SHEFFIELD — Sheffield Griffith Paving made its Hot Stove debut last year and just making it to the Class F state tournament was reason for joy.
Back in the state tourney after a season in which it had to overcome injuries and early-season struggles to win another regional championship, Griffith Paving isn’t simply making the trip to Alliance for the experience. It’s in it to win it.
Griffith Paving is one of 16 Lorain County teams that will be playing for a state title this weekend at the Ohio Hot Stove Baseball state tournament at Butler Rodman Park.
Sheffield (16-6) will face the Garrettsville Garfield G-Men (14-2) in a Class F state semifinal today at 2:30 p.m.
“Part of our culture is we always believe in ourselves and set high goals. This year our goal is to win state,” Sheffield coach Mike Griffith said. “Last year was a great experience for this team but we’ve got some unfinished business. We want to have fun but this is a business trip for these boys.”
If Griffith Paving returns home Sunday night with championship trophy in hand, it will most likely be because its top three pitchers all rose to the occasion.
Brendan Mottram and Kenny Grobolsek lead the team with five wins apiece and Mikey Griffith, who missed a large portion of the season with a broken hand, is averaging over two strikeouts per inning.
“We lost a lot of games early in the season but we started to peak at the right time, just before the tournament,” Mikey Griffith said. “We lost a few games early in the season but that was a wake-up call for us.”
Sheffield had three one-run losses early in the season and was just 3-3 heading into Memorial Day weekend. Since then, Griffith Paving is 13-3 with 10 of those wins coming by the 10-run mercy rule.
“Those close games hardened us and we know every game is only going to get tougher from here,” Coach Griffith said. “We talk about it all the time — when it’s game time are you going to be like a lily and wilt in the heat or are you going to be like cactus and stand tall and grow tougher.”
Grobolsek, one of eight players on Sheffield’s 12-man roster who was a member of last year’s team, has been striking fear into opposing pitchers with a .437 average and a team-leading five home runs and 39 RBIs.
“The key to our team this year has been our team chemistry. We do everything together to try to bring out the best in each other,” Grobolsek said. “Our coaches have also helped us out a lot. They make us better every day and prepare us to compete against anyone, even teams that have a lot of older kids.”
Third baseman/catcher Kaleb Moore leads Griffith Paving with a .531 batting average and .662 on-base percentage. However, coach Griffith points out the team has had production up and down the order.
“We’re not a one-trick pony,” he said. “We’ve had different guys step up and contribute all season.”
Catcher/third baseman Jake Montgomery said the team got back to basics as it prepared to make a run at a state title.
“We know the postseason is tough, there are no more easy games,” Montgomery said. “On offense, we’ve been working on making contact and putting the ball in play.”
Griffith Paving began the postseason by scoring 27 runs in each of its first two tournament games but it was the third game, a 6-4 win over the South Amherst/Firelands Falcons, which got the team ready for the state semifinals.
“Our last game was amazing,” Montgomery said. “It was an all-around good team win.”
While it’s unlikely Sheffield Griffin Paving will be able to score anywhere near 27 runs a game in the state tournament, it might have the perfect combination of hitting and pitching to win two more games.
“Last year we went to state and lost in the semifinals. Most people never get a second chance at something like this so we’re going to make the most of it,” Mikey Griffith said. “This year we’re not content with making it to state, we’re going down to win it all.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.