Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rua and Beach take to lumber

Amherst's Ryan Rua and Vermilion's Adam Beach wanted to do something different this summer.

And it has paid off.

For the first time in their baseball careers, Rua and Beach took to lumber — playing in a premier wooden bat summer league sanctioned by the NCAA.

The pair played on the Carolina Stingers in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League, where they even earned all-star recognition and helped their team make the playoffs.

Beach went 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 46 innings, only allowing five runs all season. He also struck out 47 batters. That earned him all-star honors, where he even earned the win in the SCBL All-Star Game in South Carolina, after pitching a hitless inning with a strikeout.

"I had a good defense behind me," said Beach, whose fastball tops out at 91 MPH. "They made a lot of spectactular plays, more than I have ever seen. The competition overall was tremendous. I never expected to do as well as I did. For me and Rua to make the all-star game was pretty special."

That's pretty good for not playing this past college season. He wasn't eligible at Lake Erie College because of a misunderstanding with his paperwork, causing him to have to red-shirt. He decided to get some game experience in the summer and thought a wooden bat league would be a good experience.

"I was pretty upset about not being able to play," Beach said. "It actually helped me more than I ever imagined by just getting stronger and developing more as a player. (Coach McGee) has helped me get some exposure and experience. Coach has helped make me a better overall player."

Rua was hitting .367 from the three-hole when getting the call for the all-star game, and finished with a .300 batting average for the season. He had just came off a phenomenal freshman season at Lake Erie College, where he batted .320 in 47 starts. He led the team with 11 home runs, 37 runs scored and 47 RBIs. His 11 homers set the LEC single-season home run mark. The Storm finished its season with a 16-35 record, in its first year of playing Division II.

"Offensively, it's a big difference with the wooden bats," said Rua, who didn't homer, but hit three triples, eight doubles and plated 25 RBIs. "The pitching was a step-up from the college game. The pitchers are more accurate and more consistent. This should help me when I get back to college ball. Going down there was definitely a great experience."

Admiral King's Matt Toth and Southview's Cameron Castro, who are also on the Lake Erie team, also played in wooden bat leagues. Toth was also on the Stingers this summer, while Castro played on the Ohio Titans, before getting the call to join the NorthCoast Knights, to finish out the season.

"A lot of college programs will send their players away for the summer in order to develop them better and give them more experience," Lake Erie Coach Brian McGee said. "As young as we were, it was evident that we had to send them away to make sure they were at their best for next year — since they will be two major contributers to the team."
Rua and Beach look forward to their sophomore season at Lake Erie College, which is managed by McGee, an Amherst native. McGee, who just finished his second season as manager of LEC's baseball team, is a 1996 graduate of Amherst and a 2000 graduate of Tiffin University.

"The future is bright at Lake Erie College," McGee said. "Despite being 16-35, I feel that we handled the transition very well, especially for as young as we were. And now that we have another year of experience under their belt, we're going to be very competitive — much more competitive than we were last year. It's an exciting time for us."

His first year at the helm, he led the Storms to the most wins (17) in a season in school history. The team also earned its highest Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) finish of third place and earned its first bid to the postseason, winning twice in the first round of the AMCC Tournament in order to make it to the semifinals.

McGee's early coaching stints include a head position at Lorain Catholic High School in the spring of 2003, an assistant position at the University of Toledo from 2001-02 and an assistant varsity and head freshman position at St. Frances High School in 2001. He also served as the assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach at Greensboro College from 2003-07.

Elyria Catholic's Kyle Koberna and North Ridgeville's Dan Dowdell are also locals that played on LEC this past season. Dowdell appeared in 40 games, which included 15 starts and hit .279 with two doubles, five RBIs and 11 runs scored. Koberna made 10 relief appearances, pitching 9 2/3 innings and struck out six. His ERA was 8.38.

Toth started 28 games and finished with a .321 batting average, which included two doubles, a triple, six RBIs and 17 runs scored. Castro appeared in 18 games with one start. He finished with a 2-1 mark with 15 strikeouts and a 6.85 ERA.

Keystone's Tyler Minnich and Southview's Rey Carrion are incoming freshman that will join the Storm next season.

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