Roosevelt outlasts future conference rival Falls in baseball playoff opener
KENT — With Cuyahoga Falls making the switch from the American Conference to the National Conference in the Suburban League next school year, many of its traditional rivals are being left behind.
However, the Black Tigers' move also means they will rekindle their conference rivalry with Kent Roosevelt for the first time since both teams were members of the Western Reserve Conference.
At least one Rough Rider coach looks happy about that.
"I grew up in Kent. Our rivals were always Stow, Falls, Hudson and Ravenna," said Roosevelt baseball coach Mike Haney. "For my kids, they sometimes don't understand what this rivalry means, because Falls hasn't been with them.
"Them coming here is a big deal for us. I've always tried to keep Falls and Stow on my schedule. We ended up playing them three times this year."
Before Falls can officially restart that rivalry, however, there was the small matter of postseason baseball.
Falls made the trip to Roosevelt Park to face the Rough Riders in a Division I opening round game Tuesday.
Falls coach Brian Shannon played the Rough Riders as conference foes during his career with the Black Tigers. How does he feel about Falls-Roosevelt?
"I think that the conference rivalry got reignited right here tonight," Shannon said.
The contest felt like a backyard rivalry game with raucous fans supporting both teams. However, Falls will have to wait until next spring to hear those fans again.
Roosevelt rushed out to an 8-1 lead after four innings and held on for an 8-6 win.
With the victory, the Rough Riders advance to face North Canton Hoover on Thursday in a sectional final game. Falls ended the season at 2-23.
Haney noted neither tame played clean baseball, but the most important thing was "survive and advance."
"Without question. We've done a lot of growing up this year," Haney said. "In this capacity, in the postseason, we've got to be able to move on first and foremost. We also know that we need to be able to play clean baseball.
"Tomorrow we're going to work on cleaning up things and get ready for Hoover. We know they are decorated and we knew that we have to be at our best."
Shannon lauded his team's comeback attempt, even as he had to say goodbye to his six senior players.
"We've been fighting uphill battles all season," Shannon said. "We talked to our guys about emptying the tank. They emptied the tank today."
Falls ace Brady Semick had a rough go, lasting only two innings and giving up five runs on five hits. The Falls defense didn't help much, committing three errors and several other miscues.
"It's just wasn't Brady's day today," Shannon said.
Roosevelt took the early lead when lead-off man Donovan Daetwyler led off with a single and scored on an RBI single by Logan Poole.
Daetwyler also took a bad-hop ball to the face but continued to play.
"He just showed off his toughness," Haney said. "How many players would just sit out after that?"
Falls tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the second with an RBI from Brady Parsons. But Roosevelt took the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the second, including an RBI single by Daetwyler.
Roosevelt made it 6-1 with back-to-back RBI singles by Nathan Fletcher and Zach Rogers.
The Rough Riders looked to be primed for scoring a mercy-rule win when Nolan Lane hit an RBI single, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a double steal to make it 8-1.
But Falls reliever Lakota Zrelak came on and held the Rough Riders scoreless in the last 2⅔ innings.
Falls then started the comeback.
Senior Teddy Nime started the rally with a two-run triple to the fence in left field. He scored on an infield single by Dylan Grochowski, who scored on an error to make it 8-5.
"Teddy has been our leader all season long," Shannon said. "He was with us from last fall and was at every Sunday workout. He's been the man for us."
Falls had a chance to tie in game in the seventh. Nime reached on an error and scored on a ground out. The Black Tigers then got the tying runs aboard on an infield single by Ryan McDonald.
Roosevelt escaped when Lane struck out Tyler Harris to finish a three-inning save. Nathan Stowhowski earned the win for Roosevelt.