Ten Tallmadge baseball players with starting experience will suit up for a Division II state semifinal game on Friday at Huntington Park in Columbus.

The 10 Blue Devils know all about the professional stadium after winning a Division II state championship there in 2017.

The home of the Cleveland Indians’ top minor league affiliate, the Clippers, is a familiar venue for Tallmadge as it aims to win a state title in 2018.

Tallmadge (19-11) will meet Dayton Chaminade Julienne (22-5) in one semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. Wapakoneta (23-1) and Circleville (19-10) will play in the other semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday. The state final is at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“Our guys play the game relaxed and confident together, and that has helped us get to where we are at,” Tallmadge coach Kenny Linn said.

Tallmadge beat Dayton Chaminade Julienne 4-0 in last year’s state final.

“We had a pretty good idea that they were going to make it back with the way they have been rolling,” Dayton Chaminade Julienne coach Mike Barhorst said. “Everyone is pretty excited to have another chance at them. It was real tough to lose last year.

“It is kind of fitting that it will be Tallmadge that we see again because if we want to win it, we would like to beat the best and obviously you start with Tallmadge.”

Tallmadge graduated just one senior — Josh Taylor — from last year. This year’s team was challenged with competition in Ohio, and at out-of-state games in Florida and in Indiana.

Linn said Tallmadge played four teams that have been or are currently nationally ranked in the Baseball America top 25. The Blue Devils lost to St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) and Monsignor Pace (Fla.), and earned wins over Saline (Mich.) and Jackson.

“At one point we were 3-8, but we knew that we put this schedule together for a reason, which was to challenge our guys,” said Linn, a graduate of Archbishop Hoban (1992) and the University of Akron (1998). “We dealt with adversity as much as we could. We wanted our guys to be challenged every day that they went to the field. … We were not expecting to be 3-8, which was a challenge on the coaches.

“We put our heads together to figure things out. We did have a meeting and talked about how we would more forward.”

Linn said despite the losing record through 11 games, he, his coaches and the players still believed that the team was capable of returning to Columbus. Tallmadge is seeking its third state championship, having also won a Division II state title in 2002, and finishing as a state runner-up in 2001, 2000, 1996 and 1966.

“One of those unusual days when it rained and we ended up inside, we thought we would take a chance to talk instead of hitting in the cages for the 30th day in a row,” Linn said with a laugh.

Soon thereafter, Linn said his players “found their rhythm and strung a couple of wins together.” He said one turning point was a win over Copley and ace pitcher Tyler Hays, a Bowling Green State University recruit.

“We started really clicking after that win,” Linn said. “I think our guys knew that if they stayed with the process and they kept working hard that we would put it together.”

A look at Tallmadge

Tallmadge features five seniors who are Division I college recruits — Zach Boyd (Morehead State), Jared Burick (Wright State), Seth Gergely (Purdue), Phillip Glasser (Youngstown State) and Scott Seeker (Army).

“Zach Boyd will get the ball to start it off [in the state semifinal],” Linn said. “We set it up that way starting last year when him and Jared Burick became our 1-2 guys. We really consider them one and one [on the mound].”

Boyd also bats third in the lineup, and will play third base when he is not pitching. Burick bats fifth, and will play center field when he is not pitching.

“Jared and Zach both bring a lot of competitiveness to the field,” Linn said. “Behind the plate, we have junior Richie Eyre. We brought him up as a freshman, and the last two years he has been as solid as probably anybody in the state as a catcher.”

Tallmadge’s infield when Boyd pitches has sophomore Andrew Ayres at first base, senior Jake Rensel at second base, Glasser at shortstop and junior Jake Reifsnyder at third base.

“Andrew Ayres is a sophomore who has done a great job around the bag at first and swinging the bat for us,” Linn said. “Jake Rensel is as consistent as they come defensively and he is very fundamental at the plate. He is a great double-play combo with Phillip Glasser. Those two have turned over 20 double-plays this year.

“Glasser at shortstop is our leadoff guy. He gets on base and has been consistent at the plate, and at shortstop I’d rank him as high as the best in the state if I got a chance to see everybody. Then at third we have good arms with a combination of Jake Reifsnyder playing over there when Jared Burick pitches, and Jared when Zach Boyd pitches.”

Tallmadge’s outfield features junior Sam Seeker in left, Burick in center and Gergely in right when Boyd pitches. Senior Derek Lightel takes over in left, Sam Seeker moves to center and Gergely remains in right when Burick pitches.

“Sam Seeker made a diving catch over his head like Mickey Mantle two weeks ago in the district tournament,” Linn said. “Jared is out there in center when he is not on the mound and he will go get the ball as good as anybody. Both guys are having outstanding years offensively, and then you have Seth Gergely over in right field that is probably as good of an athlete as anybody in the state. … He runs like a deer.”

Scott Seeker is Tallmadge’s designated hitter; seniors Mikah McGlaughlin and Cameron Knutty are reliable relief pitchers; sophomore Luke Thomas is a pinch runner; and Ty Shannon and Robby Drummond are senior reserves.

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.