By VINCE PELUSO
In a year where Ashtabula County lacked a truly dominant team or player, there was one senior who stood tall among the rest of pack, despite the fact his team had a .500 record.
But, when Joey Borgerding took to the hill, the Conneaut Spartans transformed from a sub-.500 team to an undefeated one.
With a record of 4-9 in games Borgerding didn’t start, the lefty was brilliant on the bump, going 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA and fanning 62 batters while walking just 10.
For efforts, Borgerding is the 2013 Star Beacon Ashtaubla County Player of the Year.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “It’s really a great accomplishment.”
Borgerding was nearly unhittable throughout the year, posting a 1.11 WHIP (walks-hits per inning pitched) in 37 innings of work. He added a save to his pitching line, as well.
Although the Spartans weren’t able to amass the record that Borgerding was hoping for, he said winning was what was most important to him.
“Well, I just tried to get my team to win some games and tried my best,” he said. “With pitching, I tried to get up and try to win games for our team. Hitting, I just tried to get us some runs. That’s really how I felt the whole year, whatever I needed to help the team win.”
Don’t think Borgerding was limited to just pitching, either.
He led the Spartans in batting average, hitting .418 with six doubles, 20 RBI, three stolen bases and 10 runs scored.
Viewed by many as simply a pitcher, Borgerding said he was also sure to focus on his hitting as well as his throwing.
“Hitting is a really big part of the game, I knew we had to hit to win,” he said. “And I think we did hit pretty well. I just wanted to hit as much as I could and score runs.”
Borgerding said he felt he didn’t have a very good season on the mound as a junior, although a poor season for him would’ve been a career year for most.
While he improved in every statistical category except for inning pitches in 2013, he was still dominant as a junior.
Borgerding posted a 1.77 ERA while striking out 51 and going 4-1 with two saves.
Over the last two seasons for the Spartans, Borgerding combined to go 8-1 with 3 saves, striking out 113, walking just 26 and throwing 80.1 innings.
“Last year, I didn’t feel I did very good,” he said. “This year, I wanted to do as much as I could to help us win. I saw the 62 strikeouts as a way to help the team and try to win.”
While the team’s record wasn’t what he wanted, he said it felt good to go undefeated in his final high school season.
“I do think 4-0 is a big accomplishment,” he said. “I don’t really know how to put it. It’s a good feeling. I know 9-9 wasn’t a very good season, but we started 5-2. It just went downhill after that and we lost it.”
While Borgerding had plenty of impressive outings this season, he said his favorite game of the season was a 2-0 shutout against a strong Brookfield squad.
Borgerding outdueled Brookfield ace Jeremy Quinlan in the thriller.
“That game against Brookfield, I think it’s the best game we’ve ever had,” he said. “It was just a really good game and Brookfield is such a good team. They had great football team, great basketball team. They’re just always good at sports and they threw their best pitcher.
“(Conneaut’s) Cody Martin came in and had two big hits for us and I was just able to shut them down. It was a really good game I’ll always remember.”
The son of Peggy and Terry Brogerding will be headed to North Carolina Weslyian in the fall to continue his education and baseball career.
Heading south where he can play baseball year round is something Borgerding is excited about.
“It’s down south, there’s great weather,” he said. “Just playing baseball all year, throughout the winter, no snow. It’s going to be great. It’s a really good college. I had a great experience when I went down to visit and they have some really good coaches.”
Borgerding said his father was one of the biggest influences on his career.
“My parents have been a big help, they came to every one of my games,” he said. “My dad really helped me throughout to get my pitching mechanics down. Before every game, we go downstairs and hit.
“He’s really the reason why I’m where I’m at.”
He also credited his two high school coaches — Walker Graher and Joel Taylor.
“Both coaches I’ve had throughout my career, Coach Graher and Mr. Taylor, really helped me out and were really good coaches for me,” he said.
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.