DARKE COUNTY – Two seniors who are off to hot starts to their seasons are The Daily Advocate’s first spring sports athletes of the week for the 2018 season.
This week’s Daily Advocate athletes of the week are Bradford baseball player Andy Branson and Greenville softball player Sydney Grote.
Grote averages more than eight runs a game this season, and Grote has been a catalyst for the Lady Wave’s offensive success. She leads the team with a .447 batting average and leads the entire county with 16 RBIs.
“Great kid who gets her money’s worth every at-bat,” Greenville softball coach Jerrod Newland said. “She just loves to hit and hit it far. Syd just pounds the ball and it makes for an exciting game and atmosphere. People love watching No. 15 play the game.”
In her first 11 games this season, Grote already has a pair of home runs, which puts her in the top five of the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
“When we practice you here bats pinging,” Newland said. “But you always know when Syd is hitting. It’s a different solid sound.”
Grote and her teammates have won 10 of their first 13 games – with the three losses coming to top Division I teams – and are looking for another long run in the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament.
“Syd and her teammates have their goals lined up and are off to a fun start,” Newland said.
Branson also has been hitting the ball well through the beginning of the season and is second among Darke County baseball players with a .562 average.
“Right now he’s seeing the ball, and that’s a lot of it. Taking advantage of those fastballs early, that first strike,” Bradford baseball coach Andy Mead said. “He’s been ready. He’s up there swinging. He’s got a beautiful swing. He’s definitely leading the team by example.”
Along with leading his team in batting average, Branson is second among the Railroaders with three RBIs this season.
“I wish I had eight more just like him,” Mead said. “We’d be tough to beat then. We’d score a lot of runs.”
Branson’s success isn’t limited to offense, though. He’s among the top five pitchers in Darke County with a 1.56 ERA.
“Pitching-wise I feel like he’s pretty important part of the group that’s for sure,” Mead said. “He’s one of those guys who the majority of time will come in and throw strikes.”
In addition to having a great season, Mead said, Branson has been just a great player to coach.
“He’s a great kid, too,” the Bradford coach said. “Coachable. He’s one of them kids you don’t have to say a whole lot. He’s going to give effort.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.