Avon Eagles head coach Frank DeSmit has long joked with his team about “The Pipe Yard Curse.”
No matter how good of a regular season the Eagles had in previous years, they could never make it out of the district tournament and into the Sweet 16.
The Eagles finally got the win they have been chasing throughout program history, breaking “The Pipe Yard Curse,” to claim the school’s first ever district title with a 2-1 victory over Southwestern Conference rivals the Amherst Comets.
“I’m not going to lie, this was the goal all year. I always joke around that I’d love to see what the world looks like outside of Lorain, so I finally get to see what’s out there,” DeSmit said.
“We kind of pointed towards this, and we were hoping for a rematch [of the 2016 district title game], and we got it. Fortunately, we were able to make one more play than they did I guess.”
“It meant a lot. It was huge,” winning pitcher Logan Doenges said. “Coach DeSmit has always been preaching about ‘The Pipe Yard Curse,’ about how we always get here and our season ends. It felt great to do it for the team and coach.”
In a gritty game that lasted just over two hours, the Eagles had the offensive advantage that ultimately sealed their victory.
Avon’s first run came in the fourth inning off of Amherst’s Xavier Moore. Neil Strodtbeck recorded a single, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Strodtbeck made it to third after a single from Matt Kelly in the next at-bat.
A no-out sacrifice fly from Tommy Kocar at the bottom of the order would plate Strodtbeck to get the Eagles on the board.
By the fifth inning, the Eagles seemed poised to take advantage of any offensive opportunities that came their way. Stephen Ciarniello got on base after a walk to lead off the inning, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Doenges (who was hit by a pitch in his three other plate appearances).
Ciarnello ultimately scored the Eagles’ game winning run on an RBI single from Taylor Reynolds.
With a 2-0 lead heading into the sixth, however, the Eagles knew the Comets would keep coming at them. DeSmit subbed out Doenges, who finished the game with four complete innings and a two-hit, three-strikeout performance from the mound.
After another scoreless inning from William Laurendeau in the fifth, DeSmit moved Kocar from shortstop to pitcher.
Kocar walked Amherst’s Chad Jones and Moore, and then gave up a single to Ryan Glowacki to load the bases with no outs. Jones scored Amherst’s lone run of the game on a sacrifice fly from Jeremy Smith.
Kocar, who was credited with the save, said that he kept his composure on the mound by just focusing on locating his fastball.
“When they scored that run I was like all right, it’s still no harm, you’re still up by one,” he said.
“You still have the double play, just keep throwing strikes. Then we got the second out, we got the third out, and I was going from there, I just had a rhythm.”
“They’re a good team. We knew that they were going to keep coming after us,” DeSmit said.
“It’s really handy when everybody out on the field pretty much is a senior who has been there.”
Their third hit in the sixth inning would be the final hit of the game for the Comets.
In a four inning outing, Moore gave up one run, four hits and hit four batters, despite getting himself out of numerous jams in the first three innings.
In the fifth inning the Comets swapped Moore to third base for Brian D’Andrea, who was credited with his first loss of the season after the fifth inning RBI single from Reynolds.
While it wasn’t the best game for Amherst’s pitching staff, the difference in the game came in their eight runners that were stranded on base.
“I thought every pitcher that stepped on the mound pitched well. I believe it was an errorless game,” Amherst head coach Matt Rositano said.
“The difference was they were able to get a couple more hits than we were. I haven’t looked at the book yet, but I think we left a small army on base and that was the difference.”
For the Comets, the season ends with a share of the SWC title and a 23-6 record. Following the game, Rositano gave all the credit to his seniors.
“That senior class, 46 wins in two years is almost unheard of,” Rositano said.
“We were able to win a district championship last year…conference championship this year, 23 wins is a school record in a season, two years in a row. I’ve got nothing but love and respect for that group of seniors and I’m going to miss them.”
The Eagles will play the winner of the Barberton District on Thursday, May 25 at Cuyahoga County Community College.