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High School Baseball

District win over Medina brings redemption for Highland

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    Medina's J.T. Scoarste (7) dives to catch a fly ball hit by Highland's Sam Zeleznik (21) in the top of the seventh inning, in Barberton. Highland won 8-5 to win the district title.

    NICK CAMMETT / GAZETTE

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    (L to R) Highland's Gavin Noble, Jonathan Ambro and Jackson Miller celebrate after defeating Medina 8-5 to win the district title, in Barberton.

    NICK CAMMETT / GAZETTE

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NORTON — Deep down, the Highland baseball team knew its No. 7 seed at the Barberton Division I District was absurd. The Hornets were too deep, experienced and tight-knit to toil around .500.

Don’t tell Wadsworth, Archbishop Hoban and Medina they lost to an underdog. A swift smack to the jaw may follow.

Medina County’s laughingstock in the 1990s and early 2000s isn’t sneaking up on anyone these days, as Highland used near-flawless offensive execution and a gritty start from Jonathan Ambro on Wednesday to eliminate the top-seeded Bees 8-5 in the district championship game.

The Hornets (17-9), who are 10-1 in May, advanced to the Canton Regional for a May 24 date against Euclid District winner Mentor (16-6) at Thurman Munson Stadium.

Since going 1-21 in 2004, Highland is 218-157 (.581) with four district crowns (2007, ’08, ’16, ’18).

“This is just crazy right now, especially since last year Medina (beat Highland in the tournament) and this was a big redemption game,” said shortstop Gavin Noble, who reached base four times and scored three runs. “We’re all so close together, and we’re all having a fun time in the dugout. There’s no tension.”

Situational hitting was part of the reason Highland failed to grab a share of the Suburban League American Conference title in an 8-1 loss to Tallmadge last week, but coach Jay Grissom’s team was absolutely brilliant against Medina.

All told, the Hornets had 10 singles, seven walks, two hit by pitches, two sacrifice bunts, a sacrifice fly and a flawless hit-and-run. Nos. 4-8 hitters Noble, Bryce Budzinski, Jackson Miller, Billy Keller and Andrew Shaw were officially 6-for-6 with six RBIs and seven runs through the deciding initial five innings, with Keller finishing the game 0-for-0 with two walks, a hit by pitch and sac bunt.

Leadoff man Tyler Savron added three hits.

“Everybody just stepped up at the right times,” said Shaw, who had three RBIs. “We did a good job with situational hitting. Any time there was somebody on base, we just found a way to get it done.”

Highland chased Benedictine transfer Levi Pokersnik (2-1) after two outs and scored on two-strike, two-run singles by Miller and Shaw — one opposite field to left, one down the right-field line — to lead 4-0 through one inning. Medina cut the deficit to 5-2 in the fourth, but the Hornets answered immediately with a Budzinski hit-and-run RBI single and added two more runs on an infield error.

Medina did little to close the gap until bringing the tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh.

“We caught a right hook in the first round, and it knocked us down,” Bees coach Nick Kaplack said. “The biggest difference was there was a swing and a foul tip (with two outs). If it happens to go in the catcher’s glove, there’s no four runs in the first inning.”

Ambro (2-1) was part of the reason why Medina couldn’t get any momentum.

In only his third start of the season, the big right-hander struck out 11, including four of the first five batters, and had a two-hitter through six innings. Medina entered averaging 7.2 runs but didn’t get on the board until the fifth, when Hunter Havekost belted an opposite-field RBI double to left and Aaron Masek followed with a RBI groundout.

Freshman Jake Johnson added a two-run single and Pokersnik made it 8-5 on an infield base hit. Calming mound visits by pitching coach Mike Weyand and Grissom helped Ambro induce a game-ending lazy fly ball to right field.

“Outstanding. He couldn’t do any better,” Shaw said of Ambro. “He was just pounding the zone and got a lot of strikeouts. He really didn’t give them much of a chance.”

The season changed after April 30, when Highland lit up the best pitcher in the SL American, Bowling Green State recruit Tyler Hays, but still lost to Copley 9-7. Confidence was gained quickly, and the Hornets have won a whopping eight games by four or fewer runs since.

With eight seniors in the starting lineup, they aren’t ready for summer break quite yet.

“It’s crazy how much talent we have on this team,” Noble said. “One through nine — even one through 17 on the bench — it’s a big team.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Highland 8, Medina 5

Barberton Division I District Final

Highland (17-9) Medina (16-12)

AB R H BI AB R H BI

Savron cf 5 1 3 0 J. Johnson ss 4 0 1 2

Zeleznik c 5 0 1 0 Pokersnik p 3 1 1 1

Ambro p 4 0 0 0 Scoarste cf 3 1 0 0

Noble ss 2 3 2 0 Havekost rf 3 0 1 1

Budzinski 1b 3 1 2 1 Masek dh 3 0 1 1

Miller 3b 1 2 1 2 Herman 3b 2 0 0 0

Keller 2b 0 0 0 0 Stout c 2 0 0 0

Shaw lf 2 1 1 3 Freeman 1b 3 0 1 0

Chema rf 4 0 0 0 Cavey 2b 2 0 0 0

E. Johnson lf 0 0 0 0

Fischer p 0 0 0 0

Keine p 0 0 0 0

Fultz pr 0 1 0 0

Luccareli ph 1 1 1 0

Csiszar ph 1 0 0 0

Chester pr 0 1 0 0

Totals 26 8 10 6 Totals 27 5 6 5

HIGHLAND 401 030 0 — 8 10 0

MEDINA 000 200 3 — 5 6 2

LOB — Highland 9, Medina 4. DP — Medina (6-4-3). E— Herman, Scoarste. 2B — Havekost. SB — Noble. CS — J. Johnson. S — Miller, Keller. SF — Shaw.

IP H R ER BB SO

Highland

Ambro (W, 2-1) 7 6 5 5 2 11

Medina

Pokersnik (L, 2-1)



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