A tough week for the Mentor Cardinals had a very good ending on May 9 at North.
With the postseason starting soon, and considering the opponents, the sweep of the host Rangers and Shaker Heights on a hot Saturday afternoon could not have come at a better time for Coach Jeff Haase and company.
After a week in which Mentor lost three of its four games, including an extra-inning loss to Brunswick, they wrapped up with two wins, 7-4 over North and 9-5 over Shaker Heights.
Mentor (12-11) could see both teams in the tournament in the future — Shaker Heights possibly in a sectional final and North potentially in a district semifinal.
Matt Eiswerth had a big day for the Cardinals, getting them on the board with a single in the fourth inning to tie North at 1-1.
Sophomore outfielder Nathan Birtley singled in a run and Dominic Dengel brought in a run with a fielder’s choice that was part of a 4-run fifth inning, putting the Cardinals ahead, 5-2.
North’s Justin Cooper had an RBI single in the sixth that allowed the Rangers to pull within 5-3 before Birtley and Eiswerth gave Mentor some insurance. Birtley doubled in Tyler Thompson and Eiswerth singled in Birtley, pushing it to 7-4.
“The big thing is, we got hits with runners on base,” Mentor coach Jeff Haase told the News-Herald. “We’ve had runners on base all year and not been able to capitalize and took a better approach. Those guys especially are starting to get hot again, which is nice. We’ve had a bit of a lull for a couple of weeks where we struggled for a bit, but that was good. That was a good approach.
“You hit the ball hard and hope they’re going to fall. Today guys kept plugging away and something fell for us.”
The second game featured Mentor jumping out to a big early lead, a rally by Shaker Heights to tie the game at 5, and then the Cardinals pulled away for the convincing victory.
Eiswerth and Tommy Noll gave Mentor an early 2-0 lead vs. Shaker Heights and Nick Smith held it for the first four innings. He allowed a run, two hits and two walks. Junior pitcher Zak Schaefer came on after Shaker Heights’ rally in the fifth, getting a groundout to end the inning and then pitched a scoreless sixth and finished the game in the seventh for the win.
Shaker Heights sent eight to the plate in the fifth, scoring four runs on four hits, two of them doubles. That tied the game, 5-5, after Mentor had scored two in the fifth.
In the seventh, Eiswerth drove in another and Michael Hritz had a two-run double, putting up four runs to pull away.
“We’ve shaken some things up,” Haase told the News-Herald. “It’s been a good thing for us defensively, making a couple changes. Guys have rededicated themselves to playing some defense. They finally understand that defense is what’s going to win you ball games. That’s what did it for us today outside of the hitting.
“Any time you respond to a team scoring runs and come and score them back, it’s a positive thing. The only negative thing is that we walked a lot of guys. We let guys on base that shouldn’t be on base. Instead of being aggressive in the zone, we got a little loose. I’m proud of the way we swung the bats today. Matt Eiswerth bailed us out multiple times.”
Mentor is the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Division I Euclid District tournament and will take on the winner of Shaker Heights and Shaw in a sectional final at home to start the postseason.
Haase likes what he has seen out of a youthful group and hopes it continues to jell over the next few weeks.
We’ve got a young class. That’s what I’ve been saying all year — it just takes time to put it all together,” Haase said. “Once it gets put together, hopefully it’s at the right time of the tournament.”
AURORA JUMPS ON MENTOR EARLY FOR 7-2 WIN
Aurora scored six runs in the third inning and Mentor was unable to answer as the Greenmen went on to a 7-2 win on May 8.
Matt Eiswerth had three singles and scored a run for the Cardinals. Tommy Noll drove in both Mentor runs in the sixth inning. Ryan Kanetsky pitched well in relief.
The Cardinals fell to 10-11 on the season with two games at North on May 9.
Mentor opens tournament play on May 13 at home vs. the winner of Shaker Heights or Shaw.