Cards, Meinzer get job done in coach’s second year
If you want to see this year’s Alan Miller Jeweler’s All-Press Baseball Team play as a unit, check out the Pemberville American Legion Post 183 team this summer.
There you will find Co-Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, Dave Russell and son Nick Russell from Northwood, playing their part in helping veteran coach Don “Chopper” Schmeltz go up against other Ohio and Michigan Legion teams.
You’ll also find three other first team picks, Eastwood infielder Ryan Mang, Waite first baseman/pitcher Joshua Murphy, and Eastwood catcher Zach Coffield.
You’ll also find second team picks Brent Hayward, a Gibsonburg freshman outfielder/pitcher, Genoa catcher Nick Wolfe, and Northwood first baseman John Segura, plus honorable mention selection Jake Davenport from Northwood.
Plus you’ll find three 2012 grads on the 19-and-under team from last year’s All-Press Team, including Clay pitcher J.J. Miller, Lake outfielder/pitcher Josh Tantari, and Lake infielder Ryan Kohlhofer. You can throw in Northwood senior outfielder/pitcher Brandon Mahoney, another 2012 All-Press pick.
Any Post 183 players not on the All-Press team are from outside the area — Elmwood, North Baltimore, and Bowling Green — and are all-league material that would be considered had they lived here.
Nearly all the All-Press picks play on one Legion team or another, as many Woodmore, Gibsonburg, and Oak Harbor players play for the Fremont or Port Clinton team, Cardinal Stritch Catholic seniors Cody Kuch and Robbie Bekier are playing for the Toledo Hawks Legion team, and Eastwood junior Grant Peters pitched for Findlay Post 3 last year.
As a group last week, the Post 183 contingent of eastern Maumee Bay baseball players routed the Maumee Post 320 team, comprised mostly of Northern Lakes League players with some Toledo City League and Three Rivers Athletic Conference talent thrown in, 13-1 last week. Three Pemberville pitchers, including Tantari, held Maumee to two hits through nine innings playing metal bat baseball.
There is another — Stritch junior Austin Pratt is playing for Pemberville even though he had to sit out the spring prep baseball season because of eligibility transfer rules. Pratt would have been a likely candidate for the All-Press Team.
Chopper Schmeltz, who once played Pemberville Legion ball with now Detroit Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, picked Pratt to play for Post 183, and that speaks for itself. Stritch coach Craig Meinzer adds that Pratt should be a major asset to his team next year plus to the Cardinals’ basketball team.
However, it was those who did play for Stritch this spring that made some noise and are being recognized for it. In his second year at the helm, Meinzer’s team won a Toledo Area Athletic Conference co-championship.
It is the first TAAC baseball championship at Stritch since 2003 and first for any boys sport since the football team won the league title in 2006.
Craig Meinzer, who was assisted by Kenny Heban, Colin Meinzer, Thom Ziems, and Clayton Stidham, saw his team go 10-2 to share the trophy with perennial league power Ottawa Hills.
“After our first year together, the players realize we can play with every team in the league,” Meinzer said before the season began, hinting at what was to come.
The TAAC honored Meinzer and his staff with Coach of the Year honors and the coach will earn Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press COY honors as well. Stritch was the only local prep baseball team to win a league championship this season.
However, Genoa coach Ron Rightnowar and Northwood coach Dave Russell led their teams to a regional final appearance, one game away from the state final four, so they will share the COY honor.
Genoa (20-10) defeated Evergreen, 5-4, to win a Defiance-hosted Division III district tournament and advance to regional play at Elida. The Comets downed Lima Central Catholic (19-13), 8-3, but lost to eventual state runner-up and No. 8 ranked Bloom-Carroll (26-5), 8-1, in the regional final.
Northwood (18-11) defeated its league rival, Ottawa Hills, 8-6, in the Findlay D-IV district final. It was the sixth consecutive season in which the Rangers and Green Bears have faced one another in the postseason.
The Rangers advanced to take on Midwest Athletic Conference powerhouse Delphos St. John’s (11-15) in the regional opener. The Rangers took down the Blue Jays, 4-3, but lost to No. 16 Tinora (19-8), 13-5, in the championship at Patrick Henry High School.
Two seniors, Northwood shortstop Nick Russell and Clay pitcher Jordan Grosjean, were honored with individual top honors by their respective leagues. Grosjean is the Three Rivers Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and Nick Russell is the TAAC Player of the Year.
Russell excelled at the plate, batting .479 (46-for-96) with six home runs, 40 runs, 11 stolen bases, and 38 RBIs. On the mound, he was 7-3 with 53 strikeouts and only allowed 17 earned runs and 26 hits on his way to a 2.41 ERA in facing some of the Ranger’s stiffest competition. He will play baseball at NCAA Division II Tiffin University next year.
Grosjean, who will pitch at Central Michigan University, was 8-0 on the mound with 87 strikeouts, 16 walks, allowed 32 hits and four earned runs and 67 innings for an 0.44 ERA.
Russell and Grosjean will get Player and Pitcher of the Year honors with the All-Press Team, too. Every first team, second team, and honorable mention All-Press selection reflects the coaches’ votes on the all-league teams. Top individual honorees will receive plaques from the Alan Miller Jewelers and team honorees will receive certificates.