June 27, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Baseball: Wadsworth is No. 1

The Wadsworth baseball team got the respect it craved.

The Grizzlies, one of Northeast Ohio’s biggest surprises, pulled off another head-turner Sunday when they were voted the No. 1 seed at the Hudson Division I District.

Wadsworth (18-3) has already defeated No. 4 Nordonia and defending district runner-up Brunswick this season, but a weak bottom half of the Suburban League was not in its favor when compared with the rugged Northeast Ohio Conference.

“It shows how far we’ve come in the last year,” coach Greg Pickard said. “Last year, we were the second-to-last seed. Just to get votes in that district is quite an accomplishment. It says a lot about the direction our program is hopefully heading, and it says a lot about the kids and how hard they’ve worked over the past year.”

The Grizzlies took a bye and will host the winner of No. 6 Brunswick (14-8) and No. 13 Cloverleaf (3-15) in a May 17 sectional final. The winner gets second-seeded Walsh Jesuit (16-4), No. 9 Twinsburg (10-7) or No. 12 Copley (4-11) in the May 23 district semis.

A rematch with the Blue Devils is likely, including the tantalizing possibility of a top-notch duel between aces Kyle Michalik (3-1, 2.15 ERA) of Brunswick and Jeff Stover (2-1, 1.33) of Wadsworth. The Grizzlies won a 2-1 thriller April 26 in front of a rowdy crowd at Brunswick, but this potential game will be at A.C. Field, where the Grizzlies have won 13 of their last 14 dating back to last season.

“They’re a really good team,” Pickard said of Brunswick. “Obviously, we put our name on the board and let the chips fall where they may. It’s going to be a tough matchup. We know that.”

Based on the top half of the bracket, Medina County is guaranteed to have one team reach the district semifinals.

If Highland takes care of Cuyahoga Falls (11-6) and Medina coach Nick Kaplack’s calculated gamble pays off, that number could double.

The Hornets (16-6) were the fifth seed and will host the 10th-seeded Black Tigers on May 16. The winner will play at Medina or SL-leading Nordonia (15-5) the next day.

The Bees (12-9) received the eighth seed. Kaplack had the option of playing Highland — the Hornets swept Medina in an April 13 doubleheader — No. 7 Stow (13-4), Brunswick or taking an open sectional semifinal in front of Walsh Jesuit.

Instead of choosing an easier first matchup, Kaplack elected to face Nordonia, which went 3-1 against Highland (2-0) and Wadsworth (1-1) in SL play — albeit by close margins.

“We could have played whoever and went and played Walsh,” he said. “Well, that sets you up to go into the district semifinal against possibly Brunswick, who no-hit us earlier in the year. We took the best route to win the whole thing and not just win a sectional championship.”

Should Highland or Medina reach the May 23 district semifinals, No. 2 Hudson (15-3), Stow or No. 11 Firestone will be the opponent.

Buckeye (13-7) received the fourth seed at the Akron D-II District and elected a bye. The Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division leader will host sixth-seeded St. Vincent-St. Mary (8-10) or No. 10 Akron North on May 14.

In Cuyahoga Community College D-III action, Black River (8-11) will travel to Columbia on May 14, with Elyria Catholic waiting the next day. The Pirates lost to the Raiders 6-4 on April 23 in PAC play.

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.