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Aurora -- For some, it may be quite a juggling act, but for the goal-oriented Aurora baseball team, winning a share of a league championship was just as critical as winning a district title and going back to Ohio's Sweet 16 in Division I.
Of course, having a deep pitching staff helps, too. Aurora, 20-8 overall, vaulted into regional play with a 6-2 district championship win over Nordonia (13-17) in the Struthers district championship May 20 at Bob Cene Park.
The Greenmen had just gotten done eliminating second-seeded Warren Howland (15-9), 9-1, the day before.
Then on May 21, AHS gained a share of the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division championship with a spirited 10-0 win over Kenston (13-10).
As it turned out, that victory gave the Greenmen a share of the CVC crown with Chagrin Falls and Kenston in a three-way tie at 7-3.
"Our pitching has been great and our kids threw some great games for us to advance into regionals and win a share of the league," pointed out head coach Tim Deering.
In postseason play, Aurora competes in the regional semifinal against Ohio's fourth-ranked club in Hudson (23-3). The Greenmen will play the Explorers May 29 at Canton's Thurman Munson Stadium at 5 p.m. AHS beat Hudson in the regular season.
Sophomore ace A.J. Kimes was expected to take the hill against Hudson, a veteran club with strong pitching, defense and timely hitting. Kimes is 5-1 this season.
If Aurora wins, it will play in the regional championship game on May 30 at 5p.m. at Thurman Munson Stadium. Mentor (18-5) and 10th-ranked Massillon Jackson (21-5) meet in the other semifinal May 29 at 2 p.m.
"Kimes is our guy," said Deering. "He's done it all year on the mound. We just need to get rested up. Hudson is a quality team."
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Luke Calcei, a veteran senior pitcher, tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout to beat Kenston and help his club gain a slice of the CVC crown.
He was strong and kept the Bombers off balance. He had 66 pitches in the six-inning victory, as Aurora played errorless defense behind him. Calcei is 5-2 this year.
"I thought Luke pitched very well and we have been scoring some runs recently, which takes some pressure off of the pitching," said the mentor.
A six run explosion in the fourth inning help lift the Greenmen, who were all over Bomber starter Peter Rozman, who dropped to 4-1.
Aurora scored in the fourth by a single by junior Andy Weber, who had a run batted in.
Junior catcher Michael Durkin hit a clutch two-run single and freshman Ben Stawicki had an RBI single. The Greenmen also scored on a passed ball.
Andy Weber, a second baseman and University of Virginia recruit, had the hot bat as he went 3 for 4, with two runs scored and an RBI.
Durkin had three RBI on two singles and scored once, while junior shortstop Matt Carpenter (double, two runs) and junior third baseman Nick Ely (double, two runs, two RBI and a stolen base) also produced, and senior Griff Petersen added an RBI.
"Achieving a league title is important to us as a team; it was second on our goal list," said Deering. "We got 20 wins and won a share of the league, plus a district title. Now, we have regionals and states."
Early offense and another sterling effort on the mound led Aurora past Nordonia in the district finals in Struthers.
Sophomore Adam Long excelled on the hill as he fired a one hitter through 6 1/3 innings, as Kimes entered in the seventh inning to finish the win.
LONG, WHO moved to 4-2 overall, allowed two earned runs and struck out five batters as he battled for 6 1/3 innings. He walked three.
"Adam pitched extremely well for us," said Deering.
Aurora plated two runs in the top of the first inning and four more to make it 6-0 in the top half of the third frame. The Greenmen manufactured some runs off of Knight starter Nick Nolan.
Ely continued to be hot with his stick, as he had a two-run single in the fourth inning to score senior Kirk Janoch and Carpenter. Ely had three RBI on two singles, and scored a run.
Janoch is a speedster who has found his way again in a big way. He had two singles, two stolen bases and scored a run.
Junior pitcher Carter Semancik and senior outfielder Jack Updyke led Aurora past Howland in the district win, but Stawicki and Carpenter also played big roles for the Greenmen.
"There wasn't a lot of cheering or fanfare; the team has an approach that each game is like going back to work," stressed Deering. "Carter pitched tremendous for us."
Aurora outhit Howland 14-5 and also took advantage of four Howland errors, but Semancik got the big win with a complete game, five hitter. He raised his season record to 3-0 as he fanned two batters and allowed only one earned run.
The Greenmen had a four run uprising in the fifth inning. Updyke had an RBI single and Stawicki hit a two-run single, plus Janoch added a sacrifice fly RBI.
Updyke had two singles, a run and an RBI, while Carpenter added two singles, a stolen base and a run. Stawicki also scored once.
"Our offense has been helped because Janoch and Carpenter have been getting on base again, and moving things along," pointed out the coach.