The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


May 8, 2012

Gone, in a Flash

Lakers lead most of the way, but defensive lapses do them in late against Champion

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — Errors have plagued Pymatuning Valley coach Steve Urchek’s Laker team all season and they reared their ugly head again on Monday in a Division III sectional semifinal against the Champion Golden Flashes at PV.

The Lakers committed nine errors and let a 3-0 lead slip away as they fell to Champion, 7-4, after the Golden Flashes rallied to put up seven runs in the final two innings.

Hunter Rhoades took the hard-luck loss for PV (11-15), despite throwing a strong game, going the distance and allowing just five hits and striking out three.

“Hunter pitched his butt off the whole day,” Urchek said. “We had a pretty good idea how we were going to approach these hitters and he was executing pitches. It’s (errors) kind of been our Achilles’ heel all year. Through 18 games, we had 59 errors, that’s not real good. Then the last seven or eight we had less than 10.

“It was almost like we made up for it today.”

After building a 3-0 lead through five innings, Champion (6-14) came roaring back in the top of the sixth.

Rob Douglas reached on an error to start the inning and Trevor Foster followed with a walk.

After Rhoades got R.J. Schwab to line out to center, Kris Martinick doubled to deep left to bring home Douglas.

Coming off the bench, Brandon McFarland cleared the bases with a two-run single to right that tied the game.

McFarland went on to steal second and third and came home on another PV error to give Champion its first lead of the game, 4-3.

The Golden Flashes went on to get three more insurance runs in the top half of the seventh thanks in part to two more Laker errors.

“I told the kids at the beginning of the game you have to play all seven innings because you never know what can happen,” Champion coach Tim Cope said. “Their pitcher did a real nice job then the sixth inning we got a couple runs. He kept us really off balance til the sixth then we took advantage of their mistakes and got some big hits.”

The Lakers rallied in the seventh, though.

Pinch hitter Matt Degnan was hit by a pitch to start the inning then Aaron Cross smacked a single up the middle.

“Every one of these guys is playing their butts off,” Urchek said. “Aaron Cross came up the last inning, he struggled (today) and showed a lot of maturity, I always tell him he’s a varsity player.”

Travis Kiser was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

That brought Cope out of the dugout as he thought about pulling starting pitcher Joe Naylor, who was looking for the complete game.

Cope decided to leave Naylor in and he got John Burford to ground to third to bring home Degnan.

Naylor settled in, striking out Tim Cross looking then Chase Thurber put a charge into a ball to center, but Douglas was able to make the catch in deep center to end the game.

“It was a gutsy performance (by Naylor),” Cope said. “I went out and talked to him, I was going to make the change and he said, ‘No, Coach I got this.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to give you one more guy.’ We were fortunate we made the plays and it was a great effort on his part.”

The junior struck out nine over his seven innings work, allowing seven hits and four runs.

Urchek was proud of how his team battled back in the seventh inning.

“That last inning we had the bases loaded and got the tying run at the plate so we had a shot,” he said. “They’re (Champion’s) record isn’t real good, but they played some pretty good teams and they’ve struggled back and forth. It’s disappointing to lose but our guys never at one point of the game put their heads down. They were fighting until the end.”

PV built its lead scoring two runs in the first inning. Kiser led off with a single and Burford followed with a single of his own. Thurber brought home a run on a single to left and Darren Petrowski bunted home Burford to make it 2-0.

The Lakers added another run in the second when Rhoades led off the inning with a double and came home on a Kiser single to right.

“Their kid threw a good game,” Urchek said. “Whenever he needed to make some pitches, he made some pitches. We were up 3-0 and looked like we could break it open and he settled in and made it tough on us.”

After Kiser’s single, Naylor went on to get out the next eight PV batters and didn’t allow another run until the bottom of the seventh.

Although their playoff run comes to an end, PV does have one regular-season game remaining when it hosts Southington on Wednesday.

With a young group, Urchek believes his team exceeded the expectations of some, setting up for a stronger campaign in 2013.

“The biggest thing I’ve seen is the maturity and the composure and the way we swing the bat,” he said. “I haven’t had a team bat over .300 in five years and I got a bunch of freshman, sophomores and some juniors going out there and doing it. I know a lot of people thought this was going to be a really rough year. These guys rely on each other and I think we’ve created a really good team atmosphere to shoot into next year.

“We’ve just gotta fine tune some things.”

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