Prep Baseball Report

Division II Team Of The Week: Week 3 - Rocky River

Bruce Hefflinger
Ohio Senior Writer

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Division II Team Of The Week: Week 3 - Rocky River

ROCKY RIVER - Best start in school history. Unbeaten in the conference. First no-hitter ever. A miraculous 13-inning victory.

Rocky River has done a little bit of everything in earning recognition as the Prep Baseball Division II Team of the Week.

“We’re the talk of the town,” related Rocky River head coach Ed Piazza, whose Pirates are on track for the first winning season in the program in more than a dozen years.

A sweep of North Olmsted, 9-1 and 5-0, highlighted by a no-hitter from Rees Heigle in the nightcap, opened last week’s play before a 5-4 13-inning comeback win over Lakewood pushed Rocky River to 8-0 on the season, the first time that has ever happened at the school.

“Last year we started 4-13,” the second-year head coach reflected back on a decision made at that time which has proven beneficial. “I had to go with the younger kids and we made it to the district finals and finished 11-16.

“They’re juniors this year. Seventeen or 18 wins was on our radar at the beginning of the season, but now our expectations are higher.”

It could happen with results like the stunning victory over Lakewood. Trailing 4-1 with two outs and nobody on base in the top of the seventh, Rocky River sent the game into extra innings when Josh Mommers walked, Anthony Ferchill singled and Thomas Rossi hit a three-run inside-the-park home run.

“It was crazy,” Piazza said. “I was going to send him no matter what. I was running as fast as he was toward home.”

Dan Capka put the Pirates in front with an RBI single in the 13th, and junior lefty Joe Brant set Lakewood down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, his fifth frame of work in relief of Mike Perry, one of three standout pitchers on the squad.

“Pitching will keep us in games,” related Piazza, whose team is ranked sixth in the state in Division II.

Heigle, the 23rd-rated junior left-handed pitcher in Ohio, is 2-0 with 27 strikeouts in 15 innings and a 2-plus ERA. Rossi, the 86th-ranked senior right-hander in the state, is also 2-0 with an ERA below 1.00, while Perry, a junior righty, is 1-0 with a save and an ERA around 1.00.

“I’ll put our top three up with anybody,” Piazza said.

Mommers, the 47th-ranked junior in the state, has had a big year batting leadoff with the left-handed hitting shortstop averaging .333 with 12 walks, 14 runs scored and seven RBIs. Ferchill, the two-hole hitting second baseman, is batting .379 with 11 RBIs while Rossi carries a .500 average with 10 RBIs batting third. Junior center fielder Griffin Hill is hitting .409 at clean-up.

“Our hitting wasn’t good last year but we’re hitting over .350 this year as a team,” Piazza noted. “We rely on the top of our order and then the others fill in. That’s been the key for us.”

Admittedly, it has been a surprising start to the season and it continued on Monday when Rocky River recorded its first win ever over Elyria Catholic with a 2-1 victory to improve to 9-0.

“Last year was a ‘Rec Ball’ type of thing,” Piazza explained. “This year everyone has bought into the little things. They’re doing what I’m asking, they’re leaders, it's a good team camaraderie. We have 16 guys all buying in.”

It is paying off with a 4-0 record in the Great Lakes Conference, a league never won by the Pirates. Another matchup with Elyria Catholic takes place tonight, with Normandy on Thursday, Lorain on Friday and Avon on Saturday concluding a big week of action for the “talk of the town” in Rocky River.

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