Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Buckeye State Baseball Profile: Cory Kovanda

Perhaps this is cheating, but it really isn't since it is my own orginal work, here is senior co-captain Cory Kovanda's profile as I count down the top 20 Ohio Division I players entering the 2010 season.

Buckeye State Baseball DI Top 20: #18 Sr. 2B Cory Kovanda

The co-captain of a team with high national expectations, the heart of a line-up dying to end a prolonged drought, and the most experienced player on the regions best team. Yeah Cory Kovanda deserves to be on the list.

He isn’t that bad of a player as well. Carrying a .320 career average, with two Regional trips under his belt, Kovanda looks to lead the Scarlet & Gray to Omaha for the first time since 1968.

However statistics and accomplishments, individual or team cannot always define a player, Kovanda is living proof of that.

As many of us know, it takes talent, determination, hard work, perhaps a bit of luck to just stand out and be a high school all-star athlete. To carry that over and be a legitimate great Division I student-athlete is entering a world very few know of.

There are times when wrapped in the world of sport and athletics that the competing individuals seem a “better” than we are, often losing focus that they go throw daily battles the same as we do. They just can throw a 90 MPH fastball, run 40-yards in under 4.5 second, or have 36 inch vertical jumps.

Ohio State senior Cory Kovanda knows all too well of the personal struggles and sacrifices made that each individual goes through. The reigning Second-team All-Big Ten selection has captured individual awards, is climbing up the Ohio State record books, and is co-captain of one of OSU’s best teams in a long time. However his feats outside of the diamond also need recognized to truly understand the player, and why he is the heart of the Buckeyes.

Diagnosed at 12 with Type 1 Diabetes, Kovanda has been in a battle all of his life. To maintain the proper balanced his body needs, while using same body to perform at a high level is remarkable.

The Worthington native where he attended Kilbourne with OSU teammates Ryan Dew, and Jared Strayer, Kovanda wasted no time in making a name for himself at the Columbus institute after dominating the Central Ohio region in high school.

As a freshman under Bob Todd Kovanda played in 55 games for the 38-24 Buckeyes who played in the College Station, NCAA Regional. Securing a spot the upperclassmen heavy roster would be a testament to Kovanda’s will and play.

Finishing with a .289 average Kovanda collected 48 hits in 166 at-bats, driving in 17 runs, scoring 25, while picking up four doubles and a triple. A telling sign of whether a player is above his head or not in stepping up in competition is the plate discipline and the batter’s eye the player shows. Kovanda proved he could be a solid DI player, finishing with an on-base percentage of .375, as he drew 16 walks, against 20 strikeout, while be struck by eight pitches.

With the experience of playing from day one as a true freshman while being named a Ping! Baseball honorable mention Freshman All-American, Kovanda entered his sophomore season, with no reason to expect a sophomore slump. He was successful in avoiding such campaign.

Finishing third on the team, Kovanda batted .324, finishing with 59 hits in 182 at-bats. The 59 hits would see the right-handed hitting Kovanda pick up five doubles and his first collegiate home run. The 45 runs Kovanda scored was second-best for the Bucks, while he added 20 RBI.

The patience and plate discipline highlighted earlier, would soar to the forefront of Kovanda’s game in his second season. Improving his BB:K ratio, picking up a team leading 37 base on balls, while adding another four via hit by pitch, compared to just 24 strikeouts, Kovanda led Ohio State with his .441 on-base percentage.

The potential Kovanda entered Ohio State with was turning into production more and more with each passing game, week, month, and season. Kovanda ended the 2008 season playing his best baseball, collecting three hits, while scoring three runs in OSU’s two Big Ten Tournament games.

With Ohio State returning a talented team in 2009, and now All-Big Ten Tournament Team hardware on his trophy mantle ,Kovanda appeared destined to be a driving force behind a very good OSU team.

Unfortunately destiny had plans of it’s own.

On February 9th, as Ohio State was two weeks away from opening the 2009 season, Kovanda’s mother Linda passed away after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

As someone who attended Ohio State baseball games religiously during the 2007 and 2008 season, you could always pick out Mrs. Kovanda in the Bill Davis Crowd. Whether she was racing in to catch the last few innings of an Ohio State midweek game after watching Cory’s older brother Chris play for Otterbein, or there from opening pitch, other parents and fans loved having her around, and there wasn’t a Kovanda at-bat without her cheering him on.

As the Columbus Dispatch ran a story on the loss of Kovanda, as well as teammate Michael Arp who lost his mother unexpectedly in October 2008, Kovanda had this to say about taking the field so soon after tragedy.

“For 17 months you would never had known my mom had cancer because she fought every step and she made almost every game,” said Kovanda, a junior from Worthington Kilbourne. “I’ve always played for her, for my family and for God. I have to play. I know she’ll be watching.”

With a little more to play for, Kovanda would have a stout 2009 season, leading the Bucks to a Big Ten Championship for the first time in 8 seasons, all while the Bucks #1 fan was looking down from above.

As a junior, Kovanda once again improved his average, this time hitting at a .341 clip, collecting 75 hits in 220 at-bats as the two-hole hitter in the Buckeyes machine. Scoring 55 runs while driving in 38, Kovanda record 11 doubles, three triples and one home run.

With 95 total bases Kovanda slugged at a .432 mark and match with another team leading on-base percentage. Walking 37 times in total, including another four hit by pitches, Kovanda’s on-base percentage improved to .431 against 25 strike outs.

On the bases he successful stole seven of eight attempts. As a table settle Kovanda perfect the art of bunting in dropping seven sacrifice hits, while dropping more perfectly place infield bunts than one can count.

Given everything he has fought through, being clutch would be an understatement. However on the field there is no other way to define his performance. batted .415 (27-for-65) with runners in scoring position and .722 (13-for-18) with a runner on third base and less than two outs. For his efforts Kovanda was named Second-team All-Big Ten.

If there was a list on players I would most want to build my baseball team and program around Kovanda would be at the top. It goes without saying Kovanda is a good baseball player, that fact is obvious. The leadership and quality characteristics of heart, hustle, and determination one displays cannot be found in a box score. Luckily for Ohio State teammates, coaches, and fans alike those traits can be found in their 2010 co-captain Cory Kovanda.