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AURORA -- On a recent bright spring afternoon -- there haven't been many of those this spring -- on Aurora's gleaming ballfield, Greenmen standout Ben Stawicki reflected on his team's unusually dangerous lineup.
As Stawicki did so, Nelly's "Heart of a Champion" fittingly blared from the speakers lining the backstop. As the song goes, "Ain't no way they can stop me now, Nelly, because I'm on my way, I can feel my ring coming."
The Greenmen, having made it to the state semifinals in 2015 and 2013, have similar potential in 2017. Recently named the top high school in Northeast Ohio, Aurora could well find itself the top team in all of Ohio, should its current success persist.
Of Greenmen players with 40-plus at-bats heading into this week's action, seven were above the .300 clip and two were hitting .400 or better. "The numbers tell it all," Aurora coach Michael Brancazio said.
The balance is such that even when the team's top batters like Stawicki (.353) aren't hitting, Aurora is more than capable of filling in the gap.
"It's crazy. Just being able to hit one through nine is such an advantage," Stawicki said. "Even in a couple big league games that we had, some of the top people -- Bubba (Arslanian), myself, Jonathan (Blue) -- didn't come through in clutch situations, but the guys at 7-8-9 were able to come through, which is really big for us. It makes everybody's life easier."
Stawicki has been as good as they come, with five of his 18 hits going for extra bases. As impressive as his average is, Stawicki stressed he has been working on his pop as well.
"This offseason, I worked on my strength a lot, so I think I'm just able to drive the ball a little bit more, rather than just make contact as I did in previous years," Stawicki said.
Equally impressive, first in rightfield and now at first base, Stawicki hasn't made an error since his sophomore season.
"Even in practice, he has busted his butt trying to get to every ball he can, so in the game, it translated," said Arslanian, who was hitting .396 heading into this week with 10 doubles and 2 home runs. "You practice how you play, and he busts his butt every day in practice trying to get better."
Evan Fromwiller similarly blazed out of the gate with a .424 average, four doubles and two triples, and like with Stawicki, Brancazio expects From-willer's power to grow. He said Fromwiller is gaining strength, aided by his lifting for football season.
"You have to remember late March, early April, we're talking 40-degree weather out there, nasty rain, so getting extra-base hits is difficult," Brancazio said. "As the weather is clearing up, the fields are drying up, we're seeing him go gap to gap, and that's the type of hitter he is."
Drew McVay, in his first year of varsity ball, surged onto the scene with a .400 average --with all 16 of his hits placing him squarely on first base. McVay was capable of playing varsity last year, but Brancazio wanted him to get more at-bats so he placed him on junior varsity. Thus far, McVay has seamlessly adapted to varsity pitching.
"Last year, we wanted him playing not 10 games, we wanted him playing 20. That was the difference," Brancazio said. "He's got quick hands. He's got a quick bat. He'll fit in well. He always had that."
Brancazio said the team's stunning averages stem from something a tad more bookish --superb plate discipline. The Greenmen havd struck out 68 times in 606 plate appearances. He praised his team for blasting fastballs and laying off off-speed stuff down and away.
Still, as "Eye of the Tiger" came over the Aurora speakers, the Greenmen's ability to tee off on fastballs points to challenges ahead. Stawicki noted that the best pitching Aurora will see this season remains just beyond the high beams, not in the rearview mirror.
"The best pitchers we will see are still to come," Stawicki said.
Then again, some of the best pitchers the Greenmen have seen arguably sit in their own dugout. Jaret Rose was 3-1 with an 2.21 ERA, while Zach Elsawy had a 1.15 ERA, Chase Coady was 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA and Michael Sapp was 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA. Dominic Tyburski had given up only one earned run in 14 1/ 3 innings.
Generally, the five-man rotation is a staple of Major League Baseball while the two-man rotation suffices in high-school baseball. Except in Aurora.
"We can go five deep and name a starting pitcher," Brancazio said. "It just depends what our matchup is, because all five of them have done a nice job."
Naturally then, the Greenmen, after a greener Aurora team was knocked out in the second round of last year's postseason, have hopes of a trip to Columbus.
"I think we do have the potential to become state champs, but we're going to have to play perfect baseball and keep the fundamentals and just stay relaxed," Arslanian said.
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