A state semifinal bid didn’t end the way the Amherst Panthers envisioned.
But the 10U Hot Stove players still value the experience gained and are happy to simply play baseball together.
The team finished 19-1 in the regular season — outscoring opponents 354-60 — before three playoff wins culminated in a regional championship July 16 over Medina Swarm Black.
On Saturday, the boys fell 10-4 in Alliance to the Canton Pirates in the state final four.
That deficit did not put a blemish on another successful summer for a team that is no stranger to state tournament play.
“This team has gotten better across the board,” said coach John Pieschalski. “We invested a lot of time and effort in the offseason indoors. The parents have been great and the boys have been great. During the winter months we work on the finer points of fielding, throwing the ball, swinging the bat, all those important things.”
During its playoff run, the team outscored opponents 49-12, a product of improved fielding and concentration, said 1o-year-old third baseman and pitcher Aiden Workman.
“Last year and this year, we stuck together and worked as a team,” he said. “I just like getting out here and seeing all my friends. The coaches have helped us a lot with fielding and not getting mad after a mistake.”
Ryan Pieschalski, 10, said the team’s pitching took a leap forward this summer.
“We have a lot of pitchers who know how to throw,” he said. “We get a lot of strikeouts. I pitch sometimes, but my favorite position is shortstop. You’re the main person in the infield and you can kind of rotate to different spots.”
“We talked about hitting and sportsmanship too this year,” said left-fielder Lucas Diedrick. “Baseball is a fun sport. You get to get out in the summer and hang out with your friends. You get to travel. It’s just fun overall.”
Pieschalski, in his second year as coach, said he’s seen special bonds form between his players and youth baseball continues to be a great avenue to form friendships that extend well beyond the diamond.
“Just going down to the state tourney and creating memories like that is such an important thing,” he said. “My son talks about how fun that is in itself. He says, ‘The baseball is fun, but I just love being with my friends.’ With baseball, we have 12 guys and all 12 play. It encourages everyone on that bench to say something positive to the kid next to them. We have kids who want team success. It’s never about how many hits someone got or what their average is.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.