Across the Diamond: Tournament Stock Risers

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As we are two weeks into 270 Baseball, we want to take a look back at some of the players who have impressed us in the district and regional tournament. Let’s take a look at some of those players.

Leighton Cunningham (Sr. 2B, Fredericktown): One of four members from the Cunningham family on Fredericktown’s district title baseball team, Leighton Cunningham was most impressive in our viewing of the Freddies. A two-way second basemen who sprays the ball to all fields at the plate, Cunningham went 3-4 against West Jefferson in an 8-1 victory. Cunningham flashed the leather in the infield, showing great range and making several big-time plays to stifle the West Jeff offense. Did we mention that Cunningham has burners, too? Stealing three bases on the day, Cunningham was a 5-foot-8 wrecking ball in the district finals, hurting West Jefferson in every way. Cunningham is a college-ready prospect who can come in and compete from day one.

Leighton Cunningham
Leighton Cunningham (Mount Vernon News)

AJ Thomas (Sr. 3B, Pickerington Central): Coming into the district finals as the OCC-Ohio Player of the Year, there might not have been much room for Thomas to elevate his stock but it only took three pitches for him to do just that. Facing New Albany senior Alex Arenschield, Thomas took an 0-2 fastball and launched it 400 feet over the trees at Gahanna. Thomas, a Winston-Salem State signee, has the most natural power of any hitter that we have seen so far in the tournament. Thomas is not a one-trick pony either, as he shut down the left side of the field at third base, making several tough plays and showing great velocity to zip the ball across the diamond. Thomas has a ton of upside and only appears to be getting better.

Spencer Tammaro (So. OF, New Albany): Clutch. That is the word to describe Tammaro. A sophomore who has played well beyond his years in this magical tourney run for New Albany, the left fielder had the biggest moment of his baseball career on Thursday. Facing an 0-2 count against Olentangy senior Nick Foy, who up to that point had fanned 11 New Albany batters, Tammaro launched a line drive the opposite way, giving the Eagles its first and only lead of the night in the regional semifinal. Tammaro also came in clutch against Big Walnut in the district semifinals, giving New Albany its first hit of the game in the bottom of the third, which led to a momentum-building three-run inning for the Eagles. Tammaro is a tough out at the plate who has made great contact against senior pitching in this run for the Eagles.

Spencer Tammaro’s game-winning single against Olentangy in the Division I regional semifinal (Mitch Brown / Central Ohio Photography)

Mitch Okuley (Jr. OF, Olentangy Liberty): Guys like Okuley are rarities anymore. Starting quarterback on the gridiron, starting forward on the hardwood and the lead off hitter on the diamond, Okuley literally does it all for the Patriots. Thursday was his biggest showcase yet, as the junior outfielder took a fastball to deep right, hitting a game-winning home run to lead Liberty into the regional finals. Okuley was tough on Thursday, going 2-4 against Lancaster and making great contact all afternoon long. Committed to Ohio State, Okuley is an absolute stud and a major reason why the Patriots are the favorite to advance to Huntington Park.

Tyler Monk (Jr. SS, Lancaster): Helping Lancaster advance to its first regional tournament since 1993, Monk took great advantage of Thursday’s opportunity to highlight his talents on the biggest stage. In a matchup against an elite Liberty team, Monk got it done on both sides of the ball. Making several incredible plays at shortstop, Monk showed range, versatility and a strong arm to nail a few challenging Patriot baserunners. The junior shortstop also got it done at the plate, driving in Lancaster’s first run of the game against Ohio State signee Mitch Milhelm of the Patriots. Monk is a prospect to keep an eye on going into the summer, as he can get it done at the plate and especially in the field.

Jack Sokol (So. RHP, New Albany): Jack Sokol does not lose. Literally. He hasn’t lost. At 9-0, Sokol has been absurd this season, avoiding disaster and giving New Albany a great chance to win every game that he participates in. The righty was at it again on Thursday, limiting the damage against a hungry Olentangy lineup, as he allowed just one run on eight hits. While Sokol isn’t overpowering on the mound, he does a great job throwing strikes, locating and inducing ground ball outs. At 6-foot-3, Sokol will continue to grow into his frame and with low-to-mid 80s velocity already, Sokol could become very, very intriguing as the years go by. Already being tracked by local high major programs, Sokol has improved his stock more than any other sophomore pitcher in the area.

Jack Sokol (Mitch Brown / Central Ohio Photography)

Alex Arenschield (Sr. RHP, New Albany): One of few seniors on New Albany, Arenschield has been a veteran leader for the Eagles up to this point. Going the distance in a complete game gem against Pickerington Central, in which Arenschield allowed just one run (described above), the righty has been effective at the plate as well, helping fuel the seventh inning rally that Tammaro eventually finished on Thursday. After singling to follow up his brother Jake Arenschield’s double that gave New Albany new life in the inning, Alex Arenschield went out to finish off a strong pitching performance from Sokol. Setting down three Olentangy batters in order, Arenschield threw strikes, located his pitches and prevented any hard hit balls in the save. With a regional final matchup against Olentangy Liberty awaiting, you could see Arenschield back on the mound for the Eagles.

Nick Cunningham (Jr. RHP, Fredericktown): As we are on the subject of throwing strikes, nobody did that better than Cunningham last Thursday in the district finals. Going the distance against top-seeded and previously 26-1 West Jefferson, Cunningham stifled the Rider offense, going seven strong innings, allowing only two hits on five strikeouts and zero walks. Only facing one batter in which the count reached three balls, Cunningham commanded the strike zone and kept the West Jefferson hitters off balance, as he mixed his fastball with off speed pitches in the bottom part of the zone. Cunningham also got it done at the plate, going 3-4 with an RBI. A two-way player that impressed up greatly, Cunningham is a player to keep an eye on in the KMAC.

Justin Maynard (Sr. RHP, Pickerington Central): Getting the assignment in the district finals against New Albany, Maynard pitched about as well as possible to put the Tigers in a position to win. While run support came at a premium in that game, Maynard did what he had to do to keep Central in it. Going the distance, Maynard allowed just one earned run on four hits, while not allowing a single walk. The lanky righty doesn’t have overpowering velocity but constantly pounded the strike zone and did not allow many hard hit balls. Maynard impressed us with his ability to get ahead in the count and battle adversity on the mound in such a high pressure situation.

Nick Foy (Sr. LHP, Olentangy): In a gut-wrenching loss to New Albany in which Foy was literally one strike away from a win, the senior southpaw’s dominant afternoon was overshadowed by Tammaro’s late-game heroics. Going seven innings and striking out 11 batters, Foy could not be touched for most of Thursday’s game, not allowing a run until Tammaro came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Foy was able to hit the corners and get his fastball past the New Albany offense, as he at one point struck out five batters in a row and seven in just three innings. Foy’s offspeed was impressive, as he kept New Albany off balance and really didn’t allow many hard hit balls until the final inning. Foy, an Indianapolis signee, is ready for college ball and did all he could to try to lead Olentangy into the regional final on Thursday.

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