Lewicki brings enthusiasm to WJU baseball

WHEELING — You can’t fake passion.

Ryan Lewicki has it.

Be it the game of baseball or Wheeling Jesuit University, Lewicki oozes passion.

The John Marshall grad is the new head baseball coach at WJU. He didn’t take the post until Feb. 6, giving him virtually no time to prepare for the current season. That is a major challenge when you have 36 new players to deal with.

Lewicki was formally introduced last Saturday at Wheeling Jesuit’s First Pitch Dinner. The posh event also honored Terry Edwards. He started the Cardinals’ baseball program after a long and successful career coaching at Wheeling Central.

Lewicki exudes optimism in regard to his new challenge.

He comes to the Friendly City after serving as an assistant coach the past four seasons at Ohio Valley University. The Moundsville native helped guide the Fighting Scots to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship game in 2015. Ohio Valley averaged 20 wins per season during Lewicki’s tenure.

“I am very proud of my WJU players and staff. They have had to deal with a lot. I am humbled to be here as their coach,” Lewicki said. “I am blessed to lead this program. Wheeling Jesuit is in my veins. I want to get Wheeling Jesuit baseball back to where it belongs.

“I am still getting to know all the names of my players. But I am happy to have 36 players to build with,” he added. “I am really excited about the future of this program. Wheeling Jesuit is a great place.”

With less than a week’s practice time and unfamiliarity with his personnel, Lewicki took his Cardinals to North Carolina Feb. 13 for a pair of games with Winston-Salem State. The Redbirds dropped 4-3 and 7-1 decisions but competed much better than expected with a chance to win the opener.

Wheeling Jesuit embarks on a Florida trip Monday, playing four doubleheaders. The Cardinals open MEC play March 16, hosting Concord for a twinbill at the I-470 JB Chambers Complex.

“I have spent my time since taking over with learning my players as people. I want to know all about them,” Lewicki, age 28, said. “I realize we are going through growing pains this year. We are extremely young with 21 freshmen and only four seniors on this team.

“So we are not going to measure success this year with wins and losses. We want to build a team that competes hard, plays with confidence and does so unselfishly,” he added. “We are building a philosophy here. I want every young man who plays baseball at Jesuit to be happy with their experience here and be proud of our program.”

After graduating John Marshall, Lewicki continued his baseball career at West Virginia Wesleyan College. He was a four-year all-conference and two-time all-region selection. Lewicki ranked among the top 10 in Wesleyan history in hits, doubles, runs and at-bats when he graduated in 2013.

THE THEME of the First Pitch Dinner was connecting the past with the present. While Lewicki is the present, Edwards is the past. The latter is synonymous with Wheeling Jesuit baseball.

Edwards established the Jesuit program in 2005 after a sparkling 25-year career at Wheeling Central, which included two state titles and two state runners-up. He was named the OVAC Overall Coach-of-the Year in 2000.

He was presented two proclamations at the fete honoring his 40 years of service to Ohio Valley baseball. One came from the City of Wheeling and the second from the U.S. Congress, courtesy of Rep. David McKinley.

“I was fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of good people along the way. Coach (Greg) Bamberger was my pitching coach at Central and Jesuit. He is the best pitching coach on the East Coast,” Edwards said. “Coach (Gay) Lucci was our athletic recruiting coordinator at Jesuit. He was tremendous in that role. My first year we had 42 freshmen and no Jucos.”

FORMER WHEELING Central and Jesuit pitching star Noah Mull was the featured speaker at the dinner. His outstanding career with the Cardinals proved a springboard to being drafted by the San Diego Padres. His pro career was cut short due to injuries.

“Going to Wheeling Jesuit was the best decision in my life. It put me on the trajectory to being her tonight,” Mull stated.

BUBBA’S BITS

FORMER EAST Liverpool High track & field great Lindsay Baker is continuing her throwing exploits at Ashland University. Last weekend she captured the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference shot put title. The redshirt frosh heaved the shot an amazing 51-4 to win the indoor crown. Last summer, Baker finished sixth in the shot put in the 20U world championships in Finland. She was the highest American finisher.

THE WEST Virginia Roughriders will launch their season later this month. Former St. John Central hoopster Zac Schnegg is the Team’s Group Sales Manager.

FORMER TORONTO High three-sport star Blaze Glenn is off to a smoking start with the Youngstown State baseball team. So much so, he was recently named the Nike Horizon League Batter of the Week, after going 4-of-8 in three games, including a homer, double and four RBI. Glenn leads the Horizon League with a .667 slugging percentage while tied for the home run lead (2). The Penguins, however, are 0-6.

THE BOSTON College women’s hoop team take a 14-14 record into today’s regular-season finale against Syracuse. The Eagles have enjoyed a major turnaround under first-year coach Joanna Bernabie McNamee, a former Madonna High and West Liberty hoop great. Boston College won just seven games last winter.

D.P. HARRIS has been named the Presidents’ Athletic Conference men’s basketball coach-of-the-year. The former Wheeling Park hoopster guided St. Vincent to a 22-5 record, including a 14-2 PAC mark.

FORMER WHEELING Park all-stater Phil Bledsoe has enjoyed a stellar season for Glenville State. The 6-6 forward averaged 19.8 ppg and 11.9 rebounds a game.

JIM CRUTCHFIELD’S second season at Nova Southeastern has been a monumental one. The former West Liberty hoop coaching icon led the nationally-ranked Sharks to a 24-2 record and a conference regular-season championship. Moreover, he also achieved his 400th career win this past Wednesday.

THE DENVER Broncos have picked up the 2019 contract option on defensive end Derek Wolfe, a former Beaver Local High star. His base salary is for $8 million before becoming a free agent in 2020. The University of Cincinnati product has recorded 222 tackles and 24.5 QB sacks since joining the team in 2012.

WVU HOOPSTERS Chase Harler (Wheeling Central) and Logan Routt (Cameron) have earned Academic All-Big 12 honors for a third consecutive season. Harler was named to the first team while Routt was named to the second team. First-team members consist of those who have maintained a 3.20 or better GPA while the second-team selections hold a 3.00 to 3.19 GPA.

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