By Sara Welch | Staff Writer
Surprising even themselves, the Ravenna Ravens captured their third Portage Trail Conference Metro Division title in the last four years with a 15-7 overall record and a 10-2 league record.
"I kept telling them, they surprised me in the beginning because I didn't know what we were going to have," said Ravens head coach Sonny Tilden.
"I knew we had Jerry (Nightingale), and we had a chance when he was on the mound, but other guys stepped up and filled in for the nine seniors I graduated last year. They all played big roles and they did a great job. It was surprising to me. The kids stepped up and had a great year," Tilden said.
Tilden was recognized by his peers by being voted as the Metro Division's Coach of the Year.
Nightingale stepped onto the mound this season with a presence so dominating he managed to earn double-digit strikeouts against every team in the league. He finished the season with a record-setting 8-2 record, earning one more single-season win than the school's previous best. He went 7-0 in the league with two saves, six complete games and a 1.68 ERA. In 57 innings, he had 106 strikeouts and limited his opponent's batting average to .127.
His 106 Ks are a new single-season school record and he also has the highest single-game strikeout total in school history at 18.
Nightingale was chosen as a Division II All-Ohio pitcher and it came with zero surprise that he was chosen as the Player of the Year in the Metro Division.
"Last year, he was pretty good too," Tilden said. "Eighty-six strikeouts and a 6-2 record is pretty good for a junior. I knew he was going to be pretty good this year. The strikeouts he had were just unbelievable. He had 18 strikeouts against Kent Roosevelt, 16 against Coventry, 13 against Springfield, 12 against Field, 12 against Crestwood and 10 against Norton. That's just amazing.
"He worked hard last summer to develop a change-up and a quick pick-off move," Tilden said. "He picked off quite a few runners, which was huge too. It's going to be tough to replace him with that many strikeouts in two years."
Nightingale was not Ravenna's only leader, though.
Trevor Pesicek and Austin "Tank" Rosalez filled that role as well and also turned in seasons that warranted First-Team honors.
"They just got along and kept every body in line," Tilden said of Pesicek and Rosalez. "They were like two other coaches. They helped everyone else when they could."
Rosalez hit .485 for the Ravens with 12 multi-hit games and he reached base nearly 60 percent of the time (.575). He struck out only five times in 87 at-bats and was the team leader in hits (33) and RBI (26). He was caught stealing only once (9-of-10) and had only six errors on the season at third base.
"He's very disciplined. He sees a lot of pitches and he's willing to go the other way," Tilden said. "A lot of pitchers pitched away from him, and he did a very good job of going the opposite way. He had a great year."
Pesicek was recognized on the Metro Division's Honorable Mention team after emerging as a solid No. 2 pitcher (3-0 record).
"Pesicek was huge for us on the mound," Tilden said. "We were trying to find a No. 2 starter, and he stepped in that role and did very well."
Another First Team All-Metro Division senior selection for Ravenna was lead-off hitter Danny Miller, who hit .405 on the season. His 22 runs scored tied for most on the team with Shane Polidoro, who was named Second Team All-Metro.
"Danny has hit lead-off for me the last two years and done a great job. Last year he hit .446 and this year he hit .405, but he missed the first two weeks when we started because he had a broken nose after basketball," Tilden said. "He stepped right in and played well. We started him out at second base and then we found out he was our every day shortstop."
A Ravenna First-Team selection who will return for the Ravens in 2015 is junior Jacob Henson, who started at catcher in his first year of varsity experience.
"Henson improved so much and catching Jerry wasn't easy," Tilden said. "Henson blocking the ball and doing the stuff he did this year with Jerry was amazing. Against Springfield, he blocked six strike-three calls in the dirt and threw the guy out at first. The Springfield coach even commented on his performance and said that's the best catcher he's seen in the league in a long time," Tilden said.
Rounding out the Metro Division's First Team were Aaron Pinsoneault, a senior pitcher from Kent Roosevelt; Jackson Buda, a junior pitcher from Norton; Tristan Sprague, a junior first baseman from Field; Joe Watts a junior middle infielder from Kent Roosevelt; Devin Elekes, a senior third baseman from Coventry; Gabe Surgeon, a junior outfielder from Crestwood; Jesse Rogers, a senior outfielder from Kent Roosevelt; Jake Fling, a senior outfielder from Norton and Levi Loudin, a junior from Field.