October 1, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
56°F

Bad ending doesn’t mar great run

Staff Writer 

The thunderstorms held off, no one got injured and Highland’s baseball team had the good fortune of avoiding a meeting with powerful Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit until Friday.

Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot of immediate positive news for the Hornets, who fell 17-0 in five innings in the Tiffin Division II Regional championship at Heminger Field.

“Knowing this is my last high school game and I just lost 17-0 is not a good feeling at all,” senior Brenton Krivos said.

Things went so badly for the Hornets in their two-touchdown-and-a-field-goal loss they were actually behind by a safety, 2-0, before the game was even supposed to kick off.

With a stiff wind blowing, the threat of thunderstorms looming and both teams ready to go — or at least Highland thought it was ready to go — tournament officials began the contest about 10 minutes prior to its scheduled 2 p.m. start.

The Warriors quickly put up a two-spot, and by the end of the day their score by innings looked like a zip code — 27125. Highland, meanwhile, dialed “O” for five straight frames.

Walsh also beat Highland 11-1 and 10-1 during the regular season, meaning it won three games by a cumulative score of 38-2, but the Hornets took no great solace in losing to what was indisputably a better team.

“As a competitor, you feel like you can go out there and beat them every single time you play them,” Hornets senior Reese Montesano said. “It stings. I hate losing, especially to these guys. They come out expecting to win. I wanted to give them something they could cower about. It just hurts.”

It might have hurt even worse, but Walsh, which used 17 players in all, began substituting freely in the top of the fourth inning.

“They’re the best of the best,” Highland senior Jeff Avena said. “I think they’re going to be state champions. That’s what I’m banking on right now.”

The Warriors (26-3) may do exactly that, but the Hornets (15-13) have no reason to apologize for their season after reaching the regional championship for the second straight year.

“It might take a little while (for it to sink in),” Krivos said, “but we had a great season.”

To put what the five seniors on the roster — Krivos, Montesano, Avena, Cory Johnston and John Valentic — helped the Hornets accomplish, consider that Highland’s varsity was 1-21 when they were in eighth grade.

That was Jeff Rollyson’s first year as coach, but once his players bought into his theory of playing intelligent baseball with a hard-nosed attitude and solid work ethic, the program took off.

The Hornets went 12-15 in 2005, 15-10 in ’06, 23-9 last year and won eight of their last 10 games to finish 15-13 in ’08. Over those four seasons, Highland won 12 tournament games, including four in 2007 and five this year.

“It was nice getting back to this point,” Montesano said. “It all came together at once, but today we just met a helluva team.”

The no-geographic-boundary Warriors, who got two home runs from Kevin Emmandorfer, are certainly a great team.

Walsh definitely didn’t need any help from Highland, but the Hornets, who played so brilliantly in their previous postseason games, were in a giving mood.

When Montesano reached first on a walk to start the bottom of the first, he was promptly picked off.

What should have been a Walsh sacrifice bunt turned into a bases-loaded situation when pitcher Bryce Sedio unwisely tried to get an out at third.

A comebacker to the mound that should have been an easy out at the plate turned into a run when Johnston threw to third instead of running directly at the hung-up runner.

With the Hornets already down 10-0 heading into the bottom of the third, Rollyson chanted, “Let’s play seven,” a plea for his team to avoid falling victim to the 10-run mercy rule.

Anthony Petrilla promptly led off with an infield hit, only to get picked off on a missed bunt attempt.

It was that kind of miserable day for the Hornets, but that should not — and will not — detract from another outstanding tournament run by an outstanding group of young men.

“Today we didn’t do it,” Krivos said, “but no one expected us to be here.”

Noland may be reached at rickn@ohio.net or 330-721-4061.