Venom advances to state

Sheffield Lake/Sheffield Village

By Joe Ostrica

The Sheffield Venom won back-to-back games last weekend in the Hot Stove baseball tournament 13-14 year old division. Sunday’s win against the North Ridgeville Stars advanced the Venom to the state semifinals.
Sheffield defeated Columbia Station 16-2 Saturday. The Venom was led by Jake Lacek, who pitched a complete five-inning game with five strikeouts. Lacek almost pitched his third straight no-hitter in the tournament, giving up only one hit with two outs in the bottom of the fifth on an infield hit. Columbia scored on a few walks and hit batsmen. At the plate Lacek had two hits, including a double.
Sheffield’s Ray Goostree finished with two singles and a double. Cameron Drew had four singles. Mickey O’Neil had two singles. James Rickard added two singles.
“Great pitching by Jake was a key to this game,” Sheffield head coach Mark Racz said. “He kept Columbia off balanced all game but had some great fielding behind him. This was a great defensive effort by all.”
The Venom sealed its regional title with a 16-0 mercy rule five-inning victory over the North Ridgeville Stars the next day. Pitcher Brad Hughes gave up only one hit and two walks, striking out 13 in five innings on the mound.
“I started Brad Hughes again for the biggest game of the season,” Racz said. “He was lights out again. He kept all the Ridgeville hitters off balance with his assortment of pitches.”
The Venom’s bats were led by catcher Lacek, who reached base all four times with a walk, double, triple and a hit-by-pitch. Eric Vraja (two singles), Drew (walk, double and single) and Dudley Taw (two singles) also had key at bats.
“These guys made me so proud today with their effort,” Racz said. “We wanted this win so bad and I told the kids before the game, ‘Do what you do. Do what we’ve done all year and we’ll be fine.’”
Racz noted the Venom have been the visiting team every game they have played in the tournament, and it’s a role they enjoy.
“We’ve come to like it and kind of use it to our advantage,” he said. “We get to bat first, and so far it’s meant the home team has been down by multiple runs before they even get to bat. It kind of takes the wind out of them and gives us a lot of momentum.”
Sunday’s win improves the Venom to 23-0. They hope to add another win when they play Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Alliance’s Butler-Rodman Baseball Park against the winner of the North Akron regional bracket.
Racz also acknowledged the importance of his team’s local sponsors.
“Ed Tomko auto dealership, Tailgators, Gary Schween D.D.S., Mattress Matters, Amvets Post 55, Sate Farm Insurance (Christy Jacobs-Gehring), Chelko Consulting Group and former Cavs coach and current L.A. Lakers coach Mike Brown and his wife Carolyn have been there for us, and helped get the kids uniforms and all their gear,” he said.

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