BETHANY -- Okaw Valley baseball's run to state last year came through a tested and repeated blueprint.
"We were known for two things, and that was pitching and bunting," Dylan Park said.
It was highly successful. Okaw Valley rallied to its first state trophy in school history.
But as the Timberwolves showed again on Monday, they have a new bag of tricks this year. They pounded Argenta-Oreana with 11 hits and downed the Bombers in five innings, 15-5.
Argenta struck first after Konnor Damery hit a two-run homer in the top of the first, but Okaw Valley took the lead in the third and never looked back.
It's the latest time the Timberwolves' offense has let loose -- Okaw Valley's averaging more than 10 runs a game -- and it came after the entire order produced. All nine found their way on base and scored in some way.
"Yeah, I think we lost a little punch from last year, but we had five or six last year that are bigger, stronger, faster," Okaw Valley coach Andrew Hagerman said.
It started against Damery, who had given up just one earned run in 18 innings coming in. A breaking ball helped produce four strikeouts in the first two innings, but Okaw Valley settled down the second time through the order.
"He threw a breaking ball for strikes the first two innings," Argenta coach Tom Saunches said. "Then he struggled to find the zone with his breaking ball, which made his fastball more hittable."
The Wolves scored four runs each in the third and fourth innings before a haymaker of seven runs in the fifth inning came against a trio of untested Argenta pitchers.
The offense starts with Garrett Fritz, who's hitting a blistering .617 for the season. Argenta found out how, as he roped a shot down the third base line to open the scoring for Okaw Valley in the third. Fritz finished 2-for-2 with 3 RBI.
The sophomore catcher has plenty of power -- four home runs so far -- but it's his complete ability at the plate that impresses Hagerman.
"I haven't seen a better hitter this year," he said. "I promote the kid every chance I get because he's the best hitter I've ever coached. He squares the ball up eight times out of 10, and you don't see that very happen."
And Okaw Valley still has pitching, even with the graduation of Devon Still and Peyton Hagerman. While Fritz has shown talent on the mound as well, Drew Fruchtl and Dylan Park have emerged as the new power duo for the Timberwolves.
It's a position they're not taking lightly. After Park's performance against a 9-2 Argenta team, the win didn't soften his self-critique.
"I thought that my worst start in a year or two," he said. "Couldn't locate, didn't feel like I was throwing with my normal velocity that I have. Couldn't find the zone.
"Luckily, everybody on this team can hit a ball 350 feet or else we'd probably still be playing, and I'd be getting ready to say, 'I let you guys down today'. But, thank God that's not the case."
It's a distressing review for a performance which held Argenta to half the runs it normally scores.
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But coming on the heels of Okaw Valley's state run, Park is adamant about how he needs to perform.
"I demand perfection now, so giving up five runs in five innings personally is unacceptable," he said. "But I'll take the win."
Ready to repeat
It's hard to repeat state success, but Okaw Valley is bent on trying.
There's a different feel to this team, though. It's part confidence in knowing what's possible and part realization of knowing what it needs to improve.
That confidence shone through Monday as the Timberwolves swept aside an early 3-0 Argenta lead.
"Whenever you're playing a school like that and they come out early like that, always in the back of your mind you're thinking, 'Oh, no,' " Drew Fruchtl said. "But we're just hitting all the way up and down the lineup, and we've got 1 through 9 hitters hitting doubles and gappers. It's great."
There's the senior group that includes the tandem of Park and Fruchtl, but this Okaw Valley team is still fairly young.
There are four consistent starters in junior Taylor Coleman and the sophomore group of Fritz, Cody Drake and Tanner Coleman.
And while there was still plenty of hope after a numerous players returning, Hagerman was still unsure as the season started.
"Probably after the first couple of practices I'd taken 7-7," Hagerman said after watching his team improve to 12-2. "But these kids, they don't want to take a step back this year. They want keep it going. It kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
The Big Three
Argenta returns its three leading pitchers last year in Damery, Austin Brown and Brody Ulrey. But there's a dropoff after that -- 60 of Argenta's 63 innings have been pitched by that trio.
So while those three have been solid, it makes relief appearances tougher like it did on Monday. Saunches is holding out hope Parker Haltom, who's been battling a shoulder injury, makes his way back to the field soon.
"We're missing Parker Haltom," Saunches said. "We're hoping to do some flat-ground work with him. Just be another alternative to go to."