Keystone had a banner season last year with a run to the Division III regionals, but with only five starters back, filling some holes was a must.
Enter LaGrange resident Tyler Gullett, who transferred back to Keystone from St. Edward. Usually it’s the other way around with athletes leaving their friends and public school systems for the bright lights and big games private schools such as St. Ed’s offer.
But St. Ed’s didn’t have the one thing he wanted the most — the opportunity to play with his childhood friends.
“We grew up together and have played summer ball together,” Gullett said. “I just got to the point where I wanted to play with them and be closer to home. I didn’t have that at St. Ed’s.
“It’s something that I wanted and my parents (Mike and Deanna) supported me when I made the choice.”
The decision was a welcome surprise to Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald.
“We didn’t know he was coming back until he went public with it,” Fitzgerald said. “I never asked him why or what motivated him to come back. But he’s a LaGrange kid and all his friends are here so if that’s what brought him back then so be it.
“We’re just happy to have him. We expected him to be good and it’s safe to say he has exceeded those expectations.”
Gullett, who plays third base, is batting .357 and leads the team in extra-base hits and RBIs. Four doubles, a triple and a grand slam have helped Gullett drive in 15 runs as he becomes accustomed to area pitching.
But that’s not all Gullet has brought. He’s fortified the pitching staff by going 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 innings.
“We knew he could play third base but his pitching has been a big surprise,” Fitzgerald said. “He hasn’t pitched in two years and is our No. 2 right now. We didn’t expect him to make that type of impact on our pitching staff.”
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Keystone pitcher Marcus Hunter said. “He strengthened our pitching which no one really expected or probably thought about. He’s our best hitter and I think he’s not done developing.”
He learned a lot about the game from his father, who was a football and baseball player for Wellington in the mid-80s.
“My dad got me into baseball,” Gullett said. “It was something that we could do together. He was always encouraging me and telling me to never get down on myself if I had a bad game. He said it was important to play with a clear mind, relax and don’t force things.”
While baseball is his first love, Gullett plans to play football for the Wildcats in the fall. As a freshman at St. Ed’s, Gullett was in uniform when they won the Division I state championship. He was a member of the team again as a sophomore, playing wide receiver and safety.
“I enjoy playing football,” Gullett said. “I didn’t get to start but I got some playing time at St. Ed’s. The football coaches and the baseball coaches said they were sorry to see me leave and wished that I would stay. I received a lot of good instruction in both sports there that helped me.”
Gullett has also received some attention from colleges and would like to play baseball at the next level. Michigan State, West Virginia and Kent State are at the top of his list but that could change depending on how well he performs the rest of this year and next season.
Hits provide hope
Just as he did last year, Firelands’ Joe San Felippo is playing for more than just himself or his school. He’s also playing for Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital through the Hits for Hope program for the second year in a row.
After his grandfather passed away from esophageal cancer he decided that the Hits for Hope program would be great way to honor his grandfather as well as help children who are fighting cancer.
Last season, San Felippo raised nearly $2,000 and is well ahead of the pace this year. Opponents are donating signed hats to be given to the kids and the Lake Erie Crushers have donated tickets and merchandise as well.
“I’m sincerely touched that so many people are stepping forward,” San Felippo said. “People have heard about the program and they want to do what they can to help. When we step onto the field we’re playing against one another, but off it we’re on the same team fighting cancer.
“It’s truly amazing what we can accomplish together.”
Count Firelands coach Ted Busch among the amazed.
“It’s truly phenomenal the amount of support Joe has received for this,” Busch said. “Every game we’re getting something to give. Avon donated hats to the kids as have other teams that we’ve played. I’m really proud of Joe and how he has handled it.”
For his part, San Felippo says he doesn’t feel any pressure to get a hit. In fact, it’s just the opposite.”
“I’m pretty relaxed when I go up there to bat,” he said. “It really puts things in perspective for me. At the end of the day, baseball is still a game. These kids are fighting for their lives. I’m glad I’m able to do what I can to help them in their battle.”
To donate to Hits for Hopes go to any First Merit bank or contact San Felippo at email@example.com or 774-1067.
Player of the week
Marcus Gunter, Keystone
- YEAR: Junior
- POSITION: P/CF
- LAST WEEK: Pitched all five innings in a 12-2 rout of Lutheran West, giving up just three hits and two earned runs, while striking out 12. Also pitched seven one-hit, scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts but did not get the decision in a 2-1 11-inning win over Firelands. Has a 1-1 record with a save and a 1.56 ERA. Has struck out 34 of the 69 batters he’s faced, while walking just eight and allowing only seven hits. He’s hitting .259 with a .400 on-base percentage and three RBIs.
- BIO: The second-year varsity baseball player will be seeking his fourth varsity football letter next season. Plays for the Northern Ohio Baseball Club 18U team in the summer and will make several trips with the team, including to Florida and Michigan. Enjoys riding his dirt bike and playing air football with his friends. His favorite baseball team is the Cleveland Indians and his favorite player is Asdrubal Cabrera. Expects to play college baseball in the future, but isn’t sure where. He’s also undecided on a major but is leaning toward becoming a sports trainer.
- PARENTS: Mike and Lorretta
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.