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High School Baseball

Highland win over Archbishop Hoban shows dividends still paying off from 2016 regional trip

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    Highland's Billy Keller (24) and Gavin Noble (15) celebrate after defeating Hoban 6-2, in Barberton.


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    Highland's Jackson Miller (23) hits a double in the top of the seventh inning against Hoban, in Barberton. Highland won 6-2.



NORTON — When you’ve made it over the summit, experience and want-to become magnified.

While only three players remain from the Highland baseball team that reached the 2016 regional semifinals, just about every player was around for the ride and it’s paying dividends two years later.

The seventh-seeded Hornets knocked off sixth-seeded Archbishop Hoban 6-2 Tuesday in a Barberton Division I District semifinal.

All that sits between Highland (16-9) and a return to the round of 16 is a game today against defending district champion and top-seeded Medina (16-11).

The Knights (15-10) pushed the Hornets, but Highland had answers.

“When I was a sophomore, I was pretty nervous when I went in,” Hornets pitcher Bryce Budzinski said. “Now that I’m a senior, I don’t get nervous anymore. Playing in the big games helps a lot. I’m kind of used to it. I’m fine with it now.”

Knowing how big a good start would be, Highland scored three runs in the first two innings and threw a haymaker at the end with a three-run seventh.

The Hornets never let the moment get too big despite the fact the majority of the game was played with a 3-2 score.

“Being around that 2016 team, we know we have a lot to live up to,” Highland catcher Sam Zeleznik said. “I know with all the talent we have on this team, we can easily go farther than they did, possibly to states, especially with (Budzinski) pitching.”

Budzinski (4-1) has been unbelievable in the postseason. The right-hander threw a three-hitter, didn’t allow an earned run and struck out five against the Knights.

Against Wadsworth last week, Budzinski allowed one hit and one earned run in six-plus innings. He walked two and struck out 11 in a 5-1 victory.

Through two postseason contests, opponents are hitting .089 (4-for-45) off Budzinski, who has a 0.54 ERA in those games.

“We needed that out of him,” Highland coach Jay Grissom said. “That’s an excellent baseball team over there, but that’s Bryce. He’s pitched this way for us for three years. He’s stepping up and pitching another big game. I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t surprise me, but we needed it, for sure.

“I felt good today when we got on the bus. We were loose, and we play well when we’re loose. I don’t think any of these guys are doing anything we didn’t expect to do. It’s just a group of kids that has a ton of confidence.”

That showed in the field with two great plays at the plate.

Hoban tried to push the envelope with the score 3-2 in the third. With Isaiah Jackson on third and no outs, Ben Lefebvre sent a grounder to short that Gavin Noble gobbled up and threw to first baseman Jonathan Ambro for the out. Jackson broke for home, and Ambro threw a strike to Zeleznik for the unconventional 6-3-2 double play.

In the fifth, a perfect relay on a double to center field dropped Jim Salamone at the plate and squashed another potential game-tying play.

“I think bigger than the runs that would have scored was the momentum that those runs create,” Grissom said. “You start gunning guys out at the plate and that’s tough on an opposing team and huge for us. It keeps (Budzinski) in the game and keeps us from having to make a decision on him.”

Highland picked up three runs in the final frame on doubles by Noble and Jackson Miller and a sacrifice fly by J.J. Kocevar.

The win brings a Medina County final against Medina. The Bees knocked out the Hornets 6-5 in the sectional finals last season.

“We’ll go out and play our game and see what happens,” Grissom said. “All we can do is show up, play clean baseball and see what happens.”

Contact Brad Bournival at

Highland 6, Archbishop Hoban 2

Barberton Division I District Semifinal

Highland (16-9) Hoban (14-10)


Savron cf 4 0 0 0 Timbrook 2b 2 1 1 0

Zeleznik c 4 1 2 2 Jackson 3b 3 0 0 0

Ambro 1b 3 1 0 0 Lefebvre ss 3 0 0 0

Noble ss 4 1 2 1 Bennett p 3 0 0 0

Budzinski 2 0 1 1 Tipton rf 3 0 1 0

Miller 3b 4 0 1 1 Mick lf 3 0 0 0

Keller 2b 2 1 1 0 Armsey dh 2 0 0 0

Shaw lf 3 1 1 0 Montecalvo c 3 0 0 0

Chema rf 3 0 1 0 Salamove 3b 1 1 1 0

Holowecky pr 0 0 0 0

Tessena pr 0 1 0 0

Kocevar ph 0 0 0 1

Totals 30 6 9 6 Totals 23 2 3 0

HIGHLAND 120 000 3 — 6 9 1

HOBAN 002 000 0 — 2 3 1

LOB — Highland 9, Hoban 3. DP — Highland (6-3-2). E— Budzinski, Salamove. 2B — Miller, Noble, Zeleznik. 3B — Timbrook. SB — Tipton, Keller. S — Jackson, Chema.



Budzinski (W, 4-1) 7 3 2 0 2 5


Bennett (L, 4-2) 6⅓ 8 5 5 3 4

Lane 0 1 1 0 0 1

Noe ⅔ 0 0 0 1 1

WP — Budzinski. HBP — by Lane (Budzinski), by Budzinski (Timbrook).

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