The Sheffield Venom — Class F county and state champions in 2012 — claimed the Class EE (U16) Lorain County Hot Stove championship with a convincing 11-3 win over North Ridgeville at Wellington Community Park on Wednesday night.
Sheffield (15-0) will begin its quest for back-to-back state titles Saturday when it faces Ravenna in Grafton at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
“We looked really rusty and it showed in our hitting and fielding,” said Sheffield coach Mark Racz, whose team had not played in 19 days. “This is a really busy group and we tried to get them together for a quick practice this week, but we have not been on the field together for a game since June 28th.”
One guy who didn’t look rusty was Venom starting pitcher Brad Hughes, who pitched three perfect innings to pick up the win.
“I was able to play in some tournaments to try and stay sharp, but my team really picked me up with some great defense,” Hughes said.
“I know I have to get right back on the mound Saturday when we face Ravenna. We just want to win four more games for another state championship.”
While Hughes was shutting down North Ridgeville (7-6), the Venom offense got him quick support by scoring a run in the first inning — Kyle Svenson scored on the back end of a double steal — and five more in the third.
Svenson drove in the first run of the third with a single to right, Drew Cameron scored two with a ball through the left side and Nathan Jasko knocked in two more with a double to the left-center field fence for a commanding 6-0 lead.
“It was kind of difficult knowing that we haven’t seen live pitching in a while,”
said Drew, who went 2-for-3 with four RBIs. “We really had to get our work in today so we are ready to go in with our heads up against Ravenna on Saturday.”
After the Venom scored four more runs in the fourth, the only remaining question was if the Rangers could break up the no-hitter. Kenny Pierson relieved Hughes and the pair held the Rangers without a hit into the fifth inning.
After an error, Pierson got the next two batters before Casey Bernhardt’s infield single broke up the no-hitter. Logan Armaro and Austin Leininger followed with hits to score a pair of runs and avoid the mercy rule finish.
“I’m kind of glad we got to play a couple more innings,” Racz said. “It was a really long, long layoff and we really needed to get back to playing the game. Who knows what will happen next year, so we are going to concentrate on trying to win four more games and go for another state championship.”
Class GG (U11)
Firelands 16, Buckeye GPM 14
When in doubt, hit the ball hard.
Firelands’ Gavin Marker did just that with one out in the bottom of the seventh and his team trailing 14-13. Marker cleared the bases with a double to give Firelands (23-1) a walk-off win over Buckeye GPM and capture the county championship.
“I was just thinking about getting a base hit,” Marker said. “I just wasn’t scared to bat against their pitcher since coach pitches harder to us when we practice. I was looking for a change-up and I was able to hit it really hard.”
After jumping out to a 5-1 lead, Firelands watched Buckeye (20-3) score four times in the top of the third and seven times in the fourth to take a 12-9 lead.
That set up a wild finish as Marker and Aaron Urban led a four-run bottom of the fourth for Firelands to re-take the lead at 13-12.
Buckeye added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings for the 14-13 lead before Marker’s game-winning shot.
“We just never quit and we’ve had that attitude all year,” Firelands coach Chris Yoby said. “Some of these kids do this 12 months out of the year and their hard work paid off.
“We have been focused since Day 1 and these kids have been down before and have come through in the last inning. This team just has never quit.”
Class G (U12)
Buckeye MTD 13, Vermilion DRD Wildcats 5
Buckeye MTD captured the county championship by scoring early and often against the Vermilion DRD Wildcats.
Buckeye (18-2) scored eight times in the opening three innings to take an 8-1 lead before Vermilion (20-3) started scratching its way back into the game.
Noah Cacciatore reached on a hit and Ryan Whitaker walked, and both came around to score in the fourth inning to trim the Buckeye lead to 8-3.
The Wildcats got within 8-5 in the fifth as Caden Cooper homered to open the inning and Ridge Clark doubled and scored, but Vermilion got no closer as MTD scored the next five runs to claim the title.
“(Buckeye) capitalized on every mistake we made today,” Vermilion coach Ken Clark said. “When they had guys on base, they hit the ball at the opportune time.”
The same teams could face off again Sunday for a trip to the state tournament. Each will have to win its semifinal games Saturday to set up the chance to go to state.