Northwood senior Drew Minarcin was more than happy to be a part of Rangers baseball history.
Last Friday Minarcin had a walk and two hits, including a run-scoring single in a five-run first inning, to help the Rangers beat Toledo Christian 8-6 and win the school's first Toledo Area Athletic Conference baseball championship.
It was the first baseball title for Northwood since it tied for the Suburban Lakes League title in 1989. In ‘89 there was a three way tie for the SLL championship with Eastwood, Genoa and Northwood sharing the top spot. Northwood joined the TAAC in 2001.
“It meant a lot, being my last year,” said Minarcin, a designated hitter who spot-started throughout the season. “We've never really been that good in baseball. To help the team out and get our first team title in a while, it felt really good. We had been playing pretty good from the middle of the season. We worked really hard and we deserved it.”
The Rangers (17-9, 11-1 TAAC), needed to beat TC last Friday to claim the outright conference championship.
“We're young and hungry, and I felt we had a chance to get them,” said coach Dave Russell, who pitched and played center field for Northwood from 1983-86. “Our guys were confident going in. We had a great week of practice.”
The Rangers, picked to finish fourth in the six-team TAAC, used an 11-1 victory over Waite last Wednesday to prepare for the showdown with the Eagles, the two-time defending conference champs.
“We scheduled that Waite game at the last minute,” Russell said. “We treated Wednesday like it was Friday. We just used that game as a leaping board to Friday. We worked on getting bunts down and getting guys around, and we played good defense. I told the guys we were going to carry that over to Friday.”
Junior left-hander Cameron Juhasz (6-3), who pitched a three-hit, nine-strikeout gem in Northwood's 2-1 over TC on April 22, went 6 1/3 innings and gave up six runs (four earned) on five hits and five walks with six strikeouts last Friday.
“He did well,” Russell said. “It was really hot that day. The walks got to him a little bit, but he kept battling until he ran out of gas. We let him get into the seventh and we brought in Mark Canaday and he shut them down. Cameron kept us in the game. I'm excited to have him back next year.”
Canaday, a junior, entered the game with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh. He struck out the first batter he faced and then got a pop fly to center fielder John Romstadt to end the game.
“I had lot of confidence in (Canaday),” Juhasz said. “He has the stuff to shut down TC's batters. He did a great job of closing the game and saving it for me and the team. That game ranks as one of the top baseball games I've ever played. The big crowd made me feel like I was at a college game.”
Juhasz admitted he began to tire at the end.
“I felt it in the seventh inning,” he said. “The heat started getting to me. At that point, I was over 90 pitches. I ended up throwing 119 pitches.”
The Rangers got a two-run single from Justin Rohrs in their five-run first inning against freshman lefty Ben Ivan. They took a 6-0 lead after two innings, but TC pulled within 6-3 in the fourth.
Northwood added a pair of runs in the fifth, on Romstadt's two-run single, but the Eagles scored three in the seventh to get within 8-6. The Rangers, however, held on and began celebrating just seconds after Canaday recorded the final out.
“It was mayhem,” Russell said. “We had probably the biggest crowd I've seen at Northwood since I played. There was a huge crowd on both sides. A lot of alumni came back and a lot of old friends. It was really an electric atmosphere and it was great for the program.
“We told the boys after the game that we've been working them extremely hard since last November in the weight room and in the gym, with all the speed and agility and strength training and teaching them the mental part of the game. We told them that we were out-working the rest of the league and it was going to pay off sooner or later, and it did.”
Juhasz said winning the TAAC title is all the motivation the Rangers need to do even better next season.
“We're going to have this same team back next year,” he said. “We're going to miss some key seniors, but we're going to have the confidence that we've won it before and we don't want to give it up.”