Brooks, big inning send South Range to regional

Brooks, big inning

send SR to regional

By dan hiner


After years of coming up short, the South Range baseball team final won its first district title in program history.

The Raiders beat Mogadore 11-1 on Thursday at Cene Park to clinch the Division III district crown, with a lot of help from pitcher Sam Brooks.

Brooks pitched a complete-game two-hitter — striking out six and walking one.

“It was huge to win the first district title,” Brooks said. “That was always our goal since the beginning of the year, and now that we actually achieved it, it makes it 100 times better.”

South Range head coach Jim Hanek could have used Brooks in the district semifinal. Instead Jake Gehring pitched and the gamble paid off.

“There’s no tomorrow. You have to win today in order to see tomorrow,” Hanek said. “We put Jake [Gehring] out there in the semifinal game, he did a great job. And Sam came up huge for us today.”

South Range was an independent this season. Since the Raiders couldn’t contend for a conference title, the program focused on winning the district.

“Not playing for a league title, being independent, we set our goal for Cene Park,” Hanek said. “It’s just great to see a group come together and achieve it.”

Mitchell Markusic gave the Wildcats (9-8) a 1-0 lead on a RBI double to left-center field in the top of the first.

But it was South Range (14-15) the rest of the way.

After Josh Steer hit a two-run single in the bottom of the first, the Raiders scored seven runs in the second to take a 9-2 lead.

The Raiders sent 12 batters to the plate in the second. Mogadore allowed four hits, two walks and hit three batters in the inning.

South Range added two more runs in the third on a Ben Rivera RBI double and a RBI ground out by Gehring.

“Once we started putting runs together, it felt like we needed to keep our foot on the pedal,” Steer said. “[We didn’t want] anything to happen. We were just putting up runs.”

Steer finished 1 for 2 with a game-high three RBIs. Mike Cunningham and Rivera each finished with two RBIs. Brandon Youngs, Kris Scandy and Gehring drove in a run each.

The South Range lineup was disciplined at the plate — only striking out twice.

“They took what was given to ‘em,” Hanek said. “They took advantage of some key situations. Runners in scoring position, we got some key hits in that second inning to kinda break it over.”

Mogadore starting pitcher Jake Weigand lasted just 11/3 innings. He allowed five runs, four earned, on three hits and four walks.

The pitcher’s mound resembled a Wildcat conveyor belt. Mogadore used four pitchers, but Weigand was the only Wildcat to pitch more than an inning.

South Range’s previous four visits to the district round didn’t go as planned.

South Range lost three straight district finals to Ursuline from 2013-15. Last season Crestview beat the Raiders 5-2 in the district semifinals.

The Raiders will play Waynedale on Thursday at Massillon Washington High School in a regional semifinal. But Hanek wants his players to enjoy making history for the time being.

“We’ll enjoy this now. I think you need to enjoy it, and after tonight we’ll start to look ahead,” Hanek said. “But we definitely want to enjoy this one tonight.”

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