By DON McCORMACK - firstname.lastname@example.org
While Jefferson and Edgewood will be keeping an eye on each other as they enter the district-tournament waters tonight in Division II contests at Havens Complex, the area’s other two sectional-championship squads won’t have to worry about distractions.
Coach Nathan Smith’s Pymatuning Valley Lakers will be the area’s lone representative at the Division III district at Euclid, while coach Ed Humes’ Riverside Beavers will fill the same role in Division I action, also at Mentor.
Smith & Co. (16-7) will take on Wickliffe (14-13) in a district semifinal Tuesday. The winner of the contest between the Lakers and the Blue Devils will meet the survivor of the other semifinal, pitting Gilmour Academy against Garrettsville Garfield, in the district championship game Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“I’m extremely pleased with how things have worked out,” Smith, who took over for longtime coach Steve Urchek this spring, said. “We started off 0-5 and we were really struggling.”
However, the Lakers, who feature six seniors, had a bit of an epiphany.
“I had to stay true to my convictions through that tough start and, too the guys’ credit, they stuck with it and turned things around,” Smith said. “We’ve won 16 of our last 18 games and ended up sharing the (Northeastern Athletic Conference) championship with Grand Valley.”
PV, which is in the district tournament for the first time since the 2000 season, will go with Darren Petrowski on the mound against Wickliffe on Tuesday.
The senior right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.38 earned run average this spring, having shared the workload on the bump with junior right-hander Hunter Rhoades (4-2, 3.20).
“Both Darren and Hunter have thrown very well for us this season,” Smith said. “We’re going with Darren on Tuesday as Hunter was the one who beat Bristol for us Friday night to give us our share of the NAC title.
“We have complete confidence in both guys, though, so we should be ready to go.”
The Lakers pounded their way past Cardinal, 15-12, to win their sectional championship last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Humes’ Beavers, who are 13-14 this season, will have to wait until Thursday to square off against top-seeded Mentor (19-5). The winner of that game will play the winner of the other semifinal between seventh-seeded Mayfield and eighth-seeded South in the district championship game Friday at 7 p.m.
“I think we’re better than our 13-14 record indicates,” Humes, who will be looking for his 200th career win Thursday night (he’s 199-166, .545), said. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes, errors, that have cost us a lot of very close games.
“We’ve cleaned things up, though, and are playing much better down the stretch.”
Riverside will go with Dan Walters on the mound Thursday.
The junior right-hander is 3-1 with a 5.00 ERA, a number Humes said is deceiving.
“Dan has been much, much better of late,” he said. “He has a ton of big-game experience and he knows a bunch of the Mentor kids, too, from summer ball.
“He’ll be ready to go.”
Riverside earned the right to take on the top-seeded Cardinals by combing ninth-seeded Brush, 8-6, to capture its sectional crown Friday, its first sectional championship since 2005.