LORAIN — Logan Doenges called it The Pipe Yard Curse.
That so-called curse officially ended Thursday night as Doenges and his Avon teammates derailed top-seeded Amherst 2-1 at The Pipe Yard to win the school’s first district title.
“My whole high school career it seems like my season gets ended by Amherst,” the senior lefty said. “For my senior year to send them home, feels pretty good. Coach (Frank) DeSmit has always been preaching about The Pipe Yard Curse and how we always get here and our season ends. It felt good to do it for the team and the coach.”
Avon (23-5) moves on to Thursday’s regional semifinal at 5 p.m. at Cuyahoga Community College West in Parma against the winner of today’s Brunswick-Medina game. Defending district champion Amherst finished 23-6, its second straight year with 23 wins.
“This was the goal all year,” DeSmit said. “I always joke around that I’d love to see what the world looks like outside Lorain. I finally get to see what’s out there.”
Avon had knocked on the door to the district title a number of times in recent years only to be turned away. The Eagles finally claimed that elusive championship with some great pitching and defense — and one more run than Amherst.
Since 2011, the Eagles have lost two Division I district title games and one in Division II — all at The Pipe Yard.
“We’ve had a lot of tough games here,” DeSmit said. “We’ve lost them early (in the tournament), we’ve lost them late. It was a really gutty win for those guys to hang on.”
Avon scratched out runs in the fourth and fifth innings and found a way to tightrope its way to victory.
The first run scored after an infield hit to short by Neil Strodtbeck. A wild pitch advanced him to second and he moved to third on Matt Kelly’s bunt single back to the mound. Tommy Kocar’s fly to deep center scored Strodtbeck.
The Eagles had only one of their six hits reach the outfield — Taylor Reynolds’ ringing single to left that scored Stephen Ciarniello from second in the fifth. Ciarniello walked to open the inning and was sacrificed to second by Doenges, who threw the first four innings for Avon, striking out three and allowing just two hits.
At the plate, Doenges was hit by three pitches — two by Moore, one by D’Andrea. The second one by Moore caused a huge lump to appear on his pitching arm but Doenges shook off the pain and continued to work until junior William Laurendeau came on in the fifth.
“Getting hit by pitches is actually one of my specialties,” Doenges said. “I don’t mind it. I’ll take three bases any day.”
“Logan is famous for getting hit,” DeSmit said. “He probably leads the state of Ohio getting hit. Unfortunately, that second one ended up looking like a grapefruit sticking out of his arm. Somehow he got us a couple more innings.”
Calm, cool and collected Kocar bailed out Laurendeau in the sixth inning. Laurendeau, after a one-two-three fifth thanks to a pair of strikeouts, threw eight straight balls to start the sixth putting the tying run in scoring position with no outs. That brought Kocar from his shortstop position to pitch. His brother, Will, remained behind the plate.
Amherst’s Ryan Glowacki greeted him with a perfectly placed bunt in front of the plate and beat Will Kocar’s throw to load the bases. Jeremy Smith got Amherst’s only run home with a sacrifice fly to left but Kocar fanned Hunter Cassidy and retired pinch hitter Jacob Lezon on a sinking liner to left that Ciarniello grabbed to end the inning.
In the seventh, Kocar retired the side in order but not without a scare. Evan Shawver drove one deep to center that the speedy Ethan St. Clair tracked down for the first out. Kyle Mantin bounced to Adam Novak at first who flipped to Tommy Kocar covering for the second out.
Mark Harris grounded to Nate Brooks at second to end the game and finally break the curse for Avon.
“Going in there, I was thinking ‘Throw strikes and just try to get out of this,’” Tommy Kocar said. “Do it for the team. When I got that first out and they scored a run, I was like, ‘All right, still no harm, we’re still up by one.’ I just had a rhythm.
“I don’t like walks. I pitch to contact. The (defense) is out there to help you out.”
“That was just senior guile out there,” DeSmit said. “He hasn’t really thrown a lot for us. This year he was kind of our No. 3 and the reason we brought him in, he’s a strike thrower.”
Amherst’s Matt Rositano took the loss in stride, proud of the fact his Comets tied the school record for wins they set just last year.
“Every pitcher that stepped on the mound pitched well,” he said. “I believe it was an errorless game. The difference was they were able to get a couple more hits than we were. I think we left a small army on base (eight). That was the difference.”
Glowacki had two of Amherst’s three hits. Chad Jones had the other. Moore and D’Andrea combined to hold Avon to just six hits but that proved to be enough.
“(Avon) got a couple hits to get guys in scoring position to get them across and we weren’t able to,” Rositano said. “Give credit to Logan over there. He pitched a good game (as did) other guys they brought in. We just weren’t able to string anything together.”
DeSmit didn’t really want the word to get out but he said this was his last season at the helm of the Eagles.
“It was a little emotional,” said DeSmit, who has coached the Eagles the past 10 seasons. “I actually told the guys (after the game) that this was my last year. I knew before the year but I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want this year to be about me, I wanted it to be about them. I was hoping to keep that out of the papers for a couple more weeks.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.