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The Western Reserve Academy baseball team ended with 2014 season with a 9-8 record, which included wins over Kent Roosevelt, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Gates Mills Gilmour Academy and Gates Mills Hawken.
"This year's group competed day in and day out," said head coach Rich Hoffman. "Rarely was a game out of reach for us. Teams that did beat us needed to record that final out before they breathed a bit easier."
The Pioneers were led by recent WRA graduate Jack McKenzie, a Hudson resident who earned a Gold Medal - the school's highest athletic honor.
He is the 12th baseball player to receive the award and the first since Joe Dempsey in 2003.
McKenzie batted .396 (and hit .395 over his final three years at WRA) and was even better with runners in scoring position, batting .421. In addition to his offense, he was a stellar presence on defense at shortstop, second base and center field.
"I inserted Jack into our starting lineup early in his freshman season and as a sophomore, he was thrust into a major role hitting near the top of the batting order, a place where he has been a mainstay ever since," Hoffman said. "One could argue that it was Jack's performance as our leadoff hitter that proved most valuable to our team this year."
Juniors Patrick and Joseph Mylott were named co-Most Valuable Players as much for their offense as their defense.
"Patrick turned in the third highest batting average [.388] on the team, but it was behind the plate as our primary catcher where he shined," Hoffman said. "I can honestly say there was not a catcher on an opposing team that I would rather have over the one I put behind the plate on a regular basis this year.
"Joey led our team in batting average, hitting .444, and his defense at first base was remarkable. Whether it was a play against Streetsboro, or one of the many plays where he made a swipe tag on the base runner, Joey got us back to the dugout on many an occasion."
Senior Liam Sullivan, a Hudson resident, earned the Most Improved Player award.
"Liam impressed the coaching staff in preseason to the point that we placed him into the starting lineup for our opening game," Hoffman said. "He was our leading hitter through our first 11 games and finished the year with a hearty .351 batting average. When you combine his offensive output with his fielding at second base, you wind up with a very nice sophomore season."
The E. Michael House Spirit Award was presented to recent WRA graduate Michael Curtin, a Hudson resident.
"Michael took his first steps to winning this award on Jan. 12 when he arrived for the first of six consecutive voluntary workouts," Hoffman said. "He worked at his baseball skills with diligence and the spirit any coach loves to see in his athletes. I can tell you that his teammates clearly recognized all of Michael's contributions to this year's squad."
With a team that loses just four players to graduation, Hoffman is preparing for a better season next year.
"Whenever you come off a winning season and return every one of your pitchers, you have something to look forward to," he said. "Next year could be a special year for this group. They are hard workers, they have great chemistry among them, and they love to play the game."