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AURORA -- Possibly a surprise to make the Sweet 16 in Division I, the Greenmen baseball club had a sensational spring and went 20-6 with a Suburban League American Conference championship.
After a 14-11 campaign last year and a .500 season in the debut of the strong Suburban League, Aurora was expected to improve this season.
The Greenmen won the Division I Hudson district with wins over Shaker Heights, Hudson and top seed Solon. A tough 3-1 loss to Mentor in the regional semifinal ended Aurora's brilliant campaign.
"Overall, I'm very proud of our players as they embodied what our coaching staff wanted/expected from them," said head coach Michael Brancazio. "Players for Aurora play the game the right way, play with some attitude, grit and an edge, and this group of young men did an excellent job this season of demonstrating that."
Aurora always seemed to do things the right way despite having some first-year starters in the infield.
"I could not be prouder of our guys for their attention to detail and the willingness to get better at every aspect of the game during the season, and their willingness to work hard to improve during the off-season," added the coach.
"Not only do I have the opportunity to teach the best students, it's an honor and privilege to coach baseball here.
"Although I may be a little old school with my thinking, which is only one team at the end will be thrilled with its season, looking objectively I could not be prouder of our guys for the adversity they faced and willingness to overcome to earn a spot as one of the last 16 teams left in Division I baseball."
The Greenmen have strong youth and a deep pitching staff to build on. "Of the 21-man playoff roster, 15 were underclassmen, so the future should be bright," added the mentor. We played a very difficult schedule and I am confident all members of our program at every level improved their game."
Aurora has six key seniors departing. Senior Bubba Arslanian was one of the area's top catchers and was used at DH and in the outfield. The University of Akron football recruit played some in rightfield and was a four-year starter.
Arslanian hit .359 this year with team highs of 22 runs batted in, 10 doubles, 2 home runs and 12 extra base hits. He also stole 5 bases.
Ben Stawicki also was a four-year starter who will be missed at first base, in the outfield and as a DH. He hit .289 with 11 RBI, 5 doubles, one home run and a .993 fielding percentage.
"All six seniors will be missed as they represented our program with class and dignity," said Brancazio. "Their leadership on and off the field is something our underclassmen really grasped to, and I know all six of them will be missed."
Jonathan Blue was a three-year starter, the team's centerfielder and a player who could hit lead off. He is headed to John Carroll University to play baseball. He scored a team-high 29 runs, had 30 hits and hit .333 with 13 steals, 8 RBI, and 7 doubles.
Also missed will be pitcher and versatile player Jaret Rose, who is a Mount Vernon Nazarene University commit. The three-year veteran had a breakout campaign on the hill with a 4-1 record and sparkling 1.96 earned run average. He hit .333 with 4 RBI.
Dominic Tyburski and Conner Bizjak are two more arms that Aurora will miss. Tyburski was a standout reliever, who was 1-1 with 2 saves and a 0.76 ERA. He held foes to a meager .114 batting average. Bizjak was 1-0 with a good 1.40 ERA.
Junior shortstop Evan Fromwiller had a superb season and will be a four-year starter next season. He starred on offense and improved on defense. He hit a sizzling .386 and led the club with 34 hits and 15 steals, plus had 20 RBI, 25 runs, 6 doubles and 2 triples.
Brancazio has a slew of junior pitchers to lead next year's staff, paced by Zach Elsawy, Michael Sapp and Chase Coady.
Sapp went 4-1 this year and is now 7-1 in the last two seasons. Sapp posted a fine 2.92 ERA and had only 10 walks in 24 innings. Coady is 7-2 in the past two years as he was 3-1 this year with one save and a strong 1.79 ERA. Elsawy posted a 3-2 record with 1 save. He has 5 wins and 3 saves in his AHS career.
Aurora will return a pair of standout junior catchers in Jacob Blue and Joe Capretta. They can play other positions, too. Blue batted .294 with 25 hits, 25 runs, 12 RBI and 9 stolen bases. Capretta hit .339 with one homer and 12 RBI.
Junior third baseman Brent Henderson is another multi-year starter. He hit .300 with 20 RBI and had 7 steals. Infielder Drew McVay had a strong debut season, hitting 350 with 10 RBI and 9 steals.
A strong bat off the bench was junior Will Hermanowski, who hit over .400 for the second straight year with 6 RBI.
"The expectation is that all underclassmen in our program will have a great off-season, and get bigger, stronger and faster," said the coach.
A slew of other junior newcomers also made an impact-- Jacob Loudon, Tate Larrance, Trevor Mitch and John Retton. Larrance went 2-0 on the mound with an ERA of 2.33 and he hit .400 in limited play.
Mitch was 2-0 with one save and an ERA of 3.06. Loudon hit .636 in 14 plate appearances and Retton had 4 runs and 3 RBI.
"It is important to note that in Division I baseball, making it to regionals is extremely difficult so it is vital all members of our program have a great off-season," said Brancazio. "I spoke to my players about how there are no promises for next year and the expectation is that we all continue to work hard to build this program to its best capabilities."
Will Carpenter completed a strong freshman campaign, showing flashes of his ability. The second baseman hit .200 with one home run, 14 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
Sophomore Colin McNamara also made his debut as a catcher and first baseman, with one RBI in two games.
Aurora's assistant coaches are Ken Cardaman, Matt Carpenter, junior varsity coach Michael Berg and freshman coach Matt Cooper.
"I am grateful for our coaching staff for the time and commitment they put forth to be positive role models for these fine student athletes," said Brancazio.