Tournaments | Story | 6/1/2019

Cincinnati Spikes find purpose

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Brett Denby (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – People play the game of baseball for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s the sport they became attached to from an early age and never looked back. For others, family members also played baseball and passed the love for the game on down.

While these very reasons may be true for the Cincinnati Spikes 14u team as well, ultimately, baseball is used as a vehicle for a higher purpose.

“Our culture is a faith-based Christian culture,” head coach Ryan Arington said. “We try to lead as coaches how Jesus would lead. We try to treat our players as college guys. We have a lot of accountability set into our program. We try to really emphasize doing the right things and mentally being ready to go before the game starts.”

The Cincinnati Spikes, based in Mason, Ohio, prides itself on the Christian influence used to mold young men that has come to define the program for the past 28 years.

The team’s uniform comes emblazoned with a cross on the back to remind the players why they’re playing, and after every game, the Spikes demonstrate a sense of unity by praying with the opposing team.

While the results between the lines have been filled with success, it’s the work done off the field using the team’s motto of Proverbs 27:17 - “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” that brings true joy to the players and coaches.

“We have a lot of great kids,” Arington said. “They do a lot of service hours outside of us. Our organization, we do a lot of different things… We try to do something back home with Matthew 25: Ministries, whether that’s packing up boxes for relief efforts or whatever it may be.”

Matthew 25: Ministries is an international humanitarian aid organization located in Cincinnati. Much of the organization is dedicated to disaster relief, especially now after devastating tornadoes made way through the Dayton, Ohio area.

The service projects and culture of the program may set the Spikes apart, but this weekend at the 2019 14u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational, the game action has turned a few heads.

Through the three games of pool play, the Cincinnati Spikes 14u team are 3-0-0. Most impressive, the Spikes have used six different pitchers who have yet to allow a single run and surrendered just seven hits.

“Our pitching staff did a really nice job today,” Arington said following the Spikes 2-0 win over  Hit after Hit Outlaws 14u Miles on Saturday. “They’ve been doing a really nice job all tournament. Just getting the ball down and holding runners on especially. Our pitching coach, Jon Keesling, has done a phenomenal job here. He’s really worked well with just working on secondary pitches. I feel pretty good about where we’re at and the rest of the staff we have going for the rest of this tournament.”

Brett Denby fired 5 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up four hits and two walks while striking out five batters in the 2-0 victory. Denby had trouble with his command at times, but battled back and made huge pitches with a fastball that topped 82 mph whenever he needed to get out of jams. Diego DeCello recorded the final five outs for the save.

“I was trying to put my team in the best position to win,” Denby said. “I was just trying to find the zone, pitch to contact, and get outs. Make it fast so my teammates aren’t out there so long.

“I try not to overdo it. I try to just find the zone and pitch strikes. If my control isn’t there, I’ll take a second and take a deep breath. Find my rhythm and be calm. Just pitch to the plate.”

After the Cincinnati Spikes scored 25 runs in the first two games of the tournament, the offense had a harder time on Saturday. However, some timely hitting knocked in the only two runs that were needed. 

Jarrod Mays collected a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the first, and Nik Copenhaver had the biggest hit of the game, when he smacked an RBI triple over the centerfielder’s head in the fifth inning.

“I just tried to hit the ball up the middle, maybe split a gap,” Copenhaver said. “Just try to get something so I could get an extra base hit. If not, move a runner.”

The Spikes capped off the game and a great defensive day with a sensational diving catch down the left field line by Lucas Moore.

“We just try to make our kids athletes,” Arington said. “That’s all we keep preaching to them, we say, ‘Hey, just be as athletic as possible.’ If we put ourselves in good positioning, good things can happen.”

It may seem odd for a team from Ohio to be playing in a tournament down in Georgia, but it’s all part of the plan for Arington and Co. He wanted to face the best opponents that they could, and the team will certainly get that chance at an elevated level tomorrow when the playoff rounds begin.

“We come down here because this is where the best competition is,” Arington said. “We want to prove to ourselves that we can play and we belong with the best of the best.”
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