baseball: Brush showing improvement in coach’s second year
The untimely passing of Brush junior Alec Kornet in February rocked the entire Arcs community, especially the teammates he played with on the soccer, hockey and baseball teams.
When Tony Maniglia’s team began its season with four games in Tampa, Fla., a pall still hung over the Arcs. Then, in Brush’s first game against New York’s Trinity School, Alec’s younger brother, sophomore Michael, stepped to the plate in the seventh inning of a tie game.
Kornet’s single sent Evan Mularo home and the Arcs walked off winners after a moment Maniglia couldn’t have scripted any better.
“It was enlightening,” Maniglia said. “It really was. Everybody was down and here comes the brother to win the game.”
The Arcs split their four games on the trip, which provided vital continuity for Brush after Maniglia spent his first year honing fundamentals. Since they returned to Ohio, the Arcs have played to a 3-4 overall record and Maniglia sees the Arcs closing in on playing winning baseball.
Many preseason projections forecasted a last-place finish for the Arcs in the Western Reserve Conference. The league is loaded at the top with Mayfield, North, South, Kenston and Chardon. Brush dropped its first two conference games — each by a run to the Rebels and Wildcats.
To Maniglia, a nine-inning loss to Mayfield April 12 encapsulates how far the Arcs have advanced since he took over. Against the defending district and league champions, Brush played Mayfield to a draw before Joe Trivison’s walk-off winner in the ninth.
“That was a clear description of (us),” Maniglia said. “A clear description. We’re not making errors like we did last year, fielding the ball, we’re catching everything in the outfield, our throws are accurate.”
Sophomore Travis Thompson held the Wildcats to five hits and struck out six in seven shutout innings. Thompson has built off a strong freshman season in which he went 3-0 and struck out 16 in 20 innings.
Through four starts, Thompson is 1-0 with a 0.34 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. Thompson has paid keen attention to the instruction of Maniglia, who has experience pitching in college and the minor leagues.
“He listened,” Maniglia said. “He was one of my pitchers that listened about the fundamentals of pitching, and that you’re not just a thrower. There’s a difference between a thrower and a pitcher.”
At the plate, Tyler Iacobucci leads the Arcs with a .417 average and 10 RBI in 26 plate appearances. Adam Eckman, Nick Malenda and Adam Vance are all hitting .300 or better in at least 21 plate appearances.
Through seven games, Maniglia says Brush is playing much better than a year ago. His expectation for the season is a .500 record, and hopes for better as a result of the progress made by the Arcs since he arrived.
“They worked hard last year,” Maniglia said. “They still didn’t trust coaches. This year they realized, by the end of last year with our progress and our improvement, they started having a little bit of faith in me and they began to trust.”