By Zach Baker
One more week of spring sports. Time for the final 25 things of this sports season.
1. On overall balance, the 2014 season was the best for baseball and softball since I arrived here in 2005. Between the tournament runs of Seneca East, New Riegel and Lakota softball, Seneca East baseball being ranked No. 1 in the state for a good part of the season, and the emergence of impressive pitching all over the area, this year was an exciting season at the diamonds.
2. A sign that you really can't predict sports: At first I thought Mohawk softball had the best chance to reach state, because of the pitching and hitting of Julie Adelsperger. Then I thought New Riegel, behind Taylor Kirian (I've never seen a softball player hit a ball so hard), was the best shot to make it. As it turned out, that school in Kansas - Lakota - was maybe two hits away from Akron. Behind the great pitching of Morgan Gangwer, the Raiders got further than they ever had in their program's history. They also got deeper in the tournaments than any other baseball or softball team in the area.
3. When Lakota lost Saturday to Wayne Trace, it was the end of the softball season, and the end of an era. The Midland Athletic League, which featured three regional softball teams, is dissolving. And an area institution - Mohawk coach Jenny Weinandy - is retiring.
4. Aaron Korte's column in last week's A-T summed things up better than I ever could. But I will say this: Weinandy set the standard for the quality of softball in this area. When you win two state titles and continually coach high-quality teams over almost a two-decade span, you've done something remarkable, and something that will be difficult to match.
5. All I could think when I was watching Mason McWilliams blow away Cuyahoga Heights hitters in the Division IV regional semifinal in Lorain was: "If Seneca East can just get through this game somehow ..."
6. McWilliams was topped by Cuyahoga Heights' Zac Lowther, but just barely. The Redskins won 1-0 by getting an unearned run in the ninth. Lowther and McWilliams combined to strike out 33 batters and allow three hits in the game. It was a pitchers' duel for the ages.
7. OK, so why was I thinking ahead about Seneca East? The Tigers had two undefeated pitchers with microscopic ERAs - McWilliams and Ethan Caudill. I didn't know anything about Western Reserve's pitching staff or who its starter was going to be in Friday's regional final. I just knew that few teams had the starting rotation - which in SE's case included the also superb Ben Cramer - that the Tigers had. Get past Lowther and the Redskins, and I liked Seneca East's chances for Columbus. Western Reserve ended up beating Cuyahoga Heights 8-4 in the regional final.
8. The quote of Thursday night belonged to McWilliams. When I asked him what it was like to bat against the Xavier-bound Lowther, the Ohio University commit answered: "I'm glad I don't have to HIT in college."
9. Frank Lamoreaux is a great baseball coach, but he has other interests: Namely, the Cleveland Indians. In 2007, when his SE football team lost a close game at Carey, I shared with him that the Indians had beaten the Yankees in Game 2 of that season's division series. Lamoreaux responded that I had made his night. On Thursday, after finishing up my postgame interview with him, he said "Now if we can just get the Indians going." Sometimes I think Lamoreaux would make a great Indians' manager. And honestly, I believe had he decided to go that route, he'd be better than some of the guys the franchise has had in the dugout over the years.
10. It's been eight days, but I still think the catch made by Seneca East catcher Holly Bordner in last week's softball district final against Mansfield Christian was the best play I've seen a high school receiver make. Her diving snare of a popped-up bunt helped the Tigers win their first district title.
11. Listening to the Rockies feed on my XM app has allowed me to hear Jack Corrigan call an Indians game again. Corrigan, the television voice of the Indians when I was growing up, is now the radio play-by-play man for the Rockies, who are in Cleveland this weekend. I miss Corrigan. He's a really good broadcaster, yes, but I also miss him because his voice reminds me of when the Indians were still on Channel 43, when Jacobs Field first opened, and when the Tribe was winning every year.
12. Speaking of play-by-play men, one of my favorites is the radio man for the Toronto Blue Jays, Jerry Howarth. The San Francisco native has been working for the Blue Jays since 1981 - the same year the Indians' Len Barker threw a perfect game against them. Howarth has a smooth, friendly delivery, and is one of the most impartial radio guys out there.
13. But Howarth really impressed me Saturday during Toronto's game with Kansas City. The Royals were throwing Aaron Brooks, a 24-year old making his first big league start.
It didn't go well. Brooks allowed seven runs on five hits and three walks while recording only two outs before KC manager Ned Yost went out to get him.
14. After the commercial break, Howarth started with "Aaron, if you're listening ..." He then asked his the color commentator, former Blue Jays reliever Duane Ward, to recount his first pro start. Ward talked about how he had been roughed up on a minor league opening day, not getting out of the first inning. Howarth then said that Brooks should keep his head up, that it was just a bad start. Since this was a Royal and not a Blue Jay, this wasn't club PR. It was just pure class from Howarth and Ward.
15. Still though, if I had to pick one current baseball announcer to listen to, it'd be Vin Scully. The legendary Dodgers announcer still is as good as ever, and he's the only play-by-play man still working who called games at Ebbets Field, and who saw Jackie Robinson and other stars of that era play. It's nice to know that despite all the time that has passed, there are still connections to baseball's rich history.
16. Calvert's Olivia Smith finished second in her regional 800 race Friday. She will try to become a three-time state champ next week, and it's possible that finishing second in regionals may lessen her status as the favorite in that race. Then again, no one expected her to win the title two years ago as a sophomore. I wouldn't pick against her.
17. Speaking of Calvert track, two years ago I had planned on doing a big story on the Calvert boys relays, because they had been so busy at the state meet. Then Olivia Smith went and won state and changed my plans.
18. So here we are two years later. And while Smith will get plenty of (deserved) attention, the Calvert boys 4x100 and 4x200 teams of Shane Boehler, Ren Boehler, Tyler Long and Austin Ball set a pair of regional records and helped the Seneca boys win their first regional title. Just by doing that, they have a chance to do some big things next week, even if Ball suffered an injury.
19. If Browns' receiver Josh Gordon didn't have the ridiculous talent that he does, the Browns would have cut him the minute they heard "possible season-long suspension." But he still has a job, even after being stopped for speeding earlier this week and his passenger allegedly being in possession of marijuana. I keep thinking Gordon has got to be smart enough to stay out of trouble. I keep being wrong.
20. The Heat are going back to the NBA Finals. The Spurs or Thunder will face them. I feel like I know how this movie ends.
21. When LeBron James left Cleveland in 2010, I wrote a column where I said LeBron had a right to leave, but I was upset at the way he left. But in retrospect, I think I'd have been just as mad if he had left in the classiest way possible.
22. Cleveland has never been a hot destination spot for marquee players. In LeBron's case, he was not only a northeast Ohio native, but the Cavaliers could offer him more money than any other team. And it was a team that had the best record in the league the two previous years. And even with those advantages, Cleveland STILL didn't land James. And that's what made me angry. It just seemed like my town couldn't win, even with so many things in its favor.
23. No matter what their struggles, however, it's nice to know the Cavaliers are really good at draft lotteries.
24. I'm looking forward to covering the Tiffin Saints this summer. Covering pro baseball will be new to some of us, but there's nothing like a ballgame on a summer afternoon.
25. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are touring with Steve Winwood this summer. Sadly, it doesn't look like the show is coming to Ohio. All that means is one thing: Road trip.
Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.
Contact him at:
zbaker@ or on Twitter @Zachthewriter