North Ridgeville (Ohio) Lake Ridge Academy is a small school, so it doesn’t expect to land the kind of headlines that come to other prep programs in sports-mad Northeastern Ohio. Beyond that, it particularly doesn’t expect to earn national plaudits for the achievement of a 14-year-old freshman.
Remarkably, here we are, extolling the virtues of Lake Academy baseball player Nico Ortiz who put forth a performance that he is unlikely to top no matter how much longer he continues to play on the diamond.
As reported by the North Coast (Ohio) Chronicle Telegram, Ortiz used his first ever varsity baseball start as a pitcher to twirl a perfect game. More impressive still was just how long it had been since Ortiz threw a pitch: Seven years.
“I haven’t pitched since I played in the [North Ridgeville] city league when I was 7,” Ortiz told the Chronicle Telegram. “I haven’t really practiced since then. My coach said he wanted to give me a chance on the mound. I never expected to throw a perfect game.
“It just kind of happened.”
The team it happened to had nothing on Ortiz. Lake Ridge rolled to a 20-0, mercy rule victory against Lawrence (Ohio) High, with Ortiz shutting down Lawrence on only two pitches; a fastball and a change-up. The freshman is so new to pitching that he hasn’t even toyed with a curveball yet, but his control was so spot-on against Lawrence that he retired a total of 15 batters on just 62 pitches, an average of just more than 4 per batter.
For Ortiz, the rise to pitching prominence has truly come out of center field, where he tends to split his time when he isn’t on the mound. The teen has also started at shortstop, and entered the season anticipating a few relief pitching opportunities when his teammates struggled.
Instead, he’s emerged as one of the team’s mound bedrocks, much to the chagrin of Lawrence and any other squads that happen to land Lake Ridge Academy on their late season schedule.
“Niko has good command and control of his pitching,” Lake Ridge coach Jason Dimacchia told the Chronicle Telegram. “We recognized that he had decent velocity and good arm strength so we wanted to give him a shot.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete. The sky is pretty much the limit for him. He has a baseball background and loves the game. He’s in a program where he plays varsity as a freshman and I can easily see Nick being one of the top players in the county when he’s a senior. He’s got everything he needs to be successful.”