St. Francis players celebrate winning the Division I district championship with a 4-0 victory over Clay. The Knights (29-3) lost in the regional final to Cleveland St. Ignatius.
THE BLADE/JEFF SMITH
St. Francis de Sales proved to be the area’s top Division I baseball team this season, even though the Knights were unable to secure a playoff title in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
The Knights (29-3), who were ranked No. 4 in the final D-I state coaches poll, were paced by first-team All-Ohio selection Eric Zmuda and second-team All-Ohioan Max Lyon.
The Knights went 10-0 in regular-season TRAC play as part of a 26-game winning streak. St. Francis topped Clay 4-0 to win the district championship, then defeated Northern Lakes League champion Perrysburg 10-5 in the regional semifinals before falling to eventual state runner-up Cleveland St. Ignatius 14-0 in the regional final in Parma.
Zmuda, a shortstop, batted .435 with 36 RBIs, while outfielder/pitcher Lyon batted .413 and went 7-0 with a 1.31 ERA on the mound.
In the TRAC playoffs, St. Francis lost 8-2 in the title game to Central Catholic (16-13) and its Division II first-team All-Ohio pitcher, Jake Rudnicki, who struck out 13 in the conference final.
In his prior start, Rudnicki lost 1-0 to Defiance in a district semifinal despite pitching a no-hitter against the top-ranked Bulldogs. Defiance (31-1) went on to win the D-II state championship. Its only loss was a 9-8 regular-season setback against Central.
Sharing TRAC player of the year honors with Zmuda was Clay pitching ace Jordan Grosjean (8-0, 0.44 ERA).
Start (15-12, 8-2) was the No. 2 seed for the City League playoffs, but defeated top-seeded defending champion Bowsher 5-2 in the City championship game to claim the CL crown.
Perrysburg (27-4) was ranked No. 5 in the final D-I state poll, and the Yellow Jackets won the NLL with a 13-1 league record. Perrysburg junior third baseman/pitcher Mark Delas (.424, 29 RBIs; 6-1 pitching) was named to the All-Ohio first team.
Other deep tournament runs were made by Genoa (20-10) of the Northern Buckeye Conference in Division III and Northwood (18-11) of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference in Division IV. Both teams advanced to regional finals.
Genoa beat Lima Central Catholic 8-3 in the regional semis before falling 8-1 to Bloom-Carroll in the final. The Comets were paced at the plate by Alex Hayes (.484, 40 RBIs) and on the mound by Luke Rightnowar (9-0, 2.29 ERA).
Northwood defeated Delphos St. John’s 4-3 in the regional semis before being ousted 13-5 by Tinora in the D-IV final. The Rangers were led by Nick Russell (.506, 6 HR, 38 RBIs; 6-3 pitching).
Led by their Notre Dame-bound pitching ace Ryan Smoyer, Otsego (17-7 overall) won the NBC title with a 14-0 record. Smoyer was 6-0 pitching with a 0.70 ERA, and he batted .418.
Cardinal Stritch (12-14, 10-2) and Ottawa Hills (15-16, 10-2) shared the TAAC championship.
Wauseon (18-5) won the Northwest Ohio Athletic League title with an 8-0 league record, and the Indians were also ranked No. 8 in the final Division II state poll.
Wauseon junior infielder Ty Suntken (.446 batting, 5-0 pitching) was a first-team All-Ohio selection in D-II, while senior first baseman teammate Josh Cales (.519 batting) was named to the D-II second team.
In Michigan, Bedford (30-8), led by senior Jackson Lamb, Michigan’s Gatorade player of the year, advanced to the Division 1 state quarterfinals. The Mules fell 11-1 to Howell.
During the regular season, Lamb, a center fielder/pitcher, batted .511 with four home runs and 34 RBIs this season, and he was 6-0 pitching with a 1.40 ERA. Lamb was a three-time all-state selection and will play at the University of Michigan.