The season may not have played out exactly as it would have liked but the Strongsville baseball team endured a challenging set of circumstances to come out winners this spring.
For the seventh consecutive year the Mustangs won at least a share of the conference title. They also finished above .500.
With accomplishments like that, it makes one wonder just how well Strongsville could have done if it wasn’t coping with the adversities associated with the eight-week teacher strike topped by its veteran head coach resigning at the end of the schedule.
“I think they did work well together, and when the strike ended, we played well enough to tie for first in the conference,” said Josh Sorge, who resigned after 10 years at the helm for the Mustangs.
Strongsville, which was coached by the program’s assistants during the strike, finished 7-3 in the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division. That feat allowed it to share a piece of the crown with state-ranked Brunswick and Mentor, both of which advanced to the Division I regional this year, as well as Medina.
“I think (winning a share of the league) was an impressive thing to do simply because Brunswick had a phenomenal team, Mentor went to the final eight and Medina had a good year,” Sorge, the River Division co-Coach of the Year, said. “They played well when they needed to play well.”
Unfortunately, some of the Mustangs’ magic ran out in the postseason.
Sorge said that heading into the tournament draw, he and his coaches let the players know that for the first time in a number a years, Strongsville was not favored to be one of the top two seeds. That meant it would have to get past No. 1 seed Brecksville.
Sorge & Company asked the players if they were ready to face that challenge early in the tournament or later in the bracket. They selected the former but fell 7-5 when the Mustangs ran out of steam late in the game.
“We knew if we were going to advance, we were going to have to beat them,” Sorge said. “We went after them, but we just didn’t have enough. In our minds, we tried to catch lightning in a bottle, but Brecksville was a better team.”
There wasn’t a single area that the coach could pinpoint as the team’s Achilles heel this year that led to a 14-11 record, but few of the returning letter winners had experience as everyday starters for the team.
“I don’t know if there was one particular aspect, but I know we were inconsistent,” Sorge said. “There were times when we put it all together and looked like a team to beat.”
Leading the way was senior shortstop Ben Szymczak. The first-team All-NOC selection ranked first for Strongsville in batting average (.414), hits (29), runs (20) and walks (19).
Alex Sarrouh and Brad Weimken, two more all-league seniors, did a fine job at the plate as well.
Sarrouh, a designated hitter, batted .362 with 13 runs and 25 hits, seven of which were doubles. Weimken, a center fielder, batted .356, had a team-high 12 doubles and tied for first with eight stolen bases.
Strongsville’s other all-league selections were first-teamers Austin Previt, a senior pitcher, and Jordan Sedivy, a junior third baseman, plus honorable mention picks Dominic Lombardo, a sophomore second baseman, and sophomore righty Alex Barnes.
Although Sorge will not be with the team next season and Strongsville athletic director Paul Moses said the next head coach won’t be named until after the 2013-14 school year begins, the Mustangs should be in good position to keep its conference and winning ways alive.
Sorge said the team’s strengths should be its pitching with the return of Barnes, this year’s No. 2 man in the rotation, as well as juniors Warren Spragg, Mike Jones and Jordan Weideling.
The infield and outfield will be speckled with newcomers. The only returning starters are Sedivy and Lombardo, so members of the 15-6 junior varsity team will be making a case for varsity roles.
“I think the team will be OK,” Sorge said. “There will be a lot of guys competing for spots, but competition is a good thing.”
Strongsville’s baseball team kept its streak alive when it won its seventh consecutive conference championship.
The Mustangs earned a share of their sixth straight Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title following their May 8 game with Brunswick.
Strongsville also won the final Pioneer Conference title in 2007 to extend its league championship run to seven in a row.
This year, however, is the most crowded it has been for the Mustangs atop the conference standings. Joining Strongsville in first with 7-3 league marks are the state-ranked Blue Devils and Mentor, plus Medina.
The last time the Mustangs won the River title outright was in 2011 went they went undefeated in the league. It shared the title with Brunswick last spring and in ’08, then with Medina in ’10.
Although Brunswick won both contests against Strongsville this season, the Mustangs made a case for themselves by sweeping Mentor this spring and splitting games with Medina.
By Scott Patsko, Sun News, April 10, 2013 12:02 p.m.
STRONGSVILLE: Two big errors put Strongsville in position to get a big hit and complete a late-inning rally against Northeast Ohio Conference River Division rival North Royalton on Tuesday.
Sophomore Dominic Lombardodelivered that hit as the Mustangs scored twice in the sixth-inning for a 4-3 win over the Bears.
The Mustangs improved to 4-3 overall, 1-0 in the NOC. The Bears fall to 2-4, 0-1. Both teams play again Wednesday, at North Royalton.
Trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Mustangs got a double from senior Brendan Lange before sophomore Jake Bokar’s grounder to first was misplayed by the Bears. That allowed Lange to score and Bokar to advance to second.
Senior Mike Gaydos, running for Bokar, advanced to third when a pick-off attempt by Bears senior catcher Adam Vasil found its way into the outfield. Lombardo then singled to left to score Gaydos.
Senior pitcher Carlton Reinhart, who relieved starter Austin Previt to start the fifth, allowed a lead-off single in the seventh, but retired the next three batters for the win.
After starting the season 0-2, the Mustangs have won four of their last five.
“After the first weekend of the year, it was a little rough for us, but I think we’re on the right track,” said acting head coach Dan Wiemer, the team’s hitting coach the past couple seasons. “I told them after the game how we played Grove City on Saturday and lost 1-0 but had 10 hits. Their approach is good and they’re making adjustments at the plate.”
Previt allowed two runs and three hits in four innings, striking out three and walking two. He retired nine straight batters before giving way to Reinhart, who gave up an RBI-double by senior Nick Gatins in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie. But Reinhart allowed just one hit the rest of the way.
