NEW MIDDLETOWN — Springfield High School senior Drew Clark says he has spent so much time on ball diamonds that his reputation should be of a “baseball guy.”
So it may surprise some that Clark has chosen basketball as the sport he’ll play in college next fall. He’s going to major in education, and he credits his mother, Gina, for influencing his decision.
“She went to Westminster as well,” he said.
Gina Clark is a sixth-grade teacher in Campbell. Her subjects are science and social studies. Her husband, Jeremy, sells insurance and is a real estate agent.
Drew likes how his mom is able to have a busy, full-time job yet still arrange her schedule to support him and his siblings, Matt and Elaine.
“I see her all of the time,” he said. “That’s something I’d like to do [someday] — see my kids a lot.”
Although they are a year apart in age, Drew says he and Matt “are total opposites. He’s a big music guy; he chills. He likes to listen to music a lot.”
He says his sister has a mixture of the qualities of both brothers. A sophomore, Elaine played volleyball last fall and will be a cheerleader next school year.
“Sometime, she’ll stay in her room all day; other times, she’s with her friends all the time,” Clark said of his sister. “She’s like [a blend of] us.”
When he graduates this spring, Clark will have earned seven varsity letters — four for baseball and three for basketball. When he’s not pitching, he anchors the Tigers’ infield at shortstop.
As a sophomore, his baseball team won the Division III district tournament at Bob Cene Park in Struthers and finished a regional semifinalist. Then his postseasons became very interesting.
Last March, the Springfield basketball team, coached by Steve French, won the Division III tournament at Salem and finished as regional finalist in Canton. The Tigers missed a trip to state with a 46-43 loss to Richmond Heights at the Canton Fieldhouse.
Then the Springfield baseball team, coached by Terry Dobson, again won the Cene Park district. In the semifinals, Springfield edged Mathews, 3-2, but lost to Hillsdale 16-2 to miss a trip to state.
“Shane Eynon, who was on the basketball and baseball teams with me, received the baseball runner-up [medals and trophy], and he said I can’t take any more of these,” Clark said of their final game together that was played in Strongsville.
So why basketball? Clark admits it’s the unexpected choice.
“My whole childhood, I was always like ‘the baseball guy.’ That’s kind of what everyone knew me for was ‘Drew Clark, the Baseball Kid.’ As I kept growing up, basketball became more fun for me.
“Baseball is still fun, but I think I [started taking] basketball a little more seriously in high school.”
This season, the Tigers (15-6, 11-3 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference) have earned the second seed at the Division III district tournament at Salem. They tied McDonald for second place in the league. Waterloo, which won the league with a 13-1 record, has the top seed at the Salem tournament.
Springfield got a late start in getting ready for the season. That’s because five of the key Tigers, including starters Evan Ohlin, Clay Medvec and Beau Brungard, were on the football team that advanced to the Division VI state championship game in December.
Springfield lost to Anna, 48-14, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
Eight days later, the Tigers made their basketball debut.
Garrett Stallsmith and Lukas Yemma also were on the football team, so the basketball team’s practices and scrimmages weren’t normal. Only Clark and Adam Wharry had varsity experience.
“Evan is a three-year starter. Clay [a junior] started his freshman year, so we’ve had good chemistry,” Clark said. “But, obviously, not having Evan and Clay and Beau [a sophomore], it was kind of tough.”
The Tigers are on an eight-game winning streak heading into Friday’s game against LaBrae. They began the season with three losses in each of December and January. But of those defeats, only two were by margins of more than four points — Waterloo, 84-64, and Poland, 59-51.
Ohlin said Clark leads by example.
“It’s so fun playing with him,” Ohlin said. “He’s always a guy I can rely on. Say someone is not [playing well], he’ll always be there for us.
“He’s a really good teammate.”
Because of the football team’s postseason success, several basketball games were postponed and the schedule was compressed.
However, just eight days after Springfield’s football season ended, the basketball team was on the court at Struthers Fieldhouse to play Neshannock in the JBL Hoops Showcase that featured three other games.
“We lost by three,” Clark said. “It was a good one. Obviously, we were kind of upset that we lost.”
Still, Clark said the Tigers were happy to keep pace.
“Neshannock is a good team,” Clark said. “We thought to come out like that [was a positive]. To start out with them at Struthers, which is a sweet place to play, I think we didn’t do that bad.”
