Monday, July 22, 2024

Andryszczyk’s legendary performance sends Independence to Sweet Sixteen

PARMA HEIGHTS—Mike Andryszczyk’s legendary performance in Wednesday’s Division III district championship game at Cuyahoga Community College landed Independence in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014.

Andryszczyk used his speed to score the first run of the game in the top of the first inning and then he made three game-changing defensive plays to seal the Blue Devils’ 1-0 upset win over top-seeded Triway.

“It was unbelievable,” Andryszczyk said. “We put in the work all season and we’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and Coach (Jim) Crooks has been waiting for this moment for a long time. Credit to all my guys, they came out and balled out. From the top of the inning to the bottom of the inning, the energy was high and that’s what won us the game, the energy.”

Andryszczyk drew a leadoff walk to start the game and immediately stole second base.

Max Tarnowski then laid down a sacrifice bunt with Andryszczyk rounding third when the throw went to third base. A rushed throw sailed past the Triway first baseman, allowing Andryszczyk to easily cross the plate for the game’s only run.

“We practice that play a lot,” Andryszczyk said. “(Coach) Crooks always says never break stride and keep going, just trust the play.”

Little did the Blue Devils know at the time, but that was the only run they’d need thanks to the outstanding pitching performance of the dynamic duo of Sam Crooks and Cy Jolliffe.

Crooks earned the win after allowing two hits and striking out two in three scoreless innings of work.

Coach Crooks stuck with his postseason plan of alternating pitchers midway through the game, so the opposing batters don’t get too comfortable against one pitcher.

Jolliffe relieved Crooks in the fourth and went on to allow three hits with three strikeouts in four innings.

“We’ve had a plan from day one going into the tournament,” Coach Crooks said. “We’ve done one incredible thing and that’s getting the guys to believe in that. We go hard-throwing right-hander to a hard-throwing left-hander, and it’s not a secret. Teams who scout us know that and it’s working for us. I think it’s making a difference for us on the mound.”

Despite their stats, neither Independence pitcher had it easy on the mound.

Triway collected five hits, but it could have been more without Andryszczyk patrolling center field.

Mike Andryszczyk
Independence’s Mike Andryszczyk makes an over-the-shoulder catch in center field

After a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first, Triway’s Wyatt Posten crushed a fastball into the deepest part of center field. Andryszczyk chased down the ball and with his back to the plate—Willie Mays style—he made an over-the-shoulder catch and quickly returned the ball to the infield.

Triway’s baserunner skipped second base on his way back to first and was doubled up for the second out of the inning.

The Blue Devils made another key defensive play in the second after a leadoff single. Crooks picked off the baserunner at first and retired the next two batters to get out of that inning.

Another Triway leadoff single in the third led to Andryszczyk’s third game-changing play.

A sacrifice bunt and a groundout moved the runner to third and the next Triway batter lined a ball into the gap between left and center fields. Andryszczyk laid out to make the catch, robbing the Titans of another run-scoring opportunity.

The Titans strung together a pair of singles to put runners at second and third with one out in the bottom of the fourth.

Triway’s Kade Whitman hit a deep fly ball to center, almost guaranteeing the Titans would tie the game on a sacrifice fly, but Andryszczyk threw a frozen rope to the plate, forcing the runner at third to return to the bag.

An infield popout ended the threat.

“Teams don’t run on Mike Andryszczyk because of his arm,” Coach Crooks said. “They know about him. He’s one of the best center fielders in Northeast Ohio, and today, he proved it on the field. It was awesome.”

Triway posted another runner on base thanks to an error in the fifth, but Jolliffe retired the final seven Titans he faced to end the game.

Andryszczyk finished the game 1-for-2 at the plate with a run scored, but it was his defensive effort that won’t be forgotten.

“He definitely was a defensive leader today,” Coach Crooks said. “We’ve played solid baseball in the tournament thus far, but today was solid baseball plus a couple of special plays, and you need that at this point in the season. We had those plays today and that was the difference.”

Tarnowski and Charlie McGreal also had hits for the Blue Devils, who improved to 15-6 on the year.

Independence advanced to the Division III regional semifinals. The Blue Devils will play defending Division III state champion Waynedale on Thursday at Massillon Washington High School. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.

Waynedale defeated back-to-back Chagrin Valley Conference opponents to win its district title. The Golden Bears defeated Beachwood, 4-3, in Monday’s district semifinals, and then topped Chagrin Falls in the district final on Wednesday, 3-0.

The Blue Devils last played in the regional tournament in 2014 when they fell to Orrville in a 1-0 12-inning affair.



Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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