October 31, 2014

Medina
Rain
47°F

Commentary: Medina wants to keep magic

You can’t forget the unforgettable, so Medina’s baseball team shouldn’t waste time trying to do the impossible.

The Bees, after all, have already done that — the impossible, that is — once.

Six days ago, Medina rallied from a 10-run deficit in its final two at-bats to beat Solon 11-10 in a Hudson Division I District title game.

It might have been the greatest comeback in Medina baseball history — or in county baseball history, for that matter — but these Bees aren’t dumb. Nor are they anxious to press their luck.

They know full well it will be better to be up 10 than down 10 — or up two instead of down two — today against Willoughby South in a Canton Regional semifinal at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium.

“We still talk about it every day,” senior first baseman/pitcher Matt Ellenbest said of the comeback against Solon. “We look at each other and say, ‘Wow, how did we do that? How did we score nine runs in the bottom of the seventh to win that game?’ It’s still amazing. It’s a jaw-dropper to us. It’s hard to put into words.

“But that’s something we need to try to forget about. We hope it doesn’t happen again. We have to have the energy in the first inning that we had in the seventh inning.”

The Bees (18-8), you see, are making their third regional appearance in the last four years. On their two previous trips, they were eliminated in the semifinals.

“We haven’t gotten out of regionals,” Ellenbest said. “That’s the goal. We’ve got to go inning by inning, game by game. If we do that, we should make it. Our goal is to win a state championship. If we stay positive, we can do it.”

Standing in Medina’s way today is a 21-5 Willoughby South team that got a three-run homer in the seventh to beat Mentor 5-2 in its district title game.

Last year, it was eventual D-I state champion St. Edward that ousted the Bees, who fell behind 8-0 early and still trailed 8-1 going into the seventh, but rallied to get the tying run to the plate before falling 8-4.

In 2008, it was Mayfield that eliminated Medina, 6-5.

Maybe the third time is the charm. Maybe this year Medina can ride the momentum it built, one at-bat at a time, in its district final win over a sub-.500 Solon team it had swept in a Northeast Ohio Conference cross-division doubleheader.

“I always tell them, ‘You’re never out of anything,’” coach Nick Kaplack said. “You can say that to them 100 times, but you don’t know if they believe it. Now, I think they believe it.”

The Bees believe because their comeback against Solon was almost unbelievable.

Down 5-0 after the top of the first and 10-0 after the top of the sixth, Medina was one out from having its tournament run end courtesy of the 10-run mercy rule.

“That would have been devastating to all of us,” Ellenbest said. “It would have crushed us. We would have been on that bus (ticked) off.

“There was a point, briefly, in that sixth inning when we thought, ‘We might actually be done here.’”

Somehow, the Bees scratched across two runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to extend the game another inning, but the outlook was still very, very bleak.

Then, slowly but surely, Medina started getting base hits. Solon started making errors. Comets pitcher Danny Sutyak, virtually untouchable through five innings, began laboring. At-bat by at-bat, run by run, the improbable started looking remotely possible.

“At first, it was really quiet in the dugout,” Ellenbest said. “Not a lot was said. The players were quiet and the coaches were quiet. Then we started scoring runs, and it started picking up. Then when we scored some more, it got crazy.”

Before Medina made its first out, it was already within 10-8.

“It was incredible,” Kaplack said. “Everybody refused to make an out.”

When Mike Faschian, batting for the first time in more than a month, hit a two-run single to tie the game, there was pandemonium in the Medina dugout. When Alex Thielman hit a sacrifice fly to win it, there was total hysteria.

“I haven’t even seen anything like that, much less been involved in it, especially in a championship game,” Kaplack said. “That’s what really makes it (memorable). We had no other games scheduled. There was no tomorrow for all those seniors.”

The seemingly impossible happened, however, so there was a tomorrow for Medina. That tomorrow is now today.

“I don’t think anyone will ever forget it, but we’re moving on, for sure,” Kaplack said. “Still, it’s something you’ve got to remember. It’s a positive thing. This team feels like it can come back from anything or accomplish anything.

“You’re definitely going to face adversity at some point in these next four games (needed to win a state title), if we’re fortunate enough to play that many. They’re going to have to overcome it.

Having that (comeback) in your back pocket, that you can overcome an insurmountable lead and do something that can’t be done — we basically did the impossible — can’t hurt.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.