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Walks and miscues doom Ravenna baseball in district semifinal loss to Chagrin Falls

By Jonah Rosenblum Staff Writer Published: May 16, 2017 4:00 AM

On the sunniest of days in Euclid, a snowball struck the Ravens' playoff run.

With numerous walks and miscues causing congestion on the bases, Ravenna dropped a 10-0 decision to Chagrin Falls in the Division II Euclid District semifinals. The top-seeded Tigers advance to take on CVCA, which outlasted Woodridge 1-0 on an adjacent field, for a district title this afternoon.

"It snowballed," Ravens coach Aaron Rauber said. "You make one mistake, and then the next one's a mistake, and then the next one's a mistake, and the next one's a mistake, and before you know it, there are three runs on the board and you're like, 'How did that happen?'"

It's not that the Tigers (23-5) hit or threw the ball particularly hard. In fact, Ravens hurler Andy Prentice yielded just three hits in his 3 1/3 innings on the mound. Chagrin Falls was remarkably patient at the plate, however, laying off Prentice's two-strike breaking balls and drawing six walks overall.

"He's really good when he gets strike one. I don't know if he got a lot of strike ones today," Rauber said. "They weren't biting on a lot of his off-speed stuff. They didn't chase his curveball, they didn't chase his change-up and that made them pretty tough to deal with."

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Ravenna (12-9) dodged an opening foray of walks, but Chagrin Falls scored three in the third and five in the fourth, as the Ravens' walks and fielding mistakes eventually led to big innings for the Tigers.

Sam Dolan led off the Chagrin Falls third with a walk, the third consecutive frame the Tigers started with a base on balls. Jack Amendola followed with a bunt that soared halfway down the first-base line before dying in the grass. Prentice went over to pick it up and hurriedly shoveled the ball to first baseman Nathan Holt, who couldn't corral the one-hopper. Cole Newbauer followed by taking four straight balls to load the bases, and Kyle Zaluski blooped a full-count pitch to short right for a 2-0 lead.

"We can't walk, walk, walk, walk," Rauber said. "They got a lot of their runs off walks. You can only walk so many guys before it eventually comes back to hurt you."

With runners on the corners, one out and the Tigers looking to expand on their 2-0 lead, the Ravens' mistakes in the field began to add up.

Zaluski took off for second and was caught in a rundown. As Zaluski ran between the bases, Newbauer dashed home. The Ravens pivoted, trying to get Newbauer at the plate and abandoning Zaluski, ultimately getting neither. Erik Wilson, the hitter at the time, walked, and with runners again on the corners, Wilson, the base-runner at first, took off. Once more, Wilson was safe at second and Zaluski scored.

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"I told them at the beginning of the game, every time you go up a level, from league play to sectional play, from sectional play to district play, from then on, your margin of error gets smaller every time," Rauber said. "The things you were getting away with earlier in the season, now you're not getting away with."

Already holding a 4-0 lead despite notching a single hit, the Tigers started bashing the ball in the fourth. Andrew Kwasny lashed a one-out pitch into the left-field corner, Sam Dolan reached on another Ravenna error, and both scored on Amendola's grounder through the middle to put Chagrin Falls up by six. Zaluski tacked on two more runs with his high chopper down the third-base line.

That was more than enough for Tigers pitcher Erik Wilson, who relentlessly pounded the strike zone en route to five scoreless.

"He was throwing fastball, fastball, fastball, and then once you got down in the count, he'd give you a breaking ball or a change-up or something," Ravenna senior left fielder Brady Starkey said. "He just pounded the zone the whole game."

Wilson's fastball wasn't overpowering per se, Prentice probably threw harder, but Wilson tossed first-pitch strikes to 14-of-19 batters faced. The efficient right-hander never threw more than 15 pitches in an inning until the fifth, notching a complete-game shutout on just 66 pitches.

"He threw around the strike zone, even the balls he threw," senior leadoff hitter John Morgan said. "He hit the outside part, which the umpire called."

The Ravens failed to record multiple runners in an inning until the fifth and final frame, by which point they already trailed 9-0.

The few times they did put themselves in position to score, they caught bad breaks. With a runner on second and two outs in the second, Starkey rallied back from an 0-2 count to go full, taking a 1-2 pitch just low. Having earned his opportunity at 3-2, the left fielder took advantage, smashing a line drive right at Wilson, who deftly flicked his glove in front of his chest to make the snag.

"I told Brady the hardest ball you hit all year is going to be the one you look back on and go, 'It wasn't even a hit,'" Rauber said. "That really hurt, because I know that's into centerfield, and we provably score a run, and then it's 1-1, and you never know what happens after that."

With a runner on first in the fourth, still trailing by a manageable 4-0 margin, Michael Wunderle pulled a pitch just wide of third base, later flying to center for the final out of the inning.

"We couldn't get the key hit," Morgan said. "We had runners on. We couldn't get the rally going. We couldn't piece together a bunch of hits."

Joe Teeple provided a highlight for the Ravens, coming out of the bullpen in the fourth and throwing his soft curveball consistently for strikes. No one-trick pony, Teeple started the fifth with a soft curve for strike one, then blew the leadoff hitter away with hard heat.

While there was little else to cheer about for the blue-clad fans at Euclid's Stanic Field on Monday afternoon, the good news for the Ravens is they still have at least one more chance to end 2017 on a good note, with their final league game against Streetsboro.

"It's nice because nobody wants to leave with a bad taste in their mouth," Starkey said.


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