Avon Baseball Team Falls Again In District Finals
Avon's Short continues run in last season as Westlake coach
Westlake baseball coach Jeff Short has a good sense of humor, but he’s not a fool.
For a second – and a very brief one at that – he contemplated what it might be like to change his mind and continue his 23-year coaching career after announcing his retirement a few weeks ago.
Demon senior pitcher Kevin Neumann’s four-hit shutout win over Avon, 1-0, put him in the regional semifinals for the first time in 13 years and set his mind adrift on Wednesday.
What if? Hmmm.
Then another thought came to him.
“Is my wife behind me?” Short joked.
Well, no, she wasn’t, but Julie Short and Jason, the Avon couple’s 18-month old son, were certainly foremost in his thoughts. Despite the uplifting win at the Lorain Pipe Yard, Short has no intention of reneging on his family obligations for a little more baseball glory.
Nonetheless, a little icing on the cake can’t hurt.
“I said the other day I got a little bit of that passion back. You know what, you have that passion and drive when everything’s going your way,” Short said. “But it’s time for a new chapter. I’ve been selfish for a lot of years, not in a bad way, but my wife’s been so supportive for a lot of years … and with a son at home, my job is to be home.”
Short and the Demons can now add another district title to the two they won in 1996 and 1999 and look forward to what lies ahead.
Westlake (22-6) will face the winner of St. Ignatius vs. North Royalton from the Strongsville District final that begins at 4:30 p.m. today. The regional semifinal will be held next Thursday at Case Western with a 5 p.m. start.
The Eagles (24-4) lost in the district final for the second straight season. Last season, the Eagles lost to Holy Name in Division II before moving up to Division I this season.
Avon coach Frank DeSmit said after Tuesday’s semifinal win that he really wanted to get out of Lorain and move onto the regionals, but he’ll have to wait another year.
“Unfortunately, every time we hit, it was pretty much at somebody or they made a nice play on it. Like I said, it’s the way baseball goes. It sucks that it comes at this level of the game, but sometimes that’s the way it goes,” DeSmit said.
If the Short clan is the first family of Westlake baseball, perhaps the Neumanns are the second.
Not only did Kevin Neumann keep the Shorts around the diamond a little while longer, his cousin, senior pitcher Ben Neumann, won Tuesday’s contest against Midview to put the Demons in position for Wednesday’s triumph.
“It feels great. It’s my first time going to regionals. It’s the first time for our team since 1999. It feels great to go out on a high note with our coach retiring after this year,” Neumann said.
In fact, Neumann might have done his cousin one better as his RBI single scored Danny Strodtbeck in the first inning and was the only margin the Demons needed.
With two outs and a strike away from finishing the inning, Strodtbeck reached base on a passed ball and advanced to third after a Jamie Lackner single. Neumann’s single into left field did the rest.
From that moment on, the game was essentially a pitching duel.
Neumann (2-4 on the season) produced eight strikeouts, including a stretch of four straight, but his final one closed the game and ended the Eagles’ final threat.
With two outs, and the Eagles down to their last strike, senior Joe Mementowski bounced a grounder to junior shortstop Matt Leonard who threw wide to first base and allowed Mementowski to reach base.
Up next, junior Donny Kelly also faced a game-ending strike, but he singled and advanced Mementowski to third. But Neumann got an 0-2 pitch past Eagles junior Brad Dill to end the game.
Although Eagles’ senior ace Anders Mahon (6-2) yielded eight hits, he balanced that with seven strikeouts. Mahon remained stoic after the game, measuring his disappointment at a second-straight district final defeat simply.
“Stuck here again,” he said.