Baseball Title Caps Hollobaugh’s Storybook Senior Season

AKRON, Ohio — Cameron Hollobaugh hoisted the Division IV state championship trophy as his Warren John F. Kennedy High School baseball teammates surrounded him Sunday evening on the Canal Park field.

Celebration ensued for this Eagles’ team, basking in their first baseball title in school history. Holobaugh could see his father, Rob, in the stands enveloped in the glorious moment for his son. But a day earlier, his father’s presence at the game seemed destined not to occur.

The older Hollobaugh underwent what he thought would be routine surgery on Friday, but some heart issues were discovered. As Rob recovered Saturday, he was forced to watch his son pitch in the state semifinal game on a webcast and not from the stands.

“God always knows what’s best,” Rob said. “He found my weakness before my weakness found the dirt.”

Sunday at 3:30 p.m., Rob was released from medical care and made the trip to Akron for the 6 p.m. contest. He’ll undergo further treatment this week that will lead to another surgery.

“I convinced the doctor that I’d be more stressed [at home] than I would out here,” he said. “I guess he understood that.”

Warren JFK senior Cameron Hollobaugh (center) is mobbed by teammates as they hold the Division IV state baseball championship trophy Sunday evening in Akron. Teammates include Michael Condoleon, Gavin Shrum, Nico Ciminero, Quinn Meola, Caleb Hadley, Alex DeSalvo, Aidan Rossi, Michael Mauro, Santino Ciambotti, Jaden Rishel, along with head coach Jim Ciambotti and assistant coaches Carmen DeChristafaro and Patrick Mokros.

“He would give anything to see me play,” said Cameron, who will play football and baseball at Walsh University beginning in the fall. “He made it today. It meant the world to me.”

The younger Hollobaugh, a three-sport athletic standout in football, basketball and baseball at Warren JFK, had his introduction to baseball very early. When he was nine months old, his father handed him a plastic ball bat. Over the next couple of years, Hollobaugh would take that bat and consistently connect with a plastic ball.

His dad helped instill hand-eye coordination, said mother, Jodi. The younger Cameron was soon smacking the plastic ball from his basement to an upstairs living room in the family’s split-level house.

“That’s all Cam wanted to do is play baseball,” Jodi said.

Most little boys gravitate toward Matchbox cars and other toys. Cameron wanted to play baseball. At 4 years old, he was able to hit a ball pitched by his father while other boys were hitting off a tee.

“That’s [my father’s] love – baseball – and he bestowed that into me,” Cameron Hollobaugh said. “It’s my love, too.”

Consistency drove Hollobaugh to one of the most successful high school years of any student-athlete in the Mahoning Valley. His football team advanced to the Division VII state championship, while the boys basketball team were regional finalists in Division IV – one of the top eight teams in the state. Hollobaugh started playing football at age 7, and basketball in third grade.

“Any sport it is, whatever season it is, he’s into that sport and practicing the other ones to keep up with his skills,” Jodi Hollobaugh said.

Cameron Hollobaugh was the Division IV defensive player of the year, delivering plenty of hard-hitting tackles to the opposition, along with rushing and passing for more than 2,100 yards this past season to vault JFK to the state championship game in December. He played quarterback, running back and linebacker.

Eagles’ head football coach Dominic Prologo said Hollobaugh’s leadership skills set him apart from most high school athletes, demanding excellence from himself and his teammates — something the JFK senior will do for both Walsh University football and baseball programs.

“Either the culture will change, or Cam will find somewhere he can go where the culture fits who he is,” said Prologo. “He’s too competitive to go somewhere that is not going to be as competitive as him.”

Hollobaugh was the winning pitcher after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Fort Loramie, vaulting JFK to Sunday’s state title game.

The school’s head boys basketball coach, Mark Komlanc, said Hollobaugh never came into a gymnasium to just shoot a ball at a hoop. A competition would erupt either on a basketball court, football field or baseball diamond, a major component in the success JFK sports experienced during the 2020-21 school year.

The drive sparked not only the basketball team, but the football and baseball teams as well. Hollobaugh’s teams won back-to-back district championships in basketball, but even altered the way the team practiced to get more done in a short period of time as everything was similar to the speed seen on game days.

Time was not spent on repeating practice habits over and over again as Hollobaugh quickly ascertained what his coaches wanted and fixed any ongoing problems. The Division IV first-team, all-Ohio player took it upon himself to raise the expectations of a handful of freshman players to be able to play and contribute on the varsity level.

“I don’t know if those guys would have progressed the way they did to be able to compete at the varsity level that we wanted if it wasn’t for Cam being so competitive in practice,” Komlanc said.

That innate drive sparked his teammates during baseball season – crucial for a team that only had 11 players. Hollobaugh was the team’s only senior on the squad, which had six freshmen, a sophomore and three juniors. Those younger players gravitated toward the dogged work ethic Hollobaugh displayed.

The Eagles team peaked just as the postseason tournament began and went on to win 12 straight games to capture Sunday’s state championship.

“He’s a winner,” said JFK head baseball coach Jim Ciambotti. “I think that rubs off on the kids. They look up to him, him being the only senior. He led us in the right direction.”

In addition to sports, Hollobaugh was in National Honor Society, WJFK (the student-led broadcast program), and an entrepreneurship program.

“It will be very strange next year to have Kennedy teams without No. 9 out there,” said JFK principal Alyse Consiglio.

For Hollobaugh, it would not have been the same had his father not been able to attend Sunday’s game. Rob Hollobaugh was visible to his son prior to the first pitch.

“It just lit up my day, just to see him smiling at a baseball game,” Cameron said.

Pictured at top: John F. Kennedy Catholic School senior Cameron Hollobaugh with dad Rob, sister Faith and mother Jodi.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.