Experienced SE?team back for more
Ask Frank Lamoreaux what stands out about this year’s regional qualifying Seneca East team, and he responds with one word:
“The biggest thing is the experience of being there,” Lamoreaux said two nights before his team is to appear at the Division IV regional tournament for the second consecutive season. “Experience is gonna pay off.”
It has already – for the Tigers and their opponent Thursday at Copley High School, the New Middletown Springfield Tigers.
Like the opponent that shares its nickname, Springfield is a regional veteran. It has won three consecutive district titles, and made the state tournament finals in 2009 and 2011.
Springfield coach Matt Weymer said his team burdened itself with winning a third straight district crown
“We’ve had so much success that I think kids put pressure on themselves,” he said. “Now they can relax. It’s just, this is a chance to play a team you’ve never seen and that’s the fun of baseball.”
The teams are something less than traditional rivals.
One-hundred and forty six miles separate Attica and New Middletown. While Lamoreaux said his program has been able to get some scouting done on his team’s foe, Weymer said he’s been relying on stats and conversations to get a read on Seneca East (23-4).
But then again, what’s important this time of year isn’t the opponent.
“You focus on yourself this time of year,” Weymer said. “If you do [what you’re supposed to], you feel good about your chances to win.”
If Springfield (18-7) can create runs the way it did in the district tournament, Weymer has to really like his chances.
Springfield beat McDonald 10-6 in the finals, three days after an 11-8 semifinal victory over Lowellville.
But Weymer said the scores are a bit misleading.
“I think the biggest key is we’ve been able to take advantage of lackluster defense,” he said. “It looks like we hit the ball all over the yard but in reality we were able to put the ball in play and cash in.”
Still, Springfield has impressive numbers. The team has a .333 batting average, as well as a .421 on base percentage. It doesn’t appear to have much power – Springfield boasts only three homers as a team – but it has excellent speed, swiping 67 bases. It’s only been caught seven times.
Outfielder Ryan Kohler is the team’s top thief, stealing 19 of 21 bases. He also has a .367 batting average and has driven in 15 runs. Also impressive is second baseman Eoghan Bees, with a .391 batting average, 18 runs scored and 20 RBIs.
“It looks like they have good speed, nice batting averages, good mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors,” Lamoreaux said.
And Thursday, that offense will face Mason McWilliams, one the Midland Athletic League’s best hurlers.
McWilliams, a lefty, comes in with a 8-1 record to go with an ERA under two. He’s also among the league’s strikeout leaders.
“Mason’s control has improved dramatically,” Lamoreaux said. “His strikeout-to-walk ratio is pretty impressive.”
Meanwhile, Seneca East’s batters have been doing their part, scoring 17 runs over their two district games last week. In Dalton Wise, Daniel Bartley and Ethan Caudill, SE has three hitters batting far better than .400.
Despite that, Lamoreaux said all have been asked to play small ball and advance runners.
“They’ve done what it takes,” Lamoreaux said.
To advance to regional finals, SE will need to solve Springfield starter Dalton Donachie, who is 6-1 with a 2.13 earned run average.
Weymer said he’s been impressed with the sophomore’s poise.
“He’s not in awe of the moment,” Weymer said. He has a nice mix of pitches, loves to be on the mound, loves to pitch.”
First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., but it is the second game of a doubleheader. The first regional contest is between Cuyahoga Heights and Dalton. That game starts at 3 p.m.