more, which has helped his performance this spring.

“It’s allowed me to have more fun and enjoy the season instead of trying to do too much,” he said.

Tajblik will be on the mound Saturday as the fourth-ranked Flyers (27-4) face Minford (22-6) at 10 a.m. in a Division III state semifinal at Canary Park in Akron.

“I’m expecting the same thing I‘ve gotten from them the previous 31 games,” Witt said. “We have gotten into a really good routine with how we operate as a group. I expect our guys to embrace the opportunity and challenge and keep doing what they’ve been doing since late March.”

Friday’s winner will play either second-ranked Heath (26-2) or 20th-ranked Apple Creek Waynedale (23-8) for the title on Sunday at 4 p.m. Waynedale is the two-time defending state champion.

“We’re all very excited,” Tajblik said. “The whole team, it’s all we’ve been talking about. We’re going to have the time of our lives.”

No posts to display