High school baseball: Monroe falls short in tourney loss to Centerville

FAIRBORN — Monroe baseball coach Ed Beck surveyed Wright State’s Nischwitz Stadium and took a deep breath before paying tribute to his six seniors.

Beck hasn’t just been their mentor throughout their high school careers, he’s seen them develop since they were in middle school.

“They’re outstanding young men,” Beck said with emotion. “I’ve been with them back when they were 11 years old — all six of them — playing in travel ball. This is a tough moment. It’s going to be a long bus ride home with them moving on.”

The ninth-seeded Hornets had a late rally get cut short on a double-play in a 4-3 Division I sectional loss to the sixth-seeded Centerville Elks on Friday night.

“They’re really good young men, and that’s our focus all the time,” Beck noted of seniors Evan Braun, Landen Wynn, Griffin Ballard, Tyler Gannon, Dylan Snyder and AJ Beason.

“We’re going to be great baseball players. But we’re going to be better young men, and they are.”

Monroe (16-12) started off the season 8-9 before reeling off eight of its last 11 while remaining in the hunt for a Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division title.

Wynn, the team’s ace on the mound, said the Hornets had grown since their early-season trip to Florida.

“Some of those losses shouldn’t have been losses,” said Wynn, who took the defeat on Friday striking out four in a complete-game performance.

“It was just errors and just us getting down on ourselves. We’ve got really good hitters on our team. We just now developed towards the end of our season with our bats. I wish this one could have gone a little longer.”

Monroe knocked Centerville out of the postseason last year by a 4-3 count. The Hornets went up 2-0 in the top of the second on Friday with Gannon and RJ Schwab RBIs that scored Jayden Hounchell and Dawson Watts, respectively.

The Elks (15-12) scored their four runs in the bottom half of the second, which included three consecutive walks by Wynn. 

“That second inning, I just could not find the zone with my fastball,” Wynn said. “So, I thought to myself to take a little off to see if they could hit it because they’re used to the faster pitching. I pounded the zone with a slower fastball, and it worked.”

Wynn and the Monroe defense held Centerville in check the rest of the way, and the Hornets had a final push that fell short.

Watts and Ballard started the seventh inning off with singles, and Watts eventually scored from third on a Drew Heagan sac fly to pull it to within 4-3.

Centerville ended it with a double play to move on and face Springboro in a district semifinal on Tuesday.

“We got out to a little rough start, but we found out who we were,” said Braun, who will play at Walsh University next year. “I’ve been playing varsity baseball for four years. I feel like it consumed my life. I’m in school, that’s all I think about. I’m out in a gym, that’s all I think about.

“Being a Hornet baseball player was something special. I love my boys. We played really well at the end of the season, but we just couldn’t grab this one.”

Beck said he is excited for what Monroe baseball has in store for the future, but he was most proud of the way this year’s team handled losing — and winning — with pride and respect.

“None of us are beating the walls down or none of us are hitting it to the wall or anything like that,” Beck said. “But our guys just played well together. They really did. … I’m excited with the freshmen, but you’re always sad to see your seniors go because I’ve had them for so long. I’m just so proud of them.”

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