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    Lerz dominant in Independence’s win over Beachwood

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    Ashton Lerz struck out nine in a complete-game shutout and he also recorded three hits in Independence’s win over visiting Beachwood on Monday.

    Lerz allowed just three hits in the game.

    “I think the key to success today was trusting the off-speed pitches and locating the fastball when I needed to,” Lerz said. “Not only that, it is much easier to pitch when you can trust your teammates in the field.”

    The win was a big one for the Blue Devils who remain in the hunt for the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division title.

    Independence improved to 9-7 overall and 7-3 in the Metro Division. Wickliffe knocked off Lutheran West on Monday leaving the Blue Devils just a half-game behind both Beachwood and Lutheran West for first place in the division with two conference games remaining.

    To win the division outright, Independence must beat Beachwood on Wednesday and beat Cuyahoga Heights in its other remaining conference game. Wickliffe also must complete the sweep of the Longhorns.

    Regardless of what happens down the stretch, the Blue Devils started a big week with a bang.

    “It was a great way to start the week,” said Independence coach Jim Crooks. “It was a great game for the players and they are well aware of the circumstances and I think they’re liking the pressure right now.”

    That pressure didn’t faze Lerz or his teammates. In fact, they thrived in the must-win situation.

    “We went into the game confident considering we were in this spot last year, so we were cool under fire,” Lerz said. “We hit the ball when we needed to hit it and fielded the ball when we needed to field it. It was an all-around great team win today.”

    After Lerz pitched out of a jam in the top of the first, the Blue Devils responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning.

    Mike Andryszczyk and Casey McGhee started the rally with back-to-back singles and Rory Corrigan hit an inside-the-park home run.

    “He just never stopped running,” Crooks said. “He hustled the whole time, which he always does.”

    Lerz singled and scored on an Evan Beacher single in the third and the Blue Devils tacked on two more runs in the fifth.

    Lerz and Corrigan both singled and Beacher drew a walk to load the bases. Lerz scored on a wild pitch and Charlie McGreal singled home another run.

    Andryszczyk singled and scored on an error in the sixth to close out the scoring.

    Lerz finished the game 3-for-3 with two runs scored.

    “The great part about pitching is when you get back to the offensive side of the game you sort of have an idea of what is going to be thrown at you in the box,” Lerz said. “You can anticipate the next pitch and be prepared to hit it.”

    Andryszczyk and Corrigan both recorded two hits for Independence and the Blue Devils stole six bases in the win.

    “We got some hits in the middle part of the game and we ran the bases pretty well today,” Crooks said. “We faced a good pitcher today. He’s been around a long time and we knew he was going to give us his good stuff and we battled with him. It was a good battle and we came out on the right side of it.”

    Independence travels to Beachwood on Wednesday.

    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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