Westland Roundup: Cougars baseball team takes step with tournament win

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Franklin Ramirez Lara earned the save in Westland's 4-3, eight-inning victory at Briggs on May 17 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. It was the Cougars' first postseason win since 2011.

When Brent Shannon took over as coach of the Westland baseball team in 2018, he realized building the program would require a series of small steps. 

One of the more significant small steps took place May 17 when the Cougars earned their first postseason win since 2011, defeating 34th-seeded and host Briggs 4-3 in eight innings in the opening round of the Division I district tournament. 

“When I took this job, I set goals and that was one of them,” said Shannon, who was an assistant coach in 2017. “I said I wanted to win the most games in a long time here and we did that. I said I wanted to get a tournament win. These guys deserve that. 

“These guys go through a lot and a lot of people don’t see it. They put in the work, they trust in me and I trust in them, and that’s what happens.” 

The 37th-seeded Cougars were 9-16 overall before playing fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the second round May 19. The winner plays 10th-seeded Westerville Central or 36th-seeded Groveport in a semifinal May 24, with the district final scheduled for May 26. 

Against Briggs, Westland jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning but then was held scoreless until the top of the eighth. 

“Coach has been wanting this,” said Brenden Gordon, who earned the win in relief. “We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the season, but today we had to bring it even though it was a little closer than we would have liked. We pulled it out at the end.” 

Starting pitcher Brady Gray helped his cause with a two-run double in the first, and Brayan Perez Saldivar followed with an RBI double.

The Bruins scored two runs in the first and another in the sixth to tie the game. 

Gordon led off the eighth with a double and scored the go-ahead run on a double steal. 

Franklin Ramirez Lara pitched a perfect bottom of the inning to earn the save. 

“I’m glad to be part of this brotherhood now,” Gordon said. “I’m glad we’ve been able to secure a (district) win for the first time since 2011. It feels really good.” 

Drew Curtiss led the Cougars with three hits. Gordon and Ramirez Lara both had two apiece, and Westland finished with 11 hits. 

“Drew has had an unbelievable season,” Shannon said. 

The Cougars also beat Briggs 11-3 in a regular-season contest May 11. 

Westland’s previous postseason win was a 2-1 victory over Columbus West in an opening-round game in 2011. 

The Cougars finished 0-15 in the OCC-Ohio Division with a 7-4 loss to Gahanna on May 15. 

“We played really tough against Gahanna, so that’s why I knew we were going to come into this (Briggs game) ready to play,” Shannon said. 

Grove City won the league title at 11-4. 

Track teams vie

in league meet 

Track and field coach Tim Eckard knew his teams would be challenged when they competed in the OCC-Ohio meet May 13 and 15 at Thomas Worthington. 

Each team finished sixth in preparation for the Division I, district 2 meet May 18, 19 and 22 at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North. 

At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state June 4 and 5 at Darby. 

“Our league meet was just crazy,” Eckard said. “There were so many (league and school) records broken. It was a tough division, but I was still impressed with how the kids showed up. We had a lot of personal records. That’s always how we measure our success at the league meet. 

“It’s not so much the teams we beat, it’s all our athletes getting better at the end of the season (and) how they’re peaking at the right time. I was pleased with the effort that we had.” 

The boys team finished sixth (8) behind champion Gahanna (143). 

Zane Gibbs-Aguon, Patricio Rebollar, Blake Bilger and Semaje Westmoreland were fourth in the 400-meter relay (44.95 seconds) and fifth in the 800 relay (1:32.72). 

Bilger finished seventh in the long jump (19 feet, 10 inches). 

The girls team finished sixth (1) behind first-place Gahanna (207). 

Kiera Bonds accounted for the Cougars’ point by finishing sixth in the 200 (27.0), and she also was eighth in the 100 (13.21). 

“I didn’t get the results I wanted, but it was good practice,” Bonds said. “We’re a really hard-working team and we put in the effort. It’s been a struggle for the girls team because there’s not as many runners.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank