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Dominant pitching duo led Edison to regional

Mark Hazelwood • May 23, 2018 at 9:29 PM

MILAN — Sean Hoover thought he was seeing double.

And it never looked better to the longtime Edison baseball coach.

In a pair of district wins last week, the Chargers got near-identical pitching performances from Bryce Roberts and Caden Cooper. The pair put on a clinic from the mound that put Edison (15-9) into today’s 2 p.m. Division III regional semifinal vs. Coldwater (24-6) at Elida.

On May 17 vs. Oak Harbor in a district semifinal at Shelby, Roberts pitched all seven innings for Edison. He didn’t allow a run on five hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk, needing just 74 pitches.

Two days later vs. Bucyrus Wynford in a district title game, Cooper pitched all seven innings for the Chargers. He also didn’t allow a run on one hit with 10 strikeouts and one walk, needing just 74 pitches.

The Chargers won both games by a combined 8-0 score, but with the way both pitched, just two runs was enough to win a third district title for the program over the past 10 seasons.

“It’s nice in a lot of ways,” Hoover said. “They will come out and throw strikes, which helps keep the defense alert. It’s a couple of guys that when they are on the mound, they are putting the ball over the plate — and there is usually a good chance the other team will swing at a lot of pitches.

“But we’re fortunate enough to have two guys throwing that well right now,” he added. “It makes it fun. We want to go out there and do good things offensively — because they know Bryce and Caden will go out and pound the zone and keep us in the game.”

It’s been fun much of the season when the pitching duo has been on the mound — not just last week.

Roberts and Cooper combined have allowed 14 earned runs in 110-plus innings, totaling a 13-2 win-loss record together. They have each thrown four shutouts, meaning over half of Edison’s victories this season were complete-game scoreless gems by the pair.

In 56 1/3 innings, Roberts (7-2) has a 0.99 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 14 walks. He’s allowed eight earned runs on 38 hits.

In 54 innings, Cooper (6-0) has a 0.78 ERA with 91 strikeouts and nine walks. He’s allowed six earned runs on 21 hits.

“It’s pretty nice when the first thing that came to mind last week was which kid did we want to throw first,” Hoover said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of very good pitchers come through the program in the last 10 years or so.

“But this is the closest where our top two pitchers have been to this same level,” he added. “Obviously that’s been a big benefit for us. The identity of this team is a group that always stepped up and done what they have been asked. Not just our pitching, but we have a lot of high baseball IQ kids who love to play game and are playing well together right now.”

As good as Edison has been with Roberts and Cooper — the team in the opposite dugout today is certainly no stranger to the big stage.

The Cavaliers have reached the state semifinals five times this millennium, and 19 times overall. Coldwater has won six state championships, most recently in 2014 when it beat Huron by an 8-1 score in the regional title game to reach Columbus.

Three other times the Cavs lost in the state title game, and it’s no secret the Midwest Athletic League has been a tough out for virtually any and all opponents in several sports, notably football.

“We’re not going to change our style or how we need to play because of the name of the jersey or the venue,” Hoover said. “We just have to stay in the moment of doing our jobs for every pitch of the game like we’ve been doing. If we do that, we have a good shot to be competitive and give them a good game.

“But the thing for us is to not get caught up in their past and what they have done,” he added. “They are a high school baseball team just like us that plays a similar style. We have to be mentally prepared to play our baseball game.”

Edison is likely to face either Cole Frilling or Brad Giere in Thursday’s game. in 53 innings, Frilling (6-4) has a 1.58 ERA. He’s allowed 12 earned runs on 36 hits with 48 strikeouts. Giere (5-0) boasts a 1.62 ERA in 47 2/3 innings, as he’s allowed 11 earned runs on 30 hits with 24 strikeouts. A third pitcher, Ross Weigel (6-0), adds a 1.24 ERA in 33 2/3 innings.

Offensivley, Coldwater is led by Jacob Wenning, who is hitting .422 with four doubles and 27 RBIs. Austin Riethman adds a .366 average with seven doubles and 16 RBIs, while Nathan Gruden is batting .305 with six doubles and 23 RBIs, and Jack Muhlenkamp has nine doubles and 25 RBIs.

As a team, the Cavaliers have hit just two home runs in 30 games.

“They seem like a pretty similar team as far as pitching and defense,” Hoover said. “It’s maybe not quite the big bats of Coldwater past. They are still a great lineup, but not a powerhouse team that smashes everything necessarily. But I think they appear to be a team that is pitching and defense first that does the small things well, which is what good programs do.

“Little details have led to big successes for them,” he added.

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