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Mentor ousts Greenmen in D-I regional semifinal

By MICHAEL LEONARD Sports editor Published: May 31, 2017 1:00 AM
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KENT -- It took two days and two different stadiums for Aurora High's baseball team to complete its Division I regional semifinal against Mentor.

Aurora got only three batters to the plate May 25 at Thurman Munson Stadium in Canton before the game was suspended because of rain.

How long was the rain delay? Aurora's six senior players were able to graduate the evening of May 25 at Parkside Church in Bainbridge Township before resuming play.

When the senior Greenmen exchanged their graduation caps for baseball caps May 26, the game resumed at Schoonover Stadium at Kent State University, as the field at Munson was deemed unplayable.

When play resumed, both teams looked sharp, but Mentor took better advantage of its opportunities to win 3-1. Aurora's season ended at 20-6, as the Cardinals advanced to the regional final May 27 against either Walsh Jesuit or Massillon Jackson, which played later in the day at the College of Wooster.

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Greenmen coach Michael Brancazio said the weather delay didn't affect Aurora, but the margins of error are small once a team reaches the regional level.

"Our intensity and our energy was right where it needed to be," Brancazio said. "It is what it is. The key to to this game was hitting with runners in scoring position. We had a our chance in the top of the first inning and didn't execute. I have no complaints with the way we played."

Aurora outhit Mentor 4 to 3 in the contest, as the game turned into a pitcher's dual between Aurora's Zach Elsaway and Mentor's Nick Smith.

The latter, who is set to play for Baldwin-Wallace University, pitched a complete game to move to 7-1 on the season. He limited Aurora to 4 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5 Greenmen.

One of those walks came against the first batter Smith faced May 26, as Aurora first baseman Ben Stawicki walked to load the bases with two outs. However, Smith induced a popout to get out of the jam.

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Walks were a major reason for Elsawy's one bad inning, as Mentor did all of its damage in the bottom of the second.

After a one-out double by Cardinal first baseman Matt Detering, Elsawy gave up walks to designated hitter Jeremy McClure and rightfielder Tyler Knapp. Second baseman Tommy Klepcyk drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 1-0.

Cardinal centerfielder Nathan Birtley then hit a single over third base to plate two runs and make it 3-0 after two innings.

"What came back to bite us today were walks," Brancazio said. "Zach didn't have his best stuff, but to not have his best stuff and give up only 3 hits shows what kind of pitcher he is."

Elsawy (3-2) gave up 3 earned runs on 3 hits and 4 walks, while striking ou t2 Cardinals in 4 innings of work. Chase Coady pitched two scoreless innings for Aurora without giving up a hit.

Smith made only one mistake, but it was big one in the top of the fifth inning.

Aurora second baseman Drew McVay led off with an infield single and went to second on an error, bringing freshman Will Carpenter to the plate.

"He was in a little bit of a rut," Brancazio said. "We told him we were sick of him taking pitches. Why not just swing away?"

Carpenter did swing away, blasting his first home run of the season over the rightfield fence. "I'm proud of Will for coming through," Brancazio said.

However, what should been a 2-run home run was reduced to a one-run shot. On an appeal to third base, the umpire called the runner out for not tagging third, leaving the score at 3-1.

Aurora was unable to get anything going in the final two innings, as Smith retired the final seven batters he faced.

The Greenmen finished the season as Suburban League American Conference champions with a 10-2 conference mark, as Tallmadge came in as runnerup. The Blue Devils won their regional semifinal game and were to play for a trip to Columbus on May 27. No score was available for that regional finale because of early Advocate holiday deadlines.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

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