Kirtland’s season came to an end on Thursday in the Division III Massillon Regional tournament but the Hornets received a consolation prize on Friday when head coach Luke Smrdel was name the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches’ Association Division III Coach of the Year and senior Mike Zeuli was named the division’s Player of the Year.
Junior Joey Torok joined Zeuli on the OHSBCA First Team All-Ohio list.
“It’s such a great honor,” Smrdel said. “You dream of this stuff but when it becomes a reality I have to thank all my assistant coaches, players and parents and everybody else who helped us get to this point. It was a good year in Kirtland baseball history for everybody.”
The Hornets entered May—the stretch run of the season—with a 7-10 record. They entered the postseason having won five of their last six games and beat Wellington and top-seeded Elyria Catholic to win the Lakewood District title, the first in school history.
Zeuli played a big role in that late season surge.
“He had an unbelievable season and career,” Smrdel said. “He’s probably the best baseball player I’ve ever coached and he’s so humble and very deserving Player of the Year. It’s a great honor for him and the program for everything he’s accomplished here at Kirtland.”
Zeuli led the Hornets with a .494 batting average, a .568 on-base percentage, and a.728 slugging percentage. He also posted team-highs in hits (40), doubles (13), triples (3), RBI (35) and hit by pitch (4). His four strikeouts in 95 plate appearances was a team low.
“It was a great honor to be named the Player of the Year because I just tried all year long to work hard and set an example for all of the kids that are coming up in the Kirtland program,” Zeuli said. “I wish I could’ve ended my career at the state finals, but it does make it a little better knowing how much I have accomplished and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of the guys that I had around me because they were always pushing me to be better and our competitiveness just pushes everyone on the team to play as hard as they can to be the best on the team.”
Of Zeuli’s 40 hits, 19 came in the month of May as the Hornets made their run to the regional tournament.
He batted .633 in Kirtland’s final 10 games and .667 in the playoffs.
“It was a huge honor to end my season as the Player of the Year because from all of the time that I spent trying to be an example for all of our younger players and I couldn’t think of a better award to look up to and strive to achieve,” Zeuli said.
Torok was named first team All-Ohio after batting .427 with 39 stolen bases.