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"It's all I could think about all day

By David CarducciRecord-Courier staff writer Published: May 18, 1999 12:00 AM

"It's all I could think about all day at school, in every class," said Southeast starting pitcher Nick Dean. "Really, it's all any of us could think about since we found out last Wednesday that we won the (American Division) and we'd be playing in the championship game. None of us had ever won a PCL championship."

The Pirates' seniors finally realized their dream of a league title, riding a dominating pitching performance by Dean and an offensive attack that included a grand-slam home run by senior Mark Richards for an 11-2 victory over National Division champion Mogadore.

"We waited four years for this, ever since we were freshmen," said Richards. "There is no way to describe the feeling."

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Richards (3-for-4, 5 RBI) led the offensive fireworks, hitting his second grand slam of the season on a line-drive over the right-centerfield fence that gave Southeast an 8-2 lead in the third inning.

The grand slam capped a five-run inning for Southeast. The other run scored on a bases-loaded walk to Damian Root, one of four free passes surrendered by Mogadore in the inning, driving home Nick Dillon.

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Southeast set the tone for what was to come with three runs in the first inning, two coming on the team-leading fifth home run of the season by catcher Jake Berkley. The blast to left field scored Dillon, who had singled in Carl Dorris earlier in the first.

"Our offensive philosophy is to put pressure on the other team's defense every inning," said Southeast coach Dave Clegg. "We were able to do that. We were able to get ahead by a few runs, and that relaxed us.

"Jake is a big, strong kid and he was able to get a hold of one and drive it out of the park. And Mark's grand slam was a big lift for us."

The three runs Southeast (16-7) scored in the first inning were all Dean needed to improve his record to 8-4 on the season.

Dean kept Mogadore's hitters at bay with a five-hit, 11-strikeout performance in his second complete-game victory over the Wildcats this season.

"Nick was really on top of his game," said Clegg. "He was very tough, he made some good, quality pitches, and he stayed ahead of the hitters. That's all you can ask."

Mogadore scored its only two runs of the game in the second when Ben Lee hit a ground-rule double to centerfield to score Matt Walk (2-for-3, double), then later scored on a throwing error when he attempted to steal third base.

Other than the second inning, the Wildcats (21-6) spent most of the afternoon with their bats on their shoulders, striking out looking six times against Dean.

"Most of those were on outside corner fastballs," said Dean. "They were having a hard time judging when it was going to be called a strike and when it wasn't. I was getting ahead in counts, so I was able to pick my corners and get calls."

Mogadore's championship game loss was the third in four years for a Wildcat team with 18 or more wins.

"We've had some good teams that have been able to get to district and to state, but we just haven't been able to win a league championship," said Mogadore coach John Cravens. "When you play in a league championship game, you have to be sharp. You have to be sharper than we were.

"We struck out looking six times, we didn't move the runners when we needed to, we bunted into a double play, all three outfield positions made errors. That's not going to win championships. But we've had a successful season, and hopefully that success will continue Wednesday in the Strongsville District."

"I'm very proud of our seniors," said Clegg. "We have eight of them (Dean, Richards, Dillon, Dorris, Ryan Groves, Josh Massrock, Mike Bailey and Harlan Johnson), and this is their first championship.

"The last couple years Southeast hasn't had any championships other than in wrestling, and we don't have any wrestlers on this team. These guys wanted to go out as champs, and they did."

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