Division I State Preview

By Dylan Hefflinger



No. 21 Westlake (23-6) vs. Massillon Perry (21-10) 4 p.m. Thursday

No. 21 Westlake, under the direction of Hall of Fame head coach Jeff Short, has advanced to district play 12 times in the past 16 seasons but the Demons are making their first Final Four appearance in school history. Short is planning on retiring after coaching the program since 1991. Westlake, which was 11-14 last season and started 4-4 this year, beat perennial power No. 33 Cleveland St. Ignatius 6-4 in the Regional semis, then rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat No. 4 Ashland 10-7 in the Regional final. Spencer Offredo drove in five runs in that win. Senior Kevin Neumann is 6-0 on the mound this season, while senior third baseman Andy Haders is a leader at the plate with a .341 BA for a team with 14 seniors. Danny Strodtbeck is 6-2 pitching and hitting .357 while lead-off hitter Corey Bowers is batting .311 with 16 stolen bases.

Although Perry finished second to Boardman in the Federal League, the Panthers won both their first Division I District and Regional titles under first-year head coach Dave Jones. After topping No. 26 North Canton Hoover 6-5 for a district championship, the Panthers defeated No. 7 Hudson 2-1 and No. 14 Chardon 5-2 for the Regional crown. Three different pitchers, Jake Flounders, Tyler Patterson and Gary Lawrence, have started tournament games for Perry, which starts six of seven seniors on the roster. Flounders (7-1), a senior lefty, threw a four-hitter in the regional semis, while Lawrence (4-2) fanned 15 in the regional finals. Patterson is 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA. Senior Sam Mathie leads Perry in hits, runs scored and doubles with a .387 batting average for a team that was the No. 8 seed heading into the sectional-districts.

No. 1 Grove City (25-2) vs. No. 2 Cincinnati Moeller (22-5) 7 p.m. Thursday

No. 1 Grove City returns to Huntington Park after losing in the semis last year to eventual champion Liberty Twp. Lakota East. Grove City is in the state tournament for the fourth time in school history. The Greyhounds defeated Lewis Center Olentangy 11-1 before defeating No. 15 Lewis Center Olentangy Orange 7-4 to claim the Regional championship. Senior Mitchell Stephens returns as the ace of the staff from a year ago. Stephens was the winning pitcher against Orange to improve to 9-0, getting out of a no-out bases-loaded jam with his team trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning. Stephens then had a RBI single in the fifth and two-run single in the sixth. The team is strong up the middle with Otterbein recruit Tyler Kent in centerfield, Jimmy Gravitt at shortstop, and standout junior Drew Nankivell behind the plate. Other key contributors include senior IF/RHP Brandon Gooch as well as junior first baseman Drew Artrip.

No. 2 Cincinnati Moeller is back to Columbus for the ninth time, having won five state championships, with the last coming in 2009. A talented Moeller squad features such hitters as junior Spencer Iacovone (.418, 5 HR), Ohio University recruit Ty Amann (.385, 7 triples) and sophomore Ohio State verbal commit Zack Shannon (.325, 3 HR). Catcher Bradley Macciochhi (.356, Wright State), Jordan Simpson (.307, Furman), junior Cameron Whitehead and outfielders Ryan LeFevers (.346) and Nick Edwards (.351, Ashland) are other standouts in the Moeller lineup. Brian Burkhart is 9-1 with a 0.82 ERA to lead a deep staff that includes John Tanner (4-0, 2.30 ERA, Ohio U football) and Zach Williams (5-0, 1.97 ERA, Bellarmine). Burkhart threw a no-hitter against No. 25 Cincinnati Anderson in the 3-0 victory in the Regional semis. The Crusaders defeated Greater Catholic League rival No. 16 Cincinnati Elder 6-4 to claim the Regional Championship. Moeller has now won 14 of 15.