Springfield split its two games with Waterloo and was the only MVAC team to defeat the Vikings. Springfield’s win over Waterloo (65-55) came in December, and Clark thought the team was rolling.
“We were 2-3 because we had just lost to South Range [53-51], and then it was Waterloo and, ‘Oh, geez,’” Clark said. “But we beat Waterloo, the team we could never get past last year.
“And I thought we were getting it going,” he said. “And then we lose to Sebring.”
On Jan. 3, the Tigers lost their first game of the new year at Sebring, 68-66. The Tigers took the final shot as Medvec launched a 3-point attempt from just over the half-court line. The ball hit the backboard and bounced to Sebring’s Jake Hunter to end the game.
Clark led the Tigers with 25 points, including five 3-pointers, eight rebounds and three blocks.
“He’s one of the premier players in the league,” Sebring coach Brian Clark said of Drew Clark. “They’ve got an elite ballclub.”
Gabe Lanzer, Sebring’s leading scorer, called playing against Drew Clark “rough because he’s not just tall, but he’s quick. On offense, he’s such a threat.”
In Atwater, Waterloo won the rematch with Springfield, 84-64.
“It was 21-2 in the first quarter, and we felt like we had played [only] a minute,” Clark said. “I feel they are on a whole other level — just like that, they put it on you. It’s just back and forth the whole game.”
Clark credited the Vikings for having so many weapons.
“It’s like [the plan] is to stop Caleb Francis — then Vaughn Dorsey [has] 20 and 15,” Clark said. “Or we’re gonna take Dorsey away, and Kyle Shockey is going to make three 3s in the first quarter.
“It’s tough to defend them when they are all on.”
The Tigers are hoping to get another shot at the Vikings in the district final. It won’t be easy as Cardinal Mooney, Canton Central Catholic, Columbiana and St. Thomas Aquinas are among the other teams in that bracket.
But if it happens, Clark said, “It would show how good our league is. Sebring and McDonald could play in [the Division IV] championship.”
The MVAC’s strength and balance is shown by how McDonald and Sebring (14-7, 7-7) are the one and three seeds for the Division IV tournament at Struthers.
Of Waterloo, Clark said, “I would love to get one more shot at them.”
Springfield split with McDonald, which features sharpshooter Zach Rasile, the fourth-leading scorer in Ohio history. The Blue Devils won round one (64-60), but the Tigers dominated the rematch (84-47).
“Zach, it’s pretty incredible to watch [him] sometimes,” said Clark, adding that for the second game “we were really locked in.
“I feel we just figured out how to break their craziness.”
The Tigers’ most recent loss was on Jan. 17 against Poland of the Northeast 8 Conference. The final was 59-51.
“We’ve had a few hiccups, but I think it’s been going pretty well,” Ohlin said. “I think we’ll be ready going into the tournament.”
The LaBrae game will be televised. The Vikings have the second seed in the Division III district tournament at Warren Harding High School.
Last year’s LaBrae-Springfield game also was televised.
“It’s not really different,” said Clark of the big-game atmosphere. “You just look up and see a lot more people.
“Sadly, I had four points and five fouls last time I played [LaBrae], so I didn’t play very well. But Evan had 30 [points] and Shane 17 [points] and 17 [rebounds]. We got the win, so I wasn’t too upset.”
In the classroom, Clark’s favorite subject is mathematics, one reason he wants to become a math teacher.
“I’ve always been good with numbers,” he said, recalling how much fun he had playing Yahtzee! with his mom when he was younger.
“I could add those numbers quickly — I guess that’s where my math skills [blossomed],” he said. “I think history, too — pretty fascinating.
“But English and science aren’t my cups of tea.”
Kory Snyder, who teaches AP History, Global I and Global II at Springfield, has made a big impact on Clark in the classroom.
“I was lucky to have him for three years,” Clark said. “He just goes above and beyond. He’s always into his lessons. He loves doing projects.”
Clark said the past two years have been a whirlwind.
“It’s gone by in a wink of an eye,” he said, recalling that as a sophomore he didn’t sweat a regional semifinal loss in baseball “because I’ve still got next year and my senior year.
“And then last year, I was like, ‘I still have my senior year,’” Clark said. “Now, I don’t have anything with Springfield after [baseball season]. Time is ticking.”