win first outright SWC title in 20 years
By Zachary Dzurick
Published May 17, 2006
here for an archive of West Life Sports Editor Zachary
Dzurick's "Red Right 88" weekly columns.
For 12 consecutive seasons, Westlake baseball achieved
winning seasons. That streak ended with last season's 9-17 record.
Head coach Jeff Short looked in the mirror and decided that changes
had to be made.
coach goes through stages," Short said. "This is my 20th
year and 17th as the head coach. I don't know if I did everything
I could last season. Before the season I told the guys that this
would be a pivotal season for Westlake baseball. It was crucial
to prove last season was a fluke."
underclassmen, many observers believed that the Demons were a year
away. Westlake had just six seniors and four of them spent much
of 2005 on the junior varisty team. But never underestimate a senior
who has been waiting for his opportunity.
The result was
the first outright SWC title for Westlake in 20 years. Maybe no
game better epitomizes the season than last Wednesday's game against
Avon Lake. With a win, the Demons would clinch a share of the SWC
title with a chance for an outright title with a win against Berea.
Westlake led 9-5 heading into the top of seventh.
up by five going into the seventh," senior Kyle McGuire said.
"We got two outs and had just one guy on. Before you know it,
bases were loaded and we were up three. A new pitcher came in and
first pitch, the bases are cleared."
But the Demons
kept playing and turned what could have been a back-breaking play
into a positive.
trying to cut it home to get the runner, but we were too late,"
McGuire said. "Matt McAllester saw the hitter overrun second
base and we got him to end the inning."
The lead was
gone but not the team's confidence.
looked at each other and said 'we are not losing this game',"
senior Dan Filus said.
The team then
won the game on a clutch hit from junior catcher Danny Lammers.
It was fitting since Lammers missed half of last baseball season
with an injury and then, after winning the starting quarterback
job, missed the football season with another injury. So Short thought
it was fitting to reward Lammers.
is a great kid and a leader," Short said. "So I gave him
the game ball and instantly he tosses it to sophomore pitcher Kyle
Speicher and said, 'This is yours.' What kid does that? It says
a lot about Danny, but that is what our team was like all season.
I have always said to win — you need talent yes, but you need kids
who believe in and like each other and kids who do not care who
gets the credit. That is what we have. Guys have answered the call
and made my job easy. All I had to do was stand at third base and
try not to screw it up."
started with the seniors, many of whom did not play large roles
on varsity last season.
into the year, a lot of the guys did not have high expectations,"
Filus said. "But many of the seniors had been playing JV the
last few years and were getting their first chance on varsity. Those
guys wanted to come out and prove something, especially since the
last two years, Westlake baseball had not been as successful as
we had hoped. The seniors really wanted to step up and turn around
started with the desire of those seniors," he said. "Trust
me when I tell you our young kids are very talented. But those seniors
knew their roles. Dan Filus played three varsity games last season
and he waited his turn. He had a great season. Casey Szczepanek
stepped up huge for us in our last conference game throwing four
shut-out innings. Jordan Holton was 4-0 for us and he didn't pitch
for us at all last season. Mike Prewitt didn't play every day, but
when he did, he played outstanding defense and got clutch hits.
Craig Speicher played half a season on JV last year and had some
big games for us this season. Kyle McGuire was on varsity last year
and he had an outstanding season for us. The stars were aligned
for us. Everyone we needed to have a career year did."
the team took to heart the message Short and his staff gave them.
Short has put in a lot of time, more than any other year,"
McGuire said. "He told us he felt he had not done a good coaching
job last year. It was our first losing season in 12 years. He said
he was not going to let it happen again. We had too much potential.
I knew we had talent. We didn't have that many returning lettermen
that played a lot. It was a shock that all that hard work paid off.
Coach Short told us if we stuck to it, he promised us things would
go well. Last season was tough and we were basically the same team.
We did pick up a few better hitters, but really it was our younger
players who defensively really stepped up, especially our sophomores."
It was actually
a loss that really opened the team's eyes to how much talent they
off with North Olmsted and they were the number one team heading
into conference," McGuire said. "We thought if we could
beat them we could play with anyone in conference. We lost but we
played with them for the majority of the game. It showed us the
"best" team wasn't that much better than us. It just came
down to pitching and how healthy we stayed."
an early eight game winning streak that started over spring break
and that carried over into the second half of conference,"
Filus said. "That winning streak opened a lot of guys' eyes
that we were a pretty good team. We just kept it going. Last season
was demoralizing, so it is especially nice as a senior to go out
with a bang and win conference."
On Monday, the
Demons were scheduled to play Strongsville in a D-I district semifinal.
When weather permits, the winner of that game will take on the winner
of North Olmsted and Brunswick for the district title.