Valley college baseball standouts see first action since freshman seasons canceled


Champion's Andrew Russell and Canfield's Dom Piolli had their freshman college baseball seasons canceled because of the coronavirus but they're back in town

STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – Sunday was a day months in the making for Champion grad Andrew Russell and Canfield grad Dom Pilolli. Both returned to the diamond for the first time since they lost their freshman seasons at the collegiate level thanks to the coronoavirus pandemic.

“It felt great,” Pilolli said. “You know, just missing being out on the field, really. Had a good season going and it is cut short, but being back out here feels great.”

“It really was good. It felt great,” Russell said. “To get back on the mound, just felt like I was at home, throwing strikes and getting out there.”

Russell won a state championship with the Golden Flashes in 2017 and was a freshman on the Ohio University baseball team this spring, appearing in six games, seeing time as a position player and pitcher.

“We have a lot of good guys, a lot of hard workers,” Russell said. “All-around great team, the coach is awesome, nothing but good things to say.”

Further south, Pilolli had an incredible freshman season at Charlotte through 17 games. He hit a team best .403, which was the best among freshman in Conference-USA and sixth-best in the nation.

“You have to do what you can do,” Pilolli said. “Especially as a freshman, you have to work hard. You want to go down there and play, but you cannot expect much. You just have to keep working, working until you get a starting spot. Coaches really helped me out, my teammates helped me out. Great atmosphere down there, so it was awesome.”

Even though their freshman seasons did not go as they imagined, they said coming home to play one last year in Class B will have them ready for their respective teams in 2021.

“Just working on the off-speed pitches,” Russell said. “Making sure I am not wasting a lot of pitches, going at batters, getting strikeouts. That is my game, throwing a lot of strikes.”

“Every at-bat is important,” Pilolli said. “You have to go through your routine, you have to stick with it no matter the competition. Just getting at-bats is the most important thing, staying on your toes and just keep working hard.”

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