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By Sara Welch | Staff Writer
The Woodridge Baseball team swept the Portage Trail Conference County Division, going undefeated in the league with a 12-0 record. The Bulldogs also managed to set the school record for the most victories in a season with 28, edging out the previous high set by the 2008 squad by one win.
The Bulldogs' postseason extended all the way to the Division II regional championship game, where the season came to a close, duplicating the tournament effort put forth by the '08 team.
Senior Tom Morehouse emerged as Woodridge's team leader, commanding its defense from behind the plate, where he surfaced as the league's elite catcher, while also proving lethal at the plate. His individual dominance earned him the honor of County Division Player of the Year.
"He was definitely the leader of our team," Woodridge's veteran head coach Dennis Dever said. "When we were on defense, he would take care of making all the calls and making sure the guys threw the ball to the right places. As a catcher, he was an incredible blocker, so he didn't let any balls get by him. He also had a really good arm behind the plate. He's as good of a catcher as I've had in all the years I've been coaching."
Morehouse finished his senior season with a .982 fielding percentage, and he allowed only a few stolen bases.
"Teams just didn't run on us a whole lot because Tommy was back there, which obviously helps our defense quite a bit by not giving any free bases or stolen bases," Dever said.
On top of his defensive prowess, Morehouse's offense was also top of the line.
He led the team in RBI with 28, he was second in runs scored with 32, he broke school record for walks in a season with 26, posted a .326 average and a .472 on-base percentage.
"He's a vocal leader and he leads by example," Dever said. "He's a great role model for the underclassmen because he works hard every practice and every game. He was a kid that was a four-year starter for me, so he's been around the program for a long time. He knows what I expect of him, he knows what I want from him and he did that for us all year long. He was a great leader and the kids really followed him."
Dever just completed his 15th season as the Bulldogs' coach and for the seventh time, he was named the league's Coach of the Year by his peers. And the future looks bright for the program, despite losing seven seniors from this year's team.
The Bulldogs' junior varsity team set a school record with 19 wins
"I've got a lot of good returning varsity players coming back -- actually several. We're going to have a lot of good JV kids that are going to be in the mix," Dever said. "Then our freshman team played a really tough schedule, and we had couple standouts on the freshman team who may also contribute to the varsity. So I think we'll be just fine next year."
Along with Morehouse, two more key players Woodridge graduates are Kevin Kelleher and Justin Whitely, who both made First Team All-County Division.
Kelleher, a pitcher and first baseman, committed only two errors on the season. He led the team in batting average at .476 and on-base percentage at .528. His 25 RBI were second on the team behind Morehouse.
"He was a great player for us. Obviously, even as a pitcher, too, he was a guy who won a lot of big games for us at the end. He was definitely one of our best players," Dever said.
Whitely played right field and was the second on the team with his .416 batting average. He led the team in runs scored with 38 and hits with 47. He also had 16 RBI.
While the Bulldogs will lose three First Team players for the 2015 season, they will return the same number. Mike Seminatore was a First-Team selection as a starting pitcher with a 7-0 record and 2.77 ERA. In 53 innings pitched, he collected 53 strikeouts and gave up 11 walks.
Mike Walter received a First-Team selection after a season playing third base, left field, shortstop and also functioning as Woodridge's closing pitcher. He hit .298, with 19 runs and 20 RBI. As a closer, he threw 13 innings, ending the year 1-0 with three saves and a 1.08 ERA.
Tom Finegan also received a First-Team honor at third base. He hit .314, scored 21 times and drove in 20.
Graduating or returning for 2015, all six players shared two always important traits: Hard working and role models.
The combination of the two allowed Woodridge to meet and exceed team goals set prior to the year.
"We set several team goals at the beginning of the year. One of them was to win 20 games, so winning 28 was definitely over achieving," Dever said. "Setting out to win the league and going undefeated like we did was obviously a great accomplishment. We also set a goal to win a district championship, which we did and then we won one more game to reach the regional finals.
"We definitely played as a team and the kids got along really well," Dever said. "They bought into the program and what we need from them. There really weren't selfish players out there."
Rounding out the County Division's First Team were Josh Lock, a senior pitcher from Southeast; Gage Simpkins, a senior pitcher from Streetsboro; Connor Formick, a junior catcher from Rootstown; Roy Jennings, a senior infielder from Waterloo; Chris DeMars, a junior infielder from Roostown; Jacob Flarida, a senior outfielder from Waterloo; Anthony Testa, a senior outfielder from Rootstown; Austin Szemacs, a senior from Streestboro and Nick Sigworth, a senior from Southeast.