Elyria Catholic’s Joey Begany isn’t satisfied.
Fresh off a season in which he was first-team All-Ohio, All-Lorain County and All-West Shore Conference — along with helping the Panthers into a district championship game against Keystone — Begany wants more.
“I’m still bitter,” he said.
The Panthers blew a sixth-inning lead in a 7-6 loss to Keystone to exit the tournament trail. They were eliminated 1-0 by Keystone the previous season.
“I remember the feeling after the district final, I never thought I could be so sad and angry over baseball,” Begany said of the 2013 loss. “The hardest part of that loss was looking at my teammates, seeing all the seniors, the guys I look up to, break down. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I never want to be in this moment again.’ It was tough because I thought we had that game. We were the better team I felt, but that’s not the way baseball works.”
Begany, a senior pitcher/first baseman, feels grateful for his accomplishments and was happy with the successful season he had, but as proud as he was of earning All-Ohio, he said he would have traded it for a district championship.
“I was thrilled, but I’d rather see my team advance,” Begany said. “I didn’t even find out about making All-Ohio until our awards ceremony at the end of the year when Coach told me. It was an awesome moment. I’ll never forget that feeling, either, but I would trade in any award for my team to go farther.”
Begany not only wants to help lead the Panthers to their first district title since 2003, he wants to be part of the first EC team to win a state championship. With Keystone moving up to Division II, it makes the Panthers’ district road a bit smoother.
“I’ve been thinking a lot of what it would mean to this school to win a state championship,” Begany said. “I feel like we have the potential with the talent we have. We feel like we’re the underdogs and we shouldn’t be.
“Our slogan this year is ‘RIP,’ which means respect, intensity and pride, and that’s what we plan to go by.”
EC coach Bruce Lisicky likes the theme, which the Panthers shout before every practice. He explains it as having respect for your opponent and the game, playing with high intensity and taking a lot of pride in yourself.
The Panthers had their ups and downs last season, finishing with a 15-14 record and a 5-9 mark in the West Shore Conference. The team really stood out during its tournament run that ended a game short of a regional appearance.
“We’re looking forward, we’ve dwelled on that loss long enough,” Lisicky said. “We play a tough schedule so that when we get to districts, we could make a nice tournament run. This year, we have at least seven players back that gained experience from last year. The question will be our pitching.”
Begany will be the ace, but is the only proven pitcher returning. He went 3-2 with a 1.71 ERA last season, with 40 strikeouts in 41 innings. He also led the team at the plate with a .462 batting average, with 33 RBIs. He had a team-high 11 doubles mixed in his 43 hits.
“He’s more of a quiet leader, one of those kids that lead by example,” Lisicky said. “It starts in the weight room. The players see his work ethic and it rolls off on them. You could tell he’s not satisfied with his accomplishments last year. He’s really worked hard this offseason to get better.”
In the summer, Begany plays for the T-3 Rays, a Diamond League 18-and-under travel team that is comprised of top-notch players from around the state. He’s been part of the T-3 Rays organization for four years and has been a part of quite a few tournament championship teams.
“He has a great personality, he’s fun to be around,” Lisicky said. “He’s just an all-around great player and person. He’s our best pitcher. He’s our best hitter.
“He only struck out two times all season. He’s very disciplined at the plate. He has home run power, but he doesn’t try to hit home runs. He can hit the ball the opposite way. His approach is phenomenal. He doesn’t miss too many bad pitches.”
Begany said his approach at the plate is simple. He takes one at-bat and one pitch at a time. He said he’s consistent with his method and that’s what led him to the success he had last season.
“If I’m 2-for-2, I’m not thinking about getting two more hits to go 4-for-4 so that I can increase my batting average,” Begany said. “I never think like that. I go by the situation in the game and think of what I need to do and where I need to hit it. The key is to not try to do too much. I always try to make contact because when you make contact, good things happen. It paid off. I got a lot of hits that way.”