Forecasting district baseball not so easy
One of the more undesirable occupations in northeast Ohio has to be meteorologist.
Nothing against weather forecasters, but figuring out the weather in Ohio is like a sports reporter attempting to foresee the next catastrophe by the Cleveland Browns. You just never know.
Sunshine changes to rain, which changes to sleet, which changes to snow and then back to sun. And that’s in one day.
It took the Browns less than 24 hours to go from talk of the town to their usual role as frustrating morons.
Still, meteorologists have a job to do, and so do sports reporters. But, instead of anticipating the next Browns’ calamity, let’s look into the Division III Struthers baseball district, which is equally impossible to predict.
Four teams enter with viable chances to win a district title, meaning the semifinal round should provide some outstanding baseball games. The returning Division IV state runner-up, Springfield (21-4), which moved up a division, is the top seed and could easily be considered the favorite – if not for losing twice to No. 3 seed South Range. The Raiders have been one of the most consistent teams in the Mahoning Valley the last two years. South Range finished last season 22-6 and has been dominant for most of 2014, earning a 21-3 record.
The only team to maybe have a better year is Girard, which owned the All-American Conference with a 12-0 record and is currently 17-3 overall. The Indians’ lineup is stacked from one through nine, and their ace, Kyle Harris, has been sharp all season.
We can’t forget about Ursuline, which reached the state semifinal in 2013 and is always a threat in the tournament. The Irish, a four seed, don’t have a spotless record (their schedule is ridiculous), they’re young and they have a few holes in the lineup, but Ursuline always seems to come alive when the postseason arrives.
The potential semifinal matchups look like this (with no disrespect to the other teams in the tournament): Springfield vs. Ursuline and Girard vs. South Range. It’s sad that these teams must meet so early in the postseason, but that’s just how it is sometimes. The result will be epic battles at Cene Park in Struthers, which should delight fans. The outcomes are anyone’s guess, but here goes …
Ursuline has tradition, solid pitching and some of the best athletes around, but Springfield possesses three excellent pitchers (two have ERAs under 1.45 and another at 2.41) as well as a number of great hitters. With pitching depth being so critical in the playoffs, the Tigers should prevail in what will likely be a pitchers’ duel.
The Girard-South Range matchup is even harder to predict. Both teams are loaded as far as hitting goes, owning arguably the two best lineups in the district, and each has two solid starters. The Indians haven’t lost a game in which Harris or No. 2 starter Christian Bello has started, and South Range only has one loss to an Ohio team (Minerva). The Raiders seem to have a chip on their shoulder this year, and even though Girard is the feel-good story of the season after a rough 2013, South Range has been too good to bet against.
One thing is for sure, whoever comes out of this district will be battle tested for the regional. These games may never happen if the weather keeps up though, and figuring out Mother Nature is just as hard as figuring out any other woman.