New Coach Takes the Field

A 'Neighborhood Guy' Knows the Diamond
Posted on 04/30/2018
Image of Baseball and Mitt(courtesy Sean Patrick, Akron.com/West Side Leader)

First-year Firestone Community Learning Center baseball head coach Jeff Sloan said his team is young but has the talent to put together a memorable season.

“Winning the City [Series] would be our top goal. We hope we can keep doing what we need to do to get us to the championship game,” he said. “We also want to win a tournament game and get as far as we can in the tournament. I have all the confidence we can do that, but we do have quite a few sophomores on varsity this year — plus juniors who played junior varsity last year — so we are extremely young in terms of varsity experience.”

Firestone was out to a 3-5 overall record to start the season, including a 2-2 mark in the City Series; and Sloan said it will be important for his team to gain some valuable experience as the season develops.

“Looking at the roster, seven of the starters from last year graduated,” he said. “So, we are very young. We have really only two starters back from last year and a total of only three seniors.”

The two returning starters, Jacob Weber and Ben Pontius, are both seniors and team captains, Sloan said.

“Jacob is our No. 1 pitcher and a third baseman. He’s a very smart athlete and a good, solid baseball player with great speed. Right now, he is our No. 3 batter,” the coach stated. “Ben Pontius is our first baseman this year after playing catcher last year. He is a tremendous leader. Ben is a player who always hustles and will run through the proverbial brick wall for you.”

Sloan said the other senior on this year’s team is right fielder Ben Neusser.

“Ben is a team player who has been great about moving from the infield to the outfield for us,” the coach said. “He is a real student of the game and he really cares about baseball.”

Alongside Weber and Pontius, Sloan said, the team’s third captain is junior Max Erisey.

“Max is a shortstop and our No. 2 pitcher,” the coach noted. “I’d say he’s our No. 1 hitter, and defensively he is our best infielder. He is in his third year on varsity, and he is just the most positive young man. In my opinion, he would be our baseball leader.”

Juniors Connor O’Brien (second base), Josh Alexander (center field) and Jeff Olszewski (left field) and sophomores Jack Kirven (third base and pitcher), Spencer Sacha (catcher), Stephen Johnston (pitcher and infield) and Mitchell Shoff (catcher) are among the other notable players this season, Sloan said.

“Watching a lot of these kids advance from H-League up to varsity now has been pretty interesting,” the coach stated.

Sloan, who served as Firestone’s junior varsity coach last season and has been on the staff for a few years, said he is excited to have been put in charge of guiding the school’s baseball program.

“I’m a neighborhood guy, which is the main reason I applied for the position,” he said. “I live in West Akron and I’m very involved in baseball locally, and I find it very satisfying to keep everything within the community. My coaching staff is entirely made up of Firestone alumni or coaches who had kids who played baseball here before. We are gaining the continuity to create a good program, and I feel it is becoming a real community thing.”
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