Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Last spring, the Avon baseball team swept through the West Shore Conference schedule without a loss in claiming the outright championship.
Wednesday afternoon, the Eagles showed why they are again the team to beat in the WSC.
Avon scored seven runs in the first two innings and never looked back in a convincing 12-1 win at Rocky River. The Eagles remained undefeated on the season at 9-0 and ran their WSC record to 3-0, one half game behind 4-0 Midview, an 8-0 winner over Bay.
Rocky River, which managed just three hits against Avon starter Nick Lee, fell to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in league games.
“We’ve had a pretty good run of guys keeping the ball in play,” said Avon head coach Frank DeSmit, whose Eagles opened the game with four runs in the first inning alone on their way to a 13-hit day.
“We know we’re not going to do anything if we’re looking at called third strikes, so we try to make sure we’re getting everything in play, then take our chances,” DeSmit said. “We had a nice string going there early on. It almost looked like we were wearing out a spot there in right center field.”
The Eagles started burning a hole in the River outfield when leadoff hitter Bradford Dill took a 1-1 pitch and drilled it over the head of Pirate centerfielder Brendan Palker for a triple. River starter Sean McDermott then walked Joe Mementowski, who stole second and eventually crossed the plate behind Dill on Ryan Rogers’ double down the left field line.
With two out, McDermott hit Donny Kelly with a pitch to keep the inning alive. Austin Bevins cashed in for the Eagles, lacing the second triple of the inning to right center for two more runs.
The onslaught continued in the top of the second inning. With one out, Dill and Mementowski singled and Joel Yeagley walked to load the bases. McDermott got the second out on an infield pop-up, but catcher Brad Wentz cleared the bases with a double to right center, making it 7-0, Avon.
In the meantime, Lee was keeping the Pirates off balance in the batters box. For the first five innings, all River could manage was a pair of singles off the bat of Max Barrow, one of those a slow roller up the third base line, and a third runner off an infield error.
“He’s got three pitches,” DeSmit said of his senior hurler. “If you can get all three of them over for strikes, it makes it pretty tough for the batter.”
Lee ran into some trouble in the bottom of the sixth as Palker hit a bloop single to center to lead things off for the Pirates. Walks to Ryan Connelly and Justin Seffernick loaded the bases, and a two-out fielder’s choice from Barrow allowed River to avert the shutout.
But after the third out on 6-3 play, the game ended there via the mercy rule. Yeagley had made it a 10-0 lead in the top of the inning with his leadoff home run over the right field wall off reliever Sam Sheehan. RBI singles from Greg Harrison and Anders Mahon gave the Eagles their last two runs.
Lee went all six innings, striking out eight and walking only two to raise his record to 3-0.
“They just came out and hit the ball,” said River head coach Darryl Sanders, whose team has lost two straight WSC games after Monday’s 5-4 loss at Midview.
“Today was a lot like our first game with University School, when they came out, hit the ball and run-ruled us,” Sanders said of the season-opening split against US. “This was pretty much the same thing. They just came out and hit the ball.
“The Midview game was a good game that went back and forth. It could have gone either way. I’m not disappointed in how we’ve played, I’m just disappointed in the results. If we want to be conference champs, we eventually have to beat one of these two teams (Avon and Midview).
“Now we’re two in the hole. Today, their pitcher was better than our hitting. This happened last year. We lost 10-0 the first time, and the second time they won 8-6. They’ve build a really nice tradition of good pitching and good hitting the past few years, so I give them all the credit,” he added.
Despite the win, DeSmit said his team could not afford to look past anybody if they hoped to repeat as WSC champs. He also said the Eagles’ hitting had been productive so far this season.
“The last couple of years, we’ve been balanced offensively, which is nice because we have a nice blend of righties and lefties,” said DeSmit, whose team pounded out six hits for extra bases.
“We can space out some of the guys who are hitting well, so you don’t really give the pitcher an off inning if you can get seven or eight guys out there who do a good job of putting it in play.
“River’s had a couple of nice wins so far this season. They beat Benedictine recently and had a win against Vermilion, so I really didn’t know what to expect coming in here. They didn’t have their best game today, obviously, but we have to make sure we don’t look past anybody.
“We know there are a couple of teams that will probably be fighting for the title down to the end. It’s not going to do us any good if we lose to somebody we’re looking past,” he added.
West Shore Conference Standings
1. Midview 4-0 (6-4), 2. Avon 3-0 (9-0), 3. Rocky River 2-2 (4-4), 4. Elyria Catholic 1-2 (4-4), Bay 1-2 (1-6), 6. North Ridgeville (0-2 (2-6), 7. Vermilion 0-3 (4-6) 8. Lakewood 0-0 (5-6, begins WSC play next season)