Demons’ late rally stuns Shoremen in sectional

Ivan Tucholski said he came to the plate on May 20 with one goal in mind: keep things moving.

Understatement of the year.

His Westlake Demons were down 6-4 in the top of the seventh inning at host Avon Lake, and a Division I sectional baseball title was hanging in the balance. Pinch runners Aaron Peeler and Jack Finucane were standing on second and third, respectively, and Tucholski, a middle-of-the-order threat, had a chance to complete a rally that seemed impossible mere minutes before.

In a 1-1 count, Tucholski knocked a Jack Warren offering into left field for a two-run single, tying the game 6-6. Shortly after, he scored from third on a wild pitch, giving the Demons a 7-6 lead they would hold onto for the upset victory.

The Demons, seeded 20th in their Northeast Ohio super-district, overcame a 6-1 deficit in the final two innings to knock out the fourth-seeded Shoremen, who’d won the Southwestern Conference less than a week prior.

“I was just trying to get a pitch I could take up the middle and pass the momentum along to the team, keep the train moving along,” Tucholski said of his big at-bat. “When we get the first guy on, it really gets us going and gets the energy moving...It was a blast. I had a lot of fun.”

The Demons advanced to a district semifinal at Barberton High School where they faced No. 9 North Royalton on Tuesday afternoon. Results were unavailable at press time.

Regardless of where the Demons (13-14) end up, the win over the Shoremen (20-6) was one they won’t soon forget.

“When it comes down to it, baseball’s a beautiful sport,” Demons coach Larry Mosley said. “We’re one of the smaller teams in the whole conference, so if you execute and do what you do, you have a chance to win, and that’s what we gave ourselves.”

Cal Reghi’s RBI infield single in the sixth cut the Shoremen led to 6-2, but the hosts were able to get out of the inning when shortstop Gage Duesler threw Reghi out at home plate to dash any rally hopes. Unsuspectingly, the Demons weren’t done.

Zach Regas led off the seventh with a walk and Sean Finucane followed with a double to left. An infield error on a grounder hit by Aidan Keir allowed Regas and Finucane to score, making it 6-4. After Michael Stenger singled, Tucholski provided the biggest hit of the afternoon and scored the go-ahead run.

“Ivan is one of the steadiest guys you’ll ever meet,” Mosley said. “Our mantra is to be as steady as possible. Ivan showed how steady he is and how mature he is for his age. He did his thing.”

Reliever Evan Kortes gave up a two-out single to Duesler in the bottom of the seventh, but got Nick Gorczyca to fly out to right to clinch the sectional title and set off a celebration on the infield.

Kortes pitched three innings to earn the win in relief of starter Alex Needham, giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits with one strikeout.

The Demons took a 1-0 lead after the top of the first after Sean Finucane stole home, but the Shoremen quickly responded with two runs in the home half. A Gorczyca RBI single made it 3-1 in the second, and the offense busted loose with three more in the fifth for a 6-1 lead, punctuated by back-to-back RBI doubles off the bats of brothers Liam and Cullen Reutter.

What came after was a stunner for the SWC champions.

“As a competitor, those boys in that dugout gave it everything they had,” Shoremen coach Andrew Means said. “They put their blood, sweat and tears and their heart into the program this season, and to have it end that way is crushing. But I’m just so proud of them.”

“(Westlake) just got to our bullpen,” he said. “There were a couple of singles, a couple errors on our part, and that’s baseball. Put the ball in play and see what happens. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good for us.”

Shoremen starter Kevin McKinley pitched five innings, allowing two hits and striking out eight. Offensively, Duesler finished with three hits and reached base in all five of his at-bats.

It was the rubber match between the two teams, who’d played each other close in their prior meetings. The Shoremen won 7-5 on April 7, while the Demons returned the favor with a 4-2 win on April 18.

The league championship for Avon Lake was its first since 2012 and only the third in team history. The first came in 2005, when Means was a senior on the roster.

BASEBALL OUTLOOK

DIVISION I GAME RESULTS

Strongsville District

5/25 Tuesday’s semifinals

#10 Strongsville vs. #3 St. Edward, late

#11 Brunswick vs. #5 Amherst, late

5/27 Thursday’s final

#10 Strongsville or #3 St. Edward vs.

#11 Brunswick or #5 Amherst, 5 p.m.

5/20 area sectional finals

#3 St. Edward 13, #30 Garfield Heights 0

#5 Amherst 3, #23 North Ridgeville 2

#11 Brunswick 12, #15 Lakewood 0

Cleveland District

5/25 Tuesday’s semifinals

#12 Wadsworth vs. #2 St. Ignatius, late

#7 Berea-Midpark vs. #6 Medina Highland, late

5/27 Thursday’s final

#12 Wadsworth or #2 St. Ignatius vs.

#7 Berea-Midpark or #6 Medina Highland, 5 p.m.

5/20 area sectional finals

#12 St. Ignatius 16, #34 Parma 0

#12 Wadsworth 6, #21 Olmsted Falls 3

#6 Medina Highland 3, #16 Avon 1

Barberton District

5/25 Tuesday’s semifinals

#8 Medina vs. #4 Brecksville-Broadview Heights, late

#20 Westlake vs. #9 North Royalton, late

5/27 Thursday’s final

#8 Medina or #4 Brecksville-Broadview Heights vs.

#20 Westlake or #9 North Royalton, 5 p.m.

5/20 area sectional finals

#8 Medina 16, #26 North Olmsted 3

#20 Westlake 7, #4 Avon Lake 6

DIVISION II GAME RESULTS

North Ridgeville District

5/19 area sectional finals

#5 Hunting Valley University School 2, #9 Bay 1

#4 Lodi Cloverleaf 11, #20 Rocky River 2

DIVISION III GAME RESULTS

Creston District

5/19 area sectional final

#7 Black River 11, #10 Lutheran West 3

Contact this reporter at sports@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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