Caldwell peaking at right time

CALDWELL – Caldwell High has enjoyed two consecutive memorable weekends on the baseball diamond.

The Brian Wheeldin-coached Redskins are hoping that trend continues when they open up Ohio Division IV sectional tournament play against Strasburg-Franklin at Tuscarawas Central Catholic in New Philadelphia at 2 p.m. today.

“I don’t know too much about Strasburg, other than their record (11-9) is similar to ours (13-7),” said Wheeldin, who is in his sixth year at the CHS baseball helm. “They play in a pretty tough league (Inter-Valley Conference).

“They’re the No. 2 seed, and we’re No. 3.”

Wheeldin said sophomore right-hander Caleb Heller will be starting on the hill for the Skins.

Heller (5-1, 1.05 ERA) was the winning pitcher when Caldwell defeated Shadyside, 9-1, in an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference 2A baseball final at Vacarro Field in Steubenville last Saturday. In the school’s history, the Redskins had never before won an OVAC baseball championship.

Fact is, CHS had never even won an OVAC postseason baseball game until rallying to beat the Toronto Red Knights 7-6 in nine innings in a semi in Noble County on April 26. After the visitors scored two runs in the top of the ninth, the Skins answered with three runs and the win in the bottom half of the frame.

“That win was a big confidence boost,” Wheeldin said, “because Toronto had swept a doubleheader from us earlier in the season. Their pitcher (Hank Clegg) had no-hit us, and we knocked him out of the box.”

Fast-forward one week later, and Caldwell skipped the drama with a convincing triumph over Shadyside.

“After the (Shadyside) game, we celebrated at Buffalo Wild Wings in St. Clairsville,” said Wheeldin, laughing. “That was probably the most complete baseball game we’ve played all season long.”d.

Stan Randolph agreed.

“Caleb pitched great,” the long-time Caldwell baseball assistant coach added. “We got timely hitting, and the defense was solid with only one error. It was kind of sweet revenge beating Shadyside, because many of our players were on the football team that lost (to Shadyside) in the playoffs.”

Heller threw a seven-inning, complete game against the Tigers, striking out five, walking two, and allowing only three hits.

“Caleb had good command of his off-speed pitches,” Wheeldin said. “He’s kind of sneaky fast, and he’s always around the strike zone.”

Against Strasburg, Caldwell’s starting line-up is expected to feature sophomore Austin Mettler (shortstop), junior Nick Roberts (center field), junior Jaden Border (catcher), junior Kyler McElfresh (second base), sophomore Tanner Clark (left field), sophomore Jack Ridenour (right field), sophomore Troy Hupp (third base), and Mason Janusik (first base).

Tyler Wells is the lone senior on the team.

Caldwell’s No. 2 pitcher is McElfresh, who got the win in relief against Toronto. Roberts pitched a 5-inning no-hitter in a 16-0 win over Beallsville Monday.