These boys of summer are having the time of their lives and winning championships to boot.
Two Wellington Hot Stove teams brought home county championships July 5, with the Class G AC Outlaws topping North Olmsted Halleen KIA 9-4 and Class H Snap-On narrowly defeating Buckeye Ross 17-16 in extra innings.
It was the Outlaws’ fourth appearance in the county championship game in as many years — but their first win.
Another squad, the Class I Gossman Insurance Regulators, came up just short against the Olmsted Falls Bulldogs Blue for the county title but managed to rebound this past Sunday to grab a district championship, defeating South Amherst-Firelands Finnegan 16-5.
The AC Outlaws and Gossman Insurance rang up undefeated regular seasons at 19-0 and 16-0 respectively with Snap-On finishing at 19-1.
Seventh-year Outlaws coach Dan Davison said the three teams’ convergence of success has been a multi-year effort he’s happy to have been a part of.
“This is the best that Wellington as a whole Hot Stove organization has done,” he said. “My team was state runner-ups last year. There’s good coaches and a lot of hard work spread out across all of our teams. It’s been a lot of practice and a lot of dedication and it’s starting to show itself.”
Davison said Wellington Hot Stove added 38 players across its eight teams this year, pushing totals to over 100.
“The rise in popularity of soccer has hurt youth baseball participation across the country but we’ve increased our numbers,” he said. “Soccer in Wellington is pretty big but I know several families who let their kids play both. Baseball is very nostalgic like golf and it’s America’s pastime. It’s one of the only sports that has stayed the same over multiple generations.”
Nolan Sasack, the Outlaws’ lead-off hitter, batted .481 this year with 38 stolen bases and a .700-plus on-base percentage.
“I feel pretty good and comfortable out there,” he said. “It can be a little stressful but I’m fine. It’s good exercise and it’s good to learn how to be part of a team.”
Snap-On third baseman Jack Marsh said teamwork and remembering to have fun has been key. He finished the regular season with a .517 batting average, two home runs, and 39 runs batted in.
“We play as a team and that’s what makes us good,” he said. “We think of ways to play together. I like playing pitcher most because I’m more involved in the game. I like having fun with my friends. Baseball seems slower but it’s really faster when you think about it. You have to react really fast to a pitch or a ball hit to you.”
Gossman eight-year-old Caleb Hamer, an infielder and pitcher, was quick to thank his coaches.
“The coaches show us a lot,” he said. “Second base is my favorite because I can see everything around me. The coaches showed me how to stay in front of the ball and keep my eye on the ball.”
His coach, Jake Baker, said family involvement has also helped immensely.
“There’s a lot of dads and grandpas who are doing more than their fair share to show these kids the game,” he said. “We have a great group of committed kids. We practice maybe a little more than most teams do but no one ever complains. I have nine great assistant coaches too. Everyone wants to make the kids better players and better people.”
Snap-On coach John Kainter seconded Baker’s point regarding help from players’ families.
“Most of these teams have been together for several years and we have very supportive parents,” he said. “Ever since Dan and Amy Davison took over, everything has gotten better. There’s a ton of support coming from many directions. Everyone is moving in the same direction and toward the same goals.”
All three teams resume action this Saturday in regional tournament play.
Both the Outlaws and Snap-On will play at 10 a.m. at Grafton Reservoir Park, 1116 Main St., with the Outlaws facing Grafton Linden Manufacturing and Snap-On playing the North Ridgeville Card Palmer Sluggers.
Gossman will play Grafton Branham Auto at 5:30 p.m. at Palmer Field, 33900 Dodge Ave., North Ridgeville.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.