Mentor came up short of defending its 2014 Division I Euclid District crown, and the final 14-13 record may have indicated an up-and-down season, but first-year Cardinals coach Jeff Haase saw the bigger picture following a season-ending 3-1 loss to North in a district semi on May 20.
Mentor played several underclassmen against one of the toughest schedules in Northeast Ohio and had plenty of high moments to build on for 2016.
“Everything’s a learning experience right now,” Haase said. “I still think even with some of the shortcomings we had, we’re still an 18- or 20-win team. We play good opponents and challenge ourselves daily. The kids reap the benefits of it at the end of the year. We’re a better ball club than our record says, and you’ll probably get that from everyone. I think the kids definitely got better as the season went on.”
The Cardinals were held to four hits in the loss to North. The Rangers got a complete game from Cody Cantrell, who struck out four and got some help from his defense. Left fielder Justin Cooper made a diving grab in left field with two out and two on in the fourth inning that stopped a Mentor rally. Third basemen Ryan Clark played an outstanding defensive game at the hot corner for North.
Mentor answered a North first-inning run with one of its own in the bottom of the frame. Cardinals starter Matt Eisweth helped himself out with an RBI single scoring Nathan Birtley, who was on with a walk.
North took advantage of four walks in the fifth inning to score the go-ahead runs.
It’s a typical start for Matt,” Haase said of Eiswerth’s complete game, six-hitter. “He’s pitched well all year and had some hard luck. Inning there, a pitch there, I thought we had struck the kid out in the (fifth).”
Eiswerth and Birtley are among a group of talented underclassmen who will return next spring to lead the Cardinals once again.