“Because we had a two-week layoff, we’re still trying to keep a low pitch count,” said Wiemer of the decision to remove Previt.
Seniors Brad Hajdin, Ben Szymezak and Brendan Lange each had two hits for the Mustangs. Junior Ryan Frank led off the fourth with a solo home run to center, tying the game at 2.
The Bears sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning against Previt. Vasil and senior Mike Hudec both had RBI singles as the Bears took a 2-0 lead. The Mustangs got a run back in the bottom half of the first when Hajdin doubled, then scored on Szymezak’s single.
Senior Andrew Rossman started for the Bears and took the loss. He gave up nine hits, four runs (two earned) and struck out four before being replaced by senior Erich Kuchta, who got the final out of the sixth.
“We’ve been struggling as a group offensively. We had some good signs there in the first inning,” said Bears head coach Jim Thamann. “But (Previt) got in a groove after the first inning and started working ahead in the count.”
Gatins had a pair of hits, an RBI and scored a run for the Bears, who have lost four of their last five. Except for a season-opening 5-0 win, every game has been decided by one or two runs for the Bears.
“The defense has been there. Pitching has definitely been good enough to keep us in games,” said Thamann. “It comes down to the little things you need to take care of.
“If we make a couple of those plays and work our way through there, it’s a different scenario. Those plays came back to haunt us in the end.”
Wednesday’s starters will be senior Joey Sadowski for the Bears and sophomore Alex Barnes for the Mustangs.
Strongsville comes from behind to beat Parma
Parma got to a good start when they took on Strongsville April 3 but came up short in the end.
The Mustangs won 5-3 at Veterans Memorial Park after being down by three after the first inning.
His team already up by one in the first inning, Mark Sefcik picked up a couple of RBIs on a two-run single to put Parma up 3-0.
The Redman could not hold off the potent offense of the Mustangs though.
Strongsville chipped away at the lead with a run in the second and two more in the third to tie it up.
By the bottom of the seventh, the Mustangs were on top 5-3, which is how it would stay.
Tom Krockey knocked in two of Strongsville’s five runs on the day.Austin Previt scored a run and knocked another for the Mustangs.
Josh Zeck pitched six innings for Parma, giving up three hits and only one earned run.
It was the second win in as many days for Strongsville which shut out Normandy 10-0 the day before.
Strongsville Coach Dan Weimer said his team is playing catch up in a sense because of limited practice time. In fact, the team did not even get to practice outdoors until six days before they played Parma.
“We started a little bit behind before but today we got lucky to win. We didn’t play our best game,” Weimer said. “We’re walking way too many guys and I think giving hitters too much credit,” said Strongsville Coach Dan Weimer. “It’s still a work in progress. We’re still trying to mix and match arms and find out where we’re at.”
Strongsville improved to 2-0 on the season while the loss evened Parma’s record at 1-1.
The Redmen committed five errors against Strongsville, which Head Coach Ryan Dillon said was a big part of his team’s downfall.
“Strongsville’s a hard team to beat and you can’t give them anything. You can’t make any mistakes against a good team like that,” Dillon said. “We gave them a little bit and they took advantage of it.”
Despite being disappointed his team was not able to hold on for a “W” against the Mustangs, he said he was fairly happy with the way team played despite suffering the same setback due to the weather inhibiting outdoor practice time.
“We played well. We jumped ahead 3-0 and put the pressure on them,” Dillon said. “There’s still a lot more that we can improve but the more we play, the better we’ll be.”
Parma beat Keystone April 2 by a count of 6-3 on the strength of 6 1/3 innings pitched by Justin Pfieffer who sat down six on strikes.
On offense, Tyler Deutsch hit a double and singled in a pair of runs. Nate Tracy had two hits on the day with a double and single. Kevin Tippy got the final 2 outs to earn a save.
Strongsville baseball team looking to overcome obstacles as season begins
STRONGSVILLE A teacher’s strike and poor Ohio weather put the Strongsville baseball team in a tough spot heading into its March 30 season opener.
In fact, it wasn’t until 4 p.m. March 29 that the Mustangs knew for sure they’d be traveling to Cincinnati the next day to face defending state champ Archbishop Moeller and St. Xavier.
Although the Mustangs lost both games, the trip gave them the opportunity to finally escape a gymnasium.
“We were excited to get outside,” said acting head coach Grant Rose. “That was our first time touching a ball in the elements.”
The Mustangs lost numerous key players from last season’s Northeast Ohio Conference River Division championship team, which earned a No. 1 district seed before being upset in the district semifinals. They finished 17-3 overall.
They are also without head coach Josh Sorge, who would be starting his 10th season at Strongsville if not for the teacher’s strike. Rose has been with the program for three years and was assistant head coach last season.
“It’s difficult and an unbelievable amount of work,” said Rose of taking the reins. “We’re fortunate to have worked with (coaches Sorge, Doug Cicerchi and Jason Frederick, who are on strike).
“I enjoy working with the boys in the program. We have an unbelievably motivated and intelligent group of kids.”
Due to the obstacles the team has faced early this season, the Mustangs are still trying to evaluate a lot of positions.
Hitting coach Dan Wiemer said the team will be relying on the pitching and hitting of senior Austin Previt, who will be the team’s No. 1 starter and hit in the middle of the order. Senior Carlton Reinhart will be the team’s No. 2 starter.
Senior Ben Szymezak will move over from second base to short stop this season, and senior Brad Wiemken will bat lead off and play center field.
“We threw eight different pitchers over two games (March 30) and rotated 25 total players between the two games,” said Rose. “We have to get a handle on what we have.
“We learned quite a bit and we know what we need to work on.”
The Mustangs beat Normandy 10-0 April 2. They travel to Springboro and Grove City on April 6.