BERLIN CENTER - With an enrollment figure of 101 boys, Western Reserve athletics relies on numerous two- and three-sport athletes to make the Blue Devils go.
Therefore, it is not shocking that 10 of the 16 players from the Division IV regional champion baseball team were also members of the 2013 football team that reached the state semifinals.
"We are a small school, and we have guys that play all sports," said junior John Clegg, who played defensive back in football and is the No. 3 pitcher in baseball. "Some of that attitude in football actually does transfer to baseball with our guys."
The Western Reserve baseball team- which play sixth-ranked Newark Catholic today in a Division IV state semifinal at Huntington Park in Columbus - also has many players who played key roles in both sports.
Senior Dan Rosati, a wideout in football, leads the team in batting. The center fielder boasts a batting average of .504, has stolen 24 bases and has scored 29 runs.
Another star on both teams is Nick Allison. The 6-foot-5 senior passed for 2,134 yards and 22 touchdowns as the quarterback, and he leads the pitching staff, going 9-0 with a .021 ERA and 78 strikeouts. Allison has struggled with elbow soreness in recent weeks, putting him in doubt to take the mound today.
Other key seniors who played both sports are first baseman Jon Timko, right fielder Dan Zilke and left fielder Evan Nesbitt.
"It's been really special, especially for our senior class," said senior shortstop Tristan Bova, one of the few guys on the team who didn't play football. "We're a real, tight-knit class. In every sport you can think of, we've been playing together since we were littler kids, since we were miniature. It's a real big deal, especially to make it (to the final four) in two sports in the same year."
Just like how the football program has aspirations of becoming a state powerhouse and has taken steps over the past few years to reach that goal, the baseball team is looking to build up its program. Winning the school's first-ever baseball regional championship is a step in the right direction.
"I know everyone else on the team is buying into the program, and they want to build a program for the young guys," Rosati said. "Speaking as a senior, we're playing for the young guys as much as we're playing for ourselves."
This could add pressure on the Blue Devils, which is something coach Ed Anthony, who likes his team to play loose, expects his players to experience when they step onto the field - but for different reasons.
Western Reserve's opponent, Newark Catholic, is a staple of the state tournament, reaching the semifinals now 14 times and the ninth time since 2000. The Green Wave defeated Springfield Local in the Division IV state championship game last season and was runner-up in 2010.
"It's going to be an atmosphere that they're not used to," Anthony said. "The young ones are going to be real nervous, but I think the seniors since they've gone through the past few years being able to make to the final four (in football), I think that's going to help carry over into the baseball, too."
No matter the outcome, Bova said Western Reserve athletics have come a far way in recent years.
The number of fans at baseball games have risen during his high-school career, and the school is getting multiple buses to head down to Columbus for the game. Bova said he's already heard from a good number of his fellow students who will make the trip for the game as well as for state track and field qualifiers Joe Falasca in the 110-meter hurdles and the boys 400-meter relay team of Falasca, Josh Vuletich, Marc Harper and Brian Sunderman on Friday.
"It's bringing more hope, it's bringing more excitement and more life to our programs," Bova said. "More people are coming to baseball games, where five, six, seven years ago, we didn't have anybody at baseball games. The community loves our sports programs.
"With football, we've been knocking on the door in the state semis two out of the last three years now, and I think the community is ready for one of the teams to bust through and finally bring us home a state title that they deserve."