Last year’s season-ending 2-1 playoff loss to Padua was, for the Firelands Falcons, a moment of deja vu.
It was the second year in a row the team dropped a one-run game in the district semifinal.
To improve on an 18-12 record and get over that postseason roadblock, coach Dan Ransom will look to a mix of seniors and underclassmen. The loss to Padua followed a playoff win over Holy Name and a second place finish to Buckeye in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division. The Falcons took home a PAC Stars championship in 2015 with a 22-7 record, which was Ransom’s first season as coach.
“I think we just ran out of gas at the end last year,” said assistant coach Eric Urban at practice while Ransom was out of town. “We lost Jeremy Simonovich as a senior but Trevor Damron has been dominating for us for a while.”
In nine starts and 12 appearances last year as a junior, Damron posted a 1.24 earned run average and 111 strikeouts while giving up just 19 hits.
On the offensive side, sophomores Austin Urban and Alex Brill return after hitting .377 and .337 respectively as freshmen, good for first and fourth on the team. Seniors Nathan Kovach, Clayton Lucki, Dan Hribal and John Gall are expected to be key contributors as well as juniors Colin Ransom, Calvin Stull, Aaron Myers, and Evan Lacey.
“We had a large sophomore class,” said Urban. “That’s carried a lot of weight for us on many levels, those younger guys stepping up and proving themselves. Austin and Alex have started from day one and are a vital part of what we have as a program. The good thing about Brill is he can play pretty much any position. He’s also a growing pitcher who will be something special for us in the next few years.”
The coach said added pitching depth and a continued small ball approach should serve the team well.
“Last year, we hit the ball well. We had pitching but it was limited,” he said. “We weren’t deep. We had Simonovich and Damron but underneath that we weren’t deep. Dan Hribal just committed to Mount Union and is someone who can help our pitching staff out a lot in that regard this year. We could have a good run here. We’re still the same hitting team. We don’t have big power but enough to move guys around.”
As far as forecasting the PAC, Urban thinks a number of underclassmen are still waiting for their chance to make their mark.
“Buckeye is going to be a challenge again but you can’t ever count out Keystone,” he said. “They’re not going to give up and will surprise you. Wellington is a team that is kind of like we are. They showed a lot of promise late last year and are tough. There’s a lot of youth in the PAC and hopefully we come out on top.”
The Falcons are scheduled to open the season March 29 at home against Bay.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.