By DON McCORMACK - firstname.lastname@example.org
In a perfect world, Jefferson and Edgewood would prevail in their respective Division II district semifinal baseball contests tonight and square off Tuesday with a district championship on the line.
Of course, this world isn’t perfect, so Falcons coach Scott Barber and Warriors coach Bill Lipps will make do with what they have.
Namely, fourth-seeded Jefferson will look to plant top-seeded Chagrin Falls in one semifinal at Havens Complex in Jefferson Township today, while fifth-seeded Edgewood will look to knock off second-seeded Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.
And while both Barber and Lipps would love nothing better than an all-Ashtabula County district championship game Tuesday, they don’t have the luxury of spending more than a minute, perhaps two, contemplating such a matchup.
“Of course, it would be great to play Edgewood in the final,” Barber said. “What a crowd that would draw! But really, we can’t think about that. We have to focus on the task at hand, and that task for us is Chagrin Falls.”
Lipps fell in step with his fellow coach.
“Everyone keeps asking, ‘wouldn’t it be great to play Jefferson in the final,’” he said. “And, yeah, sure it would! But we aren’t looking anywhere past (today). We can’t afford to. All of our attention is on NDCL.”
Both teams needed two win a pair of sectional games to reach this point.
Jefferson (17-8) slipped past Orange in its opener, 2-1, a week ago today, then upended second-seeded West Geauga on its home dirt the next night, 4-2, to win its sectional championship, marking three straight seasons — and the eighth time in the last 12 campaigns.
Edgewood (15-7) got past 10th-seeded Geneva in its tournament lidlifter Monday, 1-0, then took out sixth-seeded Perry, 2-0, the next day to lay claim to its first sectional championship since 2008.
The Falcons tangled with the top-seeded Tigers earlier this season, dropping a 6-4 verdict at Cotton Field.
“It was a good ballgame,” Barber said. “But I know neither of us will be throwing the guys we threw that night, so it’s a whole different matter, this time.”
Barber, now 221-109 (.670) in his 13th season at the helm of his alma mater, will turn to Cole Erdel on the mound tonight.
The junior right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.77 earned run average this season.
“Cole is ready to go,” Barber said. “He threw very well in leading us past West Geauga last week and he had a good bullpen on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Lipps, now 52-42 (.553) overall and 31-14 (.689) in two seasons at his alma mater, Edgewood, will go with Alex Vencill on the bump today.
Vencill, a senior right-hander, is a perfect 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA for the Warriors this spring.
“Alex and Tony (Magda) (4-1, 3.50) have been pretty much a 1-A and a 1-B for us this season,” Lipps said. “Both have been at the front of the rotation for pretty much the last two seasons.
“We know we have to play defense, regardless. NDCL is going to hit the ball, so we have to make the plays behind our pitchers.”
Jefferson reached the district final a year ago, bowing out against Lake Catholic in the championship game.
With four seniors in the homestretch of their respective careers — second baseman Scott Davidson, outfielder Kyle Ashburn, pitcher-infielder Troy Bloom and outfielder Brett Powers — Barber said there’s no time like the present to get after it.
“It’s all we have left, so we’d better be taking it seriously,” he said. “All four teams left in the district are pretty even — I don’t see anyone being blown out.
“At this point, that’s about all we can ask for — a chance to go play and see how things shake out.”
Lipps, who lost several standouts to graduation from a team that went 16-7 last spring, has but two seniors on his roster in the form of Vencill and outfielder Louie Wisnyai.
“Considering what we lost to graduation, this was one of those wait-and-see-how-things-shake-out situations,” he said. “It was a matter of waiting to see how long it would take for some of these guys to become varsity ballplayers.
“As it turned out, it happened faster than we could have hoped. It ended up being good ballplayers were playing behind good ballplayers last year. Then, they put in a good summer playing ball, too.
“It wasn’t hamburger.”
Which works out well for both Ashtabula County squads, considering what’s at... stake.