Championship mentality: Warren JFK still looks to grow but has high expectations for themselves in 2022

Staff file photo / Brian Yauger Warren JFK’s Gavin Shrum, left, embraces Cameron Hollobaugh after the Eagles punched their ticket to the state championship game last season. The Eagles went on to win their first-ever state title last season and are looking to do it once again in 2022.

Kennedy is building itself for May.

After bringing home its first-ever baseball state title last year, the Eagles are gearing up in hopes of making a trip to Akron once again this year.

Nine of the 11 players from Kennedy’s state championship roster are returning this year and they add four freshmen and an additional junior to the squad. While positions aren’t set, expectations are high for the Eagles.

“Obviously we would like to carry the momentum that we had last year, but the biggest thing is that we’ve got to see some growth in the younger kids that are coming back,” coach Jim Ciambotti said. “That’s going to really determine the direction that we go.”

Some of the young faces the Eagles are hoping take another step this year are sophomores Michael Condoleon, Caleb Hadley and Jaden Rishel. All three played solid roles for Kennedy, including Condoleon who recorded the final out of the season.

Also expected to be big parts of the team are senior pitcher Gavin Shrum and juniors Aidan Rossi and Jake Hettrick.

Where they’ll all be playing this season is yet to be seen, but expect to hear plenty about seniors Shrum, Alex DeSalvo and Michael Mauro.

With the team building for the postseason, the Eagles might experiment with their lineup throughout the year.

“We’re in the process of finding our chemistry,” Ciambotti said. “We’re moving pieces around trying to find out what fits, what lineup to go along with our pitching and things like that.”

In the spirit of getting ready for May, Kennedy has plenty of tough teams on the schedule. Howland, Ursuline, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and Akron Hoban are just some of the teams they’ll face as well as league foes Mogadore and St. Thomas Aquinas.

“When I got this job, I really wanted to play the top tier teams because I feel like that gets us ready for the middle of May,” Ciambotti said. “We didn’t want to take any days off. We want to be challenged. We want to see everybody’s best because our goal really starts when the districts start.”

Replacing Cam Hollobaugh on the field is one task, but replacing him off the field has been a different one. Luckily for the Eagles, the senior class of Shrum, DeSalvo and Mauro have been great at taking the leadership torch and showing their young teammates the ropes.

The old adage says that baseball is a game of failures, and being a young player on a defending state champion team, it’s not always easy to remember. Not getting too down on the lows and too up on the highs is going to be crucial.

“They’ve done a great job,” Ciambotti said about his seniors taking more involved leadership roles. “One thing I tried to talk to them about is how we’ve got to get some of these young kids grounded. A lot of them had success at a very young age and they have to realize that the game of baseball is a very humbling sport. And it can humble you real quick.

“What we did in 2021 was was magical and wonderful, but when the calendar flips, it’s a new season, it’s a new story. We have to be prepared, especially with the bullseye that’s going to be on our back with other teams. Our seniors have done a great job of trying to get them in check and focused.”

The Eagles’ season is set to open on Saturday with a contest against Lowellville at Eastwood Field. Start time is set for noon.


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