Challenging foes aided South Range in tournament run
By ERIC MAUK
There are a great many benefits to independence, but the South Range baseball team discovered a new one that it exploited in 2018.
The independence of not being in a conference allowed the Raiders to schedule up at the end of the year as they prepared for the Division III tournament. And while it seemed counterproductive as South Range lost six of its last seven regular-season games, the lessons learned paid off.
South Range (17-15) earned the first state championship berth in school history with a 7-0 win over Cincinnati Madeira in a state semifinal Thursday.
The Raiders will meet Coldwater (27-6) at 1 p.m. today in a state final at Huntington Park.
The Raiders’ schedule wrapped up with losses to teams like Division II regional finalist Louisville and Division I All-American Conference teams from Austintown Fitch and Boardman.
“This team is battle-tested,” explained freshman pitcher Jake Gehring, who threw a six-hit shutout on Thursday. “We played a lot of tough teams this year, we learned a lot about what we are capable of and I think it makes a difference when you get to games like this.”
South Range has been stingy with runs in the 2018 tournament, allowing just five runs and outscoring opponents by 36. But Coldwater has been equally efficient defensively, giving up seven runs and coming off an 11-0 whitewashing of Minford in a semifinal.
“We are a lot better than our record shows,” said Raiders head coach Jim Hanek. “We don’t have that set schedule and that gives you a chance to play the D-I and D-II schools and that’s made us a lot better. It’s a testament to the kids that they can lose games but realize that it is making them better.”