PRINTED IN THE GAZETTE ON 5/9/13
MEDINA — Dare to dream.
The odds were severely stacked against Medina’s baseball team. The Bees were down to their last out against Mentor, with their fate solely in their hands after learning Brunswick had defeated Strongsville.
Medina’s Brian Letts makes a diving catch against Mentor in the sixth inning.
(GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)
As coach Nick Kaplack and left fielder Mike Faschian learned May 20, 2011 — the day Medina scored nine runs in its last at-bat to stun Solon for a district title — anything is possible.
With runners on first and third Wednesday, Faschian hit a chopper to third baseman Caleb Potter, who promptly threw the ball in the dirt and into right field. Collin Minor and Mike Ellenbest scored, setting off a wild celebration behind home plate in a you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me 3-2 victory.
The Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title is officially shared by Medina (13-10, 7-3), Mentor (14-4, 7-3), Brunswick (16-8, 7-3) and Strongsville (11-10, 7-3), but the Bees were the lone team to defeat everyone in the six-team division that also includes Elyria and North Royalton.
“This is basically what happened two years ago. It’s all hitting me because it’s a good memory to have,” Faschian said. “We’re all talking about it, and we really wanted this conference. It was a team effort all the way through.”
The game started 30 minutes late due to a lightning delay, meaning the Brunswick-Strongsville showdown 15 miles away was likely to be finished well before the final out in Medina. Down 2-1 in the middle of the fifth inning, Kaplack informed his team the Blue Devils held off the Mustangs 6-3 and added, “The rest of your lives you’ll never forget the next two innings.”
The eight-year coach proved to be right, though it took a handful of desperate plays to do it.
Medina went quietly against hard-throwing 6-foot-6 starter Kade McClure heading into the top of the seventh. The Cardinals then loaded the bases against reliever Andrew Sokolowski, prompting the Bees to call on Ashland recruit Cory Teachout with one out.
Teachout struck out Potter looking for the second out, but he still had to deal with pinch-hitter Nick Fillar.
Fillar drilled a 1-1 pitch into the deep left-center gap. Nearly everyone in attendance gasped in anticipation of a bases-clearing double.
Instead, Faschian, a converted second baseman, never gave up. The senior dove, stretched every muscle in his stocky 5-foot-11 frame to the limit and made a hair-raising over-the-shoulder catch.
It was hard to one-up center fielder Brian Letts’ full-extension dive that ended the previous inning, but Faschian did it with the division championship all but on the line.
“I was just locked in,” Faschian said. “I was just running after it and basically playing it like a double. I saw I could catch it, (dove) and got up and pretended like it’s happened before.”
“Mike Faschian, that was an amazing catch,” Teachout said. “That pretty much sparked our energy right there.”
Despite Faschian’s heroics, Medina put itself in a deeper hole after Patrick Beal popped out and Nick Fryer struck out against fireballing closer Corry Plavcan.
With an out and a chance, however, sophomore Minor came through again.
The second baseman, who had the only two hits off McClure and drove in the first run on a hard-hit double, poked a 2-1 single to right and advanced to second on a passed ball. Pinch-hitter Ellenbest then dribbled a grounder between second baseman Fillar and first baseman Garrett Graehling to put runners on first and third.
It was a scenario leadoff man Faschian was familiar with. He scored the winning run after tying the game with a two-run pinch-hit single again Solon two years ago, and he wasn’t about to let another chance to play hero pass him by.
The All-Gazette selection quickly got behind 0-2, but hit a slow chopper to Potter at third. Potter fielded it cleanly, only to short-hop the throw to first.
Graehling couldn’t come up with the pick, Minor scored easily and Mentor briefly lost track of the ball heading down the right-field line. Kaplack waved around Ellenbest, who will never be confused with a speedster, as right fielder Nick Delisa came up with the ball.
Delisa fired home but was a half-step late.
The party was on.
“It was complete focus on every pitch,” Kaplack said. “There’s going to be a different hero every night. Those guys wanted it real bad.”
Medina started highly touted sophomore Austin Havekost, with the plan of bringing in finesse specialist Sokolowski in the fourth. The gamble would have worked to perfection if not for an RBI groundout by catcher Danny Trimble, who outdueled Ellenbest on the mound the day before, in the third.
Sokolowski entered with two runners on and one out, and induced consecutive fielder’s choices to get out of trouble.
The Cardinals responded with another run in the fifth. Brandon Kasberg drew a walk and scored when Plavcan smashed a changeup down the left-field line for a double.
Sokolowski again showed mettle by getting Trimble, Potter and Kyle Hagey to strand Plavcan at third.
The rest was history.
“We really weren’t playing together as a team,” Minor said, “but we really pulled through in the seventh inning.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.