Baseball | Greenmen battle injuries, but ready for postseason
Pitching and defense are always keys for postseason baseball and may also be big for Aurora as the Greenmen embark on sectional play.
The Greenmen earned the eighth seed and will play a sectional final at home on Thursday, May 20 at 5 p.m. against the first-round winner of Lyndhurst Brush (25th seed at 10-12 overall) and 26th-seeded Nordonia (6-14) in the Euclid Division I district.
At times this spring, the pitching staff has had command issues, but veteran coach Michael Brancazio has a positive feeling going into sectional action with not having to play a slew of games in a short time period.
In what may be the final game of the regular season, Kenston had a 10-0 win at Aurora on May 14.
Aurora, 13-7 overall, had some command issues against the strong Bombers (17-8).
A trio of junior pitchers were on the hill for Aurora in Colin Skolaris, Hunter Lane and Aidan Grubb, who had his first appearance. Grubb had 1⅔ innings of scoreless pitching.
“We must command the strike zone and that goes with pitching at any level,” said Brancazio.
“I spoke to the kids after Saturday’s great practice and we know who we are — if we have to approach the postseason with a pitch-by committee approach with a few guys going a couple of innings, then we will do that,” added Brancazio.
Brancazio pointed out that the postseason will not rely on heavy innings of work within a couple of days.
“I feel good with our staff as we won’t be playing five or six games in a week,” he said.
Aurora’s 6-foot-5 Jack Fecko (a Central Michigan recruit) was lost for the season, which put the youthful pitching staff behind early on this spring.
Offensively, Aurora has been good and much like the club’s defense, will improve when Aurora doesn’t have long innings with a lot of balls and strikes on the mound.
Singles against Kenston were by juniors Chase Gerbrick, Kepler Rhoden, Ryan Weber, and Anthony Dolata, along with sophomore Ben Schechterman.
“We need to command the strike zone and when we struggle, that leaves the defense stagnant, and can also affect the offense,” said Brancazio, alluding to some unearned runs in a tough 8-7 league loss at Medina Highland on April 13.
Senior catcher Andrew Horvath, headed to the University of Akron, took the loss on the mound at Highland as he pitched well in a two-inning stint. He has team-highs of three wins and one save with a 2.40 earned run average.
Brancazio has a slew of position players that have shown the ability to pitch, which may extend the staff a bit and the depth that Aurora has focused on this spring to initially combat potential COVID scheduling issues.
“We have some versatility and that’s one of the silver linings of our injuries this year, is that we can move people around,” said Brancazio, who has Rhoden, who can catch, and allow Horvath (3-1) to pitch or senior OF Sean Fritinger, and Schecterman, among others.
Weber had a big day against the Hornets as he went 3-for-3 with what may be a school-record five stolen bases. He also had an RBI.
Senior Mikey Mylott sometimes doesn’t see many pitches as the Bradley recruit is dangerous with his power.
It will be interesting to see how postseason foes will approach Mylott, who had two RBIs at Highland for a team-high 31 RBIs.
Michael Carpenter, a senior, and Gerbrick are back healthy for Aurora’s postseason. Carpenter will likely remain at DH and had a double and two RBIs at Highland.
Mark Luke, a senior, along with sophomore Andy Eichenauer, can help on the hill, along with Lane. Sophomore righty Nathan Balkissoon had a career-high 104-pitch outing in relief recently against Revere.
Junior Tyler Fernandez has had a solid season at the plate while senior Ben Duncan will be available for pinch-hitting duties in the postseason.
If Aurora wins the sectional final, the Greenmen would advance to a district semifinal clash in Euclid on May 25 at 5 p.m.