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Centerville looks to end state drought

By Greg Billing - Staff Writer

It’s been 84 years since the Centerville Elks reached the high school baseball state tournament, which they also won. Senior Nick Bertram figures it’s been long enough.

“Most seasons end with a loss and I think that’s a failure of a season. No one wants to end their season like that,” said Bertram, a senior left-hander. “We’ve talked and that’s our goal as a team. We want to be in Columbus the first week of June. The last state championship won at Centerville was 1928 so we’re hoping to bring back the title.”

Centerville opens the high school season, which officially started Saturday, as the top-ranked team in the Miami Valley Baseball Coaches Association pre-season poll. The Elks were the poll champs in 2012, but were upset by Beavercreek 3-1 in the sectional final.

With that memory still fresh, the Elks attacked the off-season workouts a little harder this winter. A week-long trip to Florida — the Elks left Saturday at midnight — could also give the team a boost this season. When Centerville scrimmaged Thursday night it was just the third time this spring they’ve able to get on a field because of the cold, wet weather.

The Elks return one of the top pitching staffs in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, led by Bertram (6-1, 0.88 ERA, 58 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched) and fellow senior Brian Mroz (4-0, 0.55 ERA, 46 K/38.1 IP). Senior Derek Hendrixson will also see time on the mound.

Seniors Jake Holland (.384 average, 24 RBI), Sean Murphy (.373, 16 RBI) and Bertram (.354, 24 RBI) pace the offense.

“We have a lot of good pitchers, a lot of kids who can throw if we get in trouble,” Bertram said. “The defense is going to be tremendous and behind the plate we have an awesome catcher (with Murphy). Offensively we’re going to be strong, too. … We have so much confidence on everyone on the team. It doesn’t matter whose on the mound or at the plate. Everyone wants to make the play.”

That starts today for Centerville, which opened with a doubleheader against Middletown. It’s a first step toward the goal of state and putting that sectional loss behind them.

“My thing was if you’re going to get somewhere you’ve never been before, you have to do the things you’ve never done before,” Centerville coach Terry Dickten said. “That’s been our motto all winter.”

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