With a victory in the District 10 Class AAA semifinals Friday at Slippery Rock University, the Warren baseball team can kill two birds with one stone.
First, a win would place the Dragons in the D-10 Class AAA title game for the third straight season. Second, it would provide a measure of revenge for the way Warren's season ended in 2011.
Last May, the Dragons dropped an 8-3 decision to the Grove City Golden Eagles in the D-10 title game at Slippery Rock University. That same Golden Eagles club will square off with the Dragons at 6:30 p.m. Friday with a trip to Monday's title game on the line.
Photo by Denny Kyser
Warren coach Jeff Passaro doesn't have a crystal ball, and can make no guarantees on what the playoffs will hold. One thing he does know: this team shouldn't be intimidated when it takes to the field of Jack Critchfield Park.
"These kids have the playoff experience. They've been here before," said Passaro. "I think eight of these kids played in the game with Grove City a year ago. There's no reason to be intimidated by the magnitude of the game. I think the playoff experience we have can work as a positive this year."
Warren (14-3) has smacked the ball around all season with nine players on the roster hitting .333 or better. Leading the way are Andrew Bevevino and Matt Jaskolka who both hit at a .426 clip. They are followed by Kevin VanOrd (.417), Chris Danielson (.412), Kory Thomas (.367), Dan Maeder (.351), Eddie Dorunda (.345) and Hank Morrison (.333). Morrison led the roster in both home runs and RBI with four and 23 respectively.
Dorunda and Jaskolka were the team's two primary pitchers for Warren this year, combining for 10 of the team's 14 victories during the Dragons' co-region championship season. Dorunda led the club with six wins and Jaskolka added four.
If the Dragons had a problem this year, it was falling behind early in games. The team fell behind early during a 7-3 upset loss in Girard on April 13 and trailed 11-0 at home against General McLane on May 11. The team also struggled out of the gate in a 7-2 loss to Titusville its last time out.
Passaro knows that if Warren wants to appear in its third straight D-10 title game, it has no room to stumble out of the blocks on Friday.
"Absolutely, that's what we've got to avoid. We can't fall behind early," said Passaro. "We've got to be ready to go from the first pitch. In the event we do fall behind, we can't give up. Baseball is a long game and momentum can turn very quickly."
Despite losing a pair of Division I baseball prospects (Jon Anderson and Jeff Revesz) to graduation, the Golden Eagles repeated as Region 7 champions in 2012, finishing with a 14-6 record. The Golden Eagles advanced to the D-10 semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Harbor Creek on Tuesday.
Gavin Herald, Brian Murone and Tyler Devine all had outstanding offensive campaigns for the Golden Eagles this season. Herald led the way with a .389 average followed by Murone at .387 and Devine at .368.
In winning on Tuesday, the Golden Eagles avoided pitching their top arm as Matt Gordon was the winner against the Huskies. Gordon entered the game with a 2.59 ERA and the Dragons will likely see pitcher Ryan Grace on Friday. Grace will enter the game as the team's best option with a 2.12 ERA.
The winner of Friday's game will play the winner of Friday's other semifinal between General McLane and Cathedral Prep in Monday's D-10 Class AAA title game. McLane and Prep will play at Ainsworth Field on Friday and the site and time of Monday's game has yet to be determined.