Wagner’s return helps key Lake’s run


By Nicholas Huenefeld

Special to the Sentinel-Tribune

AKRON — Ryan Wagner will be on the mound Sunday for the No. 4 Lake baseball team as the Flyers compete for the first state championship in program history, which is fitting as the senior may be the biggest reason for the team’s improvement from a 15-11 finish a year ago.

“Let’s put it this way,” Lake coach Casey Witt said. “I don’t know if it’s the biggest thing, but it’s certainly at the top of the list of difference makers from last year to this year.”

Wagner, who essentially missed all of last season after suffering a broken collarbone in the team’s second game, is 9-3 on the mound with a 2.61 ERA this year.

After suffering the injury, Wagner was in a sling for three weeks and didn’t start throwing a baseball until seven weeks after that. He was fully recovered by the time this season rolled around.

“It healed perfectly, so there was no injury left,” he said. “It’s been perfectly fine all year.”

When he’s not pitching, Wagner also serves as the team’s third baseman and cleanup hitter, where he’s hitting .324 with a team-best 31 RBIs. He had a run and an RBI in the state semifinal win over Minford.

“This year has been amazing,” Wagner said. “The defense behind me has helped me pitching, and we’ve been able to score offensively, so everything has been really solid.”

The righty has been integral in the team’s 28-4 record, which is the most wins in program history. In the postseason, he picked up wins on the mound in the district championship game over Ottawa Hills and the regional final against Coldwater while improving his streak of wins in consecutive starts to five.

“Ryan’s essentially been a free agent signing for us,” Witt said. “We knew what we were going to get from him in terms of the steadiness, but a lot of people who weren’t in our locker room didn’t know about Ryan. He’s just been great for us all year.”

Looking ahead to Sunday, Wagner will not only look to join teammate Drew Tajblik as the only two pitchers in program history with double-digit wins in a season, but he will look to deliver the school’s first team state championship against No. 2 ranked Heath (27-2). The game is slated for 4 p.m.

“He’s steady,” Witt said. “We know what we’re going to get. Our guys play good defense behind him because he keeps them engaged. He works fast, and it will be a treat to have him to pitch Sunday for us.”

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