Nordonia baseball saw a season full of promise come to an end last week in a bit of a disappointing fashion.
The Knights opened the week successfully by defeating Shaker Heights 9-7 in the nine innings in Division I sectional playoff game. That win led Nordonia to face top-seeded Walsh Jesuit in a sectional final Tuesday. The Knights played well, but lost 5-2 to the Warriors, eliminating them by postseason contention.
Any momentum from the playoffs dissipated Wednesday, as the Knights suffered an 11-0 loss in five innings to North Royalton in its home finale. The Knights then lost 10-6 to Cuyahoga Falls Thursday at Water Works Park in its season finale.
Nordonia finished the season at 9-15, 3-11 in the Suburban League National Conference.
According to coach Drew Hoisington, the Knights has a bit of tough week mentally after being eliminated from the playoffs.
"After Monday's game, we were playing really good baseball," Hoisington said. "We were 8-4 in our last 12 going into the last two games. It was kind of hard to get going again for games Wednesday and Thursday. When you have to make up for league games after the tournaments, it’s hard to get up again. We also decided to led some guys see time who hadn’t played earlier in the year.
"I think there was just a letdown after the Walsh playoffs game," Hoisington added.
Hoisington noted the Shaker Heights game was a back-and-forth affair, with Nordonia rallying from early deficits of 2-0 and 3-1.
"I knew Shaker was a good team going in," Hoisington said. "We got out of some huge spots defensively in the last few innings. We were able to break through in the ninth and hold on."
The winning runs were scored for Nordonia in the ninth inning when Shaker’s shortstop dropped the ball on a two-out pop up.
Senior Blake Williams improved to 2-2 on the season, as he was able get the Knights through the final inning.
Senior Peter Toula went 2-of-4 with an RBI, while junior Brendan O’Donnell went 1-of-3 with two RBI in the win.
Against Walsh Jesuit, Hoisington said his team had plenty of chances to do well against his alma mater.
"We left nine guys on base," Hoisington said. "We grounded into three inning-ending double plays. Execution early in the game was no good for us. To have opportunities against the No. 1 seed like that, you have to take advantage of them.
Down 5-0 in the top of the seventh, Nordonia tried to rally. The Knights scored two runs and had the bases loaded with one before Walsh was able to end the game.
"They definitely field the balls you hit at them," Hoisington said. "They don’t beat themselves."
Junior Joey DeRusso (0-3) took the loss, going 5 and 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts.
Senior Mason Mimms went 3-of-3, junior Robby Levak went 2-of-3 and sophomore Mike Hamrick went 1-of-3 with an RBI.
Senior Night against North Royalton turned into a clunker for the Knights, as the Bears pounded out 13 hits in the win to Nordonia’s two.
"It's hard coming back after a playoff loss," Hoisington said. "North Royalton just beat us. It was kind of one of those games."
Senor Dylan Hiles (4-1) suffered his first loss of the season, giving up two earned runs on nine hits with two strikeouts in 2 and 2/3 innings of work. Nordonia’s defense didn’t help, as it committed four errors.
Against Cuyahoga Falls, Nordonia chose to play a younger roster and fell behind 8-0 before attempting to rally.
"We kind of shot oursevelves in the foot early," Hoisington said. "We hit a lot of balls hard at people."
In hist first start of the season, junior Kyle Chonko (0-1) took the loss, allowing eight runs on seven hits in 2 and 1/3 innings.
Junior Vince Varner went 2-of-3 with a double and an RBI, sophomore Caleb Cunningham went 1-of-3 with an RBI double and Chonko went 1-of-2 with an RBI.
Hoisington noted this spring was a tale of two seasons.
"This year was definitely a struggle early on," Hoisington said. "We started 1-9 but in that we played a lot of playoff teams. Playing nine league games in row early on hurt us.
"We kind of started to put it together after that night game at Hudson, where we lost 1-0. If this season were next season with the added week of regular season time, we could have done better.
Nordonia loses its top hitter in Mims, its top pitcher in Hiles, along with Toula, Williams, Sammy Blazenyak, Nick Priest and Nick Kovacs to graduation. Despite these losses, Hoisington believes the future will be better for the Knights.
"In looking at what comes back, we have nine returners who will be seniors and four sophomore who will be juniors next year," Hoisington said. "We have a lot of varsity guys coming back who have significant time. There will be lot of hungry players to come back and show this year was not really us."